I took the dog for a walk. The act wasn’t particularly notable. I haven’t been confined to the house for an extended period, or otherwise recovering from some debilitating injury or illness. This isn’t a story of bravery. It wasn’t cold outside, nor was it overly hot. This isn’t a story about overcoming the elements. In fact, there was very little about that morning’s walk that might differentiate it from any other walk I might take on a given day. But on this average walk on an average day, for whatever reason, I happened to beyond the space where my feet came in contact with the sidewalk.
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” – Sharon Salzberg
I saw a tree in a neighbor’s yard. A magnolia to be exact. Its blooms had started taking on the yellowish tone of petals past their prime and the leaves were already showing signs of summer browning. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful specimen, but it wasn’t remarkably ugly either. The best word that I can use to describe it is, average. Being that we naturally prefer to seek out that extraordinary, my eyes immediately sought something more interesting to look at and landed on the more wooded area behind the magnolia where trees more than twice the magnolia’s height swayed against each other in the breeze. In comparison, the average magnolia now looked isolated and puny. It looked almost as if it wasn’t even trying.
“Just because Fate doesn’t deal you the right cards, it doesn’t mean you should give up. It just means you have to play the cards you get to their maximum potential.” – Les Brown
I felt a little sorry for the tree as I compared it with those behind it. I remember a magnolia tree in front of my childhood home that seemed to touch the sky. I remember climbing its thick branches, pretending to set up a home well above the ground like Tarzan or the Swiss Family Robinson, and using its huge strong leaves as a fan in the summer. When I was a child, there was no grander tree than a magnolia. It made me pause. To think, I was now considering this magnolia tree small and weak when the tree in my memory had achieved so much more.
“Many people never reach greater because they don’t leave good enough behind.” – Steven Furtick
The trees that towered behind average magnolia did not grow to their massive heights overnight. With so many close together fighting for the same sunlight, they had no choice but to grow up with each new generation building upon the last growing ever so taller. That kind of success takes time as much as determination.
“You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” – Warren Buffett
As I continued my walk I imagined what the other trees might say to the average magnolia were they to talk. (I know, it might sound odd, but that’s the sort of thing that crosses my mind especially early in the morning). Did the other trees look down on their tiny neighbor in disdain, confident in their combined successful heights like some stereotypical A-list high school clique? Or did they secretly envy the shorter tree for the wide open space around its branches as theirs were tangled with their neighbor’s?
“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” – David Brinkley
It occurred to me then why the magnolia tree had stopped growing upward. It didn’t need to reach the same heights as its neighbors to be successful. It grew where no other trees did, spreading its branches out to collect sunlight where little competition existed. The average magnolia had achieved an entirely different sort of success.
“The strongest oak of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.” -Napoleon Hill
And so as I finished my loop around my block, my thoughts about the magnolia tree also came full circle.
“There is a choice you have to make in everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”
“The most important key to achieving great success is to decide upon your goal and launch, get started, take action, move.”
– John Wooden
At the end of the day though it doesn’t matter if a tree grows up or out. To be successful all a tree has to do is grow a little every day. The same applies to people too.
quotes courtesy of http://www.azquotes.com