To reach your highest heights, begin with hope!

Are you a nature lover? Even if you’re not, prepare to be amazed by a very cool example from the natural world. I invite you to watch this awesome 3-minute time-lapse video of the first eight months of an oak tree’s life. The first minute or so is a little ho-hum as the acorn prepares to burst into life. At about 1:25, the transformation begins.

As you’ll see in the video, once an acorn has sprouted and rooted itself, it begins sending a shoot straight up toward the sky. The video stops at month 8, but after the first year or so as a sapling, the tree grows a strong trunk, sturdy branches and big, beautiful leaves. It’s well on its way to becoming a mighty oak.

Like that healthy tree, we’re all here to reach up, to build, and to grow. To establish a home… To build a family… To grow a business…  We’re here to achieve goals and accomplish something worthwhile.

I have some wise old friends, folks who have been on this earth a lot longer than I have. They’ve taught me that what I accomplish in life will be dictated by three simple things: hope, courage and persistence.

Let’s focus on hope today. I admit, there’s not an overabundance of positivity out there in our world. It’s challenging to remain hopeful, but one of my older friends gave me some good advice – if you want to experience hope for a positive future, you’ve got to stop looking back at all the mistakes, insults, and tragedies in your past.

Life coach Dan Miller says “Anytime I meet someone who is feeling angry, discouraged, frustrated, depressed or guilty, I know they are looking back at what has already happened.  If they can get clear on where they are going and define what a positive future would be, we see a release of enthusiasm, optimism, boldness and confidence.”

I learned a lesson about looking back when I was about 12. My neighbor, Mr. Clark, was a tobacco farmer and sometimes he let us boys ride with him on the tractor (when my dad wasn’t home, of course).

One day Mr. Clark tried to teach me how to plow a field with a moldboard plow. I’d watched him do it so much I just thought I could do it too, so he let me try. I tried to drive in a straight line, so I kept looking back to check the furrow. It didn’t take long to see that my furrow was going all over the place. Mr. Clark didn’t say anything, but when I said ‘That doesn’t look too good…,” he burst out laughing and said “No, it sho’nuf don’t look too good at all!”

The old farmer told me the secret. If you want to move ahead in a straight line, you don’t look back. Looking back takes you off course. To stay straight, you pick a point off in the distance and you keep your eye on that point.

Life is like that – business is like that – we don’t get anywhere if all we’re doing is looking backwards. We need to set a goal and make our way toward that goal with hope and confidence.

Here’s to a hopeful, exciting future! Don’t look back. Just go!


Send your roots down deep

A little over one year ago, our family was camping in West Virginia when the huge “derecho” of 2012 hit. The massive, fierce thunderstorm impacted 11 states along its 700 mile path of destruction. Gusts above 80 mph knocked down trees all around our campground. The ones that remained standing were trees that had a strong tap root – oak, ash, walnut, redbud, and others. Trees with shallow roots were laid flat by the pounding wind.

We can learn something from the trees that withstood the storm – if you want to make it through the hard times, you need a deep root system.

And roots aren’t just critical for survival – they’re also necessary for vigorous growth. If the tree is going to grow tall, then it needs thick, strong roots to anchor it, to keep it standing tall, and most importantly to draw up life-giving water and nutrients. Think about the humble acorn – it sits on the ground, just a hard little lump. Because it’s a seed, it contains the blueprint of the tall tree that it might become. Only when the acorn sinks a root into the fertile soil does the growth begin.

Every one of us was born with a blueprint inside – a combination of DNA and destiny – that contained all the information needed for us to become all we were meant to be. Each of us was also born into a family and a community. When we’re rooted in those relationships, they can make us strong and give us a good foundation. They can shape our values and provide us with our role models and heroes.

Of course not everybody has a great relationship with their roots. George Burns used to say that “Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family… in another city!”

Our root relationships powerfully influence us in both negative and positive ways. As a result, our growth can either be stifled by fear or fueled by faith.

For example, when I was a kid, my dad could see all the accidents, tragedies and disasters that might happen at any moment. And his warnings were, shall we say… graphic. For example, I’d be going out to mow the lawn and he’d comment: “I’ll tell you one thing, mister…. You pull that back too far and it’ll chew your foot right off….”

Thanks to my dad, I was more than stifled – I was perpetually terrified.

The good news: I got over it. Even better news – when I was a young adult, my dad was one whose faith and belief in me fueled my desire to be the best that I could be.

I clearly remember the day we were on the porch swing and I was talking about my dreams and goals. It got quiet, then Dad said “I believe you can do just about whatever you set your mind to. I’ve always thought that about you.”

Those are powerful words of faith! Did anyone ever say something like that to you? If so – here’s my advice: believe them! Agree with them!

And whether anyone encouraged you like that or not, is there someone in your life with lots of potential? Someone you really believe in? Then don’t keep it to yourself. Tell them!

Being rooted in a good family or a supportive community gives us strength. When we send our roots down deep, we’re standing on solid ground.

Have a story of how your roots in family and community helped you stay strong and stable? Please share a comment.

Acorns and oaks

The year was 1978, and a couple in their early twenties had just been evicted from their apartment.

The reason? They’d turned their home into a food storage warehouse for the little health foods store they’d opened that year in Austin, Texas.

Homeless and with no place to go, they decided to save money by moving into their store full-time. One problem – there was a bathroom but no shower stall. What did they do? They bathed in the store’s commercial dishwasher, which had an attached water hose.

Within two years the couple merged their store with another to open the first “Whole Foods Market” in the fall of 1980. They had 19 employees and 10,000 square feet of floor space.

In 1984, Whole Foods began expanding to other cities by building stores from the ground up and by acquiring other natural foods stores around the country. In ‘92 the company went public, and in 2008 posted $6.5 billion in revenues and $3.2 billion in assets.

By the way – I’m pretty sure the original owners have their own bathtub by now.

There’s an old saying: “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” The adage speaks to the reality that most highly successful endeavors like Whole Foods started out small. It also encapsulates an inspirational idea – the idea that every acorn on the forest floor is a little ball of possibility that could someday become a towering giant of a tree.

Acorns and oaks remind me of the power of potential, the value of hard work, and the faith that almost anything’s possible. If you sometimes look at what you’re doing and wonder if it will ever amount to anything, take heart. Give it some time, sunshine and water, and your little acorn of a dream may just become a mighty oak!

Encouraged? Please leave a comment.