About Ken Gonyer

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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.