Do you remember the “tree interview” that Barbara Walters did with Katharine Hepburn back in the early ’80s? She asked her, “If you were a tree, what kind of a tree would you be?” In all fairness to Walters, her question was a follow-up to Hepburn’s comment that she was “like a tree.” As odd as that whole conversation was, it actually might not be all that crazy. Now just wait ... allow me to explain!
Have you ever noticed how a tree starts from a tiny seed and then never stops growing? Each year trees grow bigger and stronger. But it’s not that easy. In order to grow every year, they have to drop everything they did in one season and start all over the following year. So when you think of “being a tree” in those terms, I don’t think that being like a tree is such a bad idea.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, a lot of us stop growing and reinventing ourselves. Why do you think that is?
Maybe you’re content with where you’re at right now and the thought of changing makes you uncomfortable. Or maybe you’ve been listening to all the negative people around you and they’ve convinced you that you’re not meant to reach a higher level. Or maybe you’ve hit a point in your life where you’ve become mentally lazy and you just don’t feel like learning any new skills or improving your current ones. Or maybe ... it’s a combination of all three.
That’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? As infants, we start out at zero. Then the adults in our lives, parents, teachers, coaches and neighbors, invest a lot of time and effort into us so that we develop into good people and productive members of society.
If allowed to, a lot of us would have probably chosen to skip school and just do whatever we wanted. But fortunately, these same adults “forced” us to apply ourselves and strive to reach our potential. We studied, got involved in sports, clubs and activities – and eventually graduated.
Then once we were out on our own, it was up to us to keep growing, adapting and changing. So now that you don’t have a whole team of adults challenging you to learn and grow, how hard are you pushing yourself?
Compared to the kids in your life today, are you making the same developmental strides as they are every year? Chances are, they’re growing at a much faster pace. Now don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing! And yes, relatively speaking, kids have a lot more ground to cover since they’re just starting out.
But at the same time, you’ve already “learned how to learn” and you also have the advantage of having more life experiences and the opportunities to apply them.
Unfortunately, a lot of people quit developing themselves when they begin to reach the best years of their lives.
Throughout your entire journey, you’ve developed your thoughts and abilities to get to where you’re at right now. Every day you have to make a choice: You can either continue building upon what you’ve already accomplished or you can choose to settle in and stop growing.
No, it’s not about appearing on “The Tonight Show” or landing on the cover of Fortune magazine. At this point in your life, your focus might even have less to do with your next career move and more to do with serving your family and community.
Regardless of what you’ve already accomplished on a personal or professional level, I have to believe that you’re not done yet. But what I believe isn’t what’s important. The important thing is what you believe.
Here’s the thing ... you’ve spent your entire life learning and growing in order to become the person who you are right now. You’ve still got a lot of tomorrows ahead of you ... don’t stop growing today. PD