The Wisdom of Trees


-We are like trees;

They can live to be 1,500 – 2,000 years old. When you see them, you can’t help but be amazed by the quiet strength on display in the way their often curvy branches appear to defy gravity with their horizontal reach. Often garnished with Spanish moss, there is something both mystical and calming when you’re under their canopy. The Southern Live Oak is truly an impressive tree.

It has been over 25 years since Hurricane Hugo made landfall just north of downtown Charleston, SC. A recent trip revealed there are few reminders of the devastation it left in its path. And, although they didn’t all survive the storm, the Live Oaks that are prominent in the Southern States fared pretty well.

That said, if their rustling leaves could talk, I suspect these Live Oaks could share a few valuable business lessons on their resilience. Here are four that could apply to your business.

There is usually strength in slower growth

Oak trees are known for their hard wood and slower growth. Faster growing younger trees tend to have softer wood. When adversity presents itself, such as a hurricane, comparable sized branches of a pine will usually break sooner than that of the Oak.

Growing your business is important, but hyper growth without proper planning can be dangerous in a turbulent environment.

Don’t be afraid to partner with others

When you think of Live Oak Trees you can’t help but think of the Spanish moss (Did you know it is actually a plant?) that seems to live in harmony on the trees. Arborist often debate if the moss helps or hurts the trees. I think it is generally agreed that healthy trees are not affected by the Spanish moss, but it does like sick or dying branches. One sure thing is a healthy Live Oak draped with Spanish moss creates more shade than trees without it.

Maybe your business isn’t trying to create a cool shaded area, but finding the right partners can make any job easier.

Know your responsibilities

The Live Oak gets its name because it is green year round. What people often don’t realize is that unlike an evergreen tree it actually does drop its leaves once every year. Each spring new leaves grow virtually parallel to the existing leaves. The old leaves stay green and do not drop until the new leaves are ready to replace it, so it gives the appearance of being evergreen year round.

Know your roles and responsibilities in your business, take ownership of them and don’t leave them unless someone else can take your place.

Don’t underestimate the strength of a strong foundation

The root system of Live Oak can be massive. Like the tree we see above the ground, the roots are also very strong. In the aftermath of hurricanes, it is not uncommon to see Live Oaks literally uprooted from the soil and blown over. Part of the reason is the sandy soil along the coastal areas and higher water tables produce trees with shallower roots. Although smaller roots and limbs may be broken, many Live Oaks in recent years have actually been replanted after storms because the main trunk and roots were not damaged even though the entire tree was literally uprooted and blown on its side.

If you want to build a strong valuable business, having a solid foundation will pay dividends in good times and when you face storms, don’t underestimate it.

What do you think? Do any of these ideas apply to your business? Do you like the majestic Live Oak Trees? As always we value any comments in the space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

2 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Trees”

  1. Guy Meilleur says:

    Good analogies

    Trees are the answer!

    1. C. Steinlage says:

      Thanks Guy, glad you found it interesting.

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