A Decade of Learning and a Tree

Over 10 years ago, I knew my tenure as a business owner was about to begin. On December 15, 2009, as I was celebrating my anniversary of “Kicking Cancer’s Ass” (and the day I officially became a business owner), I opened a card from my predecessor which, among many things, simply said “welcome to the club.”

I didn’t know what the “club” meant back then but I certainly do now. It is the club of business owners. It is a club where sharing learnings, paying it forward (or backwards depending on your view), committing yourself, committing your resources (financial, mental, physical, emotional) and most importantly, being vulnerable is part of the annual dues structure. It is a club where the members understand that when your business is doing well, folks may look at and question your successes or when the business is not doing well, will not likely give credit or acknowledgement to the sleepless nights you spend finding ways to bring it back. Overall, it is largely irrelevant as sympathy or pats on the back is not why we do what we do.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve learned (with the help of my loving, patient and understanding wife), that I don’t need to reach the top or learn it all today, but I can do it over time and enjoy the ride along the way. This has been a tremendously challenging task for me that has also resulted in some serious hard lessons/learnings along the way. You see when a childhood illness presents itself, your life can flash before you and, for me at least, can change something inside your “hard wiring.” When thinking about the hard wiring shift, I can only describe it as the creation of a “need to move” – motion meant life and I was not about to stop moving. However, a few years ago all of the years of motion took its toll and I was left with a choice – slow down and enjoy the ride or speed up and lose it all. For once – slowing down felt good, peaceful & even refreshing.

To be honest, I’m still learning how to slow down, how to enjoy the ride, and how to find a balance between motion and being still. More to come on those learnings in another piece of writing, however, for now, I want to take a moment to be still and reflect on a tree.

This tree was a gift from my father the week I opened my company. It was labeled as a “money tree” and certainly led to some superstitions in our office (rumors of a leaf from the tree being placed in each proposal box for good luck may or may not have occurred) along with the belief that as long as the tree was healthy, the business would be healthy.

Over time, the tree moved from my desk to somewhere in the office and I lost track of it. To be honest, over the last number of years, the thought of the tree left my memory entirely. That was, until the other day, when I was shown a picture of that tree when it first sat on my desk in 2010 and was then walked by a staffer into the lobby of our new building to be shown “the tree” which now stands over 5 feet tall. I was blown away and since that moment, I could not wait to sit down and write this piece.

You see, since 2009, we have held true to our roots, we have watered our tree, we have grown, we have lost some leaves and new ones have replaced them. The tree has seen great weather and some cold chilly days. The tree, just like my business, has been cared for by a number of different folks even when I wasn’t watching or paying attention – it has remained healthy. You see, also in the note and learnings from my predecessor, was the idea that the business can only grow when each person in the business is taking care of it and there is enough room in the “pot” to allow the roots to spread.

Personally, I have worked hard to grow over the past 10 years, I’ve tried to provide the “water” and “room in the pot” for my staff to grow and spread their roots. While I’ve not always succeeded along the way, I’ve tried to remain vulnerable to the weather, the business climate, the needs of my team and provide shade when the sun is too hot. I’m proud of the learnings and growth that my collective “tree” has seen over the last decade and I can’t wait to see how tall we grow and how many more leaves sprout for GreatBlue in the next decade!

I want to say a heartfelt thanks to the many people, especially my wife Heather, who have helped water this tree and taught this guy how to take refuge under its shade, appreciate the many wonderful things that come from sitting still and taking a minute to breathe. Here’s to continued balance of motion, being still and reflecting on what’s next!


Yours in balance,