Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria – the last couple of weeks have been tempestuous with a string of powerful hurricanes. Even with ample warning, it is difficult to grasp the intensity that comes with such weather! You can prepare. You can evacuate. One thing you can’t do – you can’t control a storm. The recent hurricanes confirm that. My heart goes out to all who are attempting to put their lives back together after the destructive storms.
Living in Georgia, and now Tennessee, pounding rain accompanied by wild thunder and lightning aren’t unusual. For a California girl like me, such storms are kind of exciting, because they remind me of God’s power and thankfully the damage is typically minimal. When there is storm damage, most likely a tree is to blame; either it has blown over or it has been hit by lightning.
Trees are the perfect target for lightning. They are tall and the moisture they contain makes them ideal for conducting electricity. When lightning strikes a tree, the sap vaporizes, causing the tree to explode or split. The resulting damage can leave trees vulnerable and lacking their former beauty. Even worse, when trees are downed by lightening or wind, it can cause significant damage to cars, homes, and even threaten lives.
Did you know that some trees fair better in storms than others? And that there are some proactive steps that you can take to protect your trees that increase the odds that they will survive a storm?
And here’s the exciting thing: the tips for protecting your trees from strong storms also provide some valuable insights for you and me! Tips that will make a difference in your life and in your leadership when the inevitable storms of life come your way! Check these out:
Tip #1: Pick the right tree
If you already have trees in your yard – well you can just hope for the best or you can replace them. But, if you get to choose, pick young trees because their roots take hold more easily and are typically healthier when replanted. You will also want to pick trees that are able to withstand strong winds. For example, white oaks, hickories, red maples, and birch trees are a much better choice than pines, and, in the south, avoid Bradford Pears – they seem to be lightning magnets.
Trees that are able to survive drought, wind, pollution, etc., those are the trees that will weather the storm because of their ability to adapt.
If you want to survive in life and as a leader, it is also necessary to be able to adapt. I’m not talking about compromising your convictions, but adapting to an ever changing world when it comes to technology, industry advances: being able to quickly adjust your strategy to remain relevant while and consistently loving others regardless of whether or not they share your views.
Just like you can’t control a hurricane, you also can’t control what life brings. We all face unexpected trials – no one is exempt. In fact, Jesus warns us that there will be trouble in life. And that we can have peace because He came to overcome the world! I love how the message states it:
“The Father is with me. I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:32c-33 (MSG)
Tip #2: Plant trees in groups
Did you know that a tree planted solo is more vulnerable to wind? However, trees planted in groups of five or more and spaced about ten feet apart are less likely to be blown over? When trees are planted together, the roots interlock, making them all stronger.
Leaders tend to be lone rangers. How can you partner with others so that you are less vulnerable in your life and as you lead? This can be particularly tricky for “D” or Driven Types who prefer to work independently, solopreneurs, or those just getting a business off the ground. What can you do to creatively enlist the support of others that will make it possible for you to come out on the other side of a storm standing? You might consider…
- Creating an advisory board
- Joining a mastermind – a group of people committed to learning and growing in a specific area
- Participating in a church community group or small group
- Enlisting the help of a mentor or coach
- Becoming a member of a leadership or professional organization
Tip #3: Remove stakes
When trees are first planted, they need the extra support provided by stakes. If the stakes are left in place too long, they keep trees from swaying and flexing in the wind, which prevents the tree from developing roots and getting stronger.
Leaving stakes in too long does more harm than good. As leaders, when we rescue others it has the same effect. Allowing those you lead to struggle and flex under pressure actually allows them to mature and grow in powerful ways that increases your team’s effectiveness and enables them to handle bigger challenges in the future with less of an investment on your part.
Jumping in and solving your people’s problems not only hinders the growth of your people, but it also keeps you from investing your time in what only you can do: those activities that are going to move things forward and have the greatest impact.
Tip #4: Prune
Dead and forked branches are particularly susceptible to wind. Removing the branches of young trees encourages the trunk of the tree to grow thicker, making the tree stronger. There is no doubt that regular pruning contributes to a storm-worthy tree.
In life and as a leader, regular pruning is also a necessary factor when it comes to surviving the storms of life. It is easy to add to your scope of responsibility – letting go of responsibilities – that’s not quite as easy. Without consistent pruning, it’s easy to take on too much leaving you overwhelmed and at the breaking point even before a storm shows up!
Tip #5: Food & water
A healthy tree has a much greater chance of surviving a storm. That’s why it is important to regularly fertilize and water them.
You have a greater chance of surviving the storms of life when you’re healthy too. That means practicing self-care on a regular basis and engaging in healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating nutrient rich foods, and being active.
The most important thing you can do is to feed your soul – spend time in the presence of the One who loves you deeply! The temptation is to connect with God just when things are hard or when you need something. Consistent, rich time with Him is what prepares you for storms. Reading His Word, meditating on His promises, dwelling on His love for you, asking for His wisdom and help, and worshipping Him are just a few ways to cultivate the deep healthy roots needed to be storm-worthy.
But the person who trusts in the Lord will be blessed. The Lord will show him that he can be trusted. He will be strong, like a tree planted near water that sends its roots by a stream. It is not afraid when the days are hot; its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year when no rain comes; it always produces fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NCV)
The storms of life are inescapable. Some seasons are stormier than others. Perhaps you’re in the middle of a storm right now. It’s never too late to take steps to becoming more storm-worthy.
What next step will enable you to stand strong in the midst of the storms that will certainly come your way?