There’s a popular Chinese proverb that says, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
My friend Steve’s son George learned this the hard way at six years old when his class was doing a scientific experiment on seed germination to grow trees. George took the experiment to heart, cut a two-liter plastic pop bottle in half, and filled it with dirt. Then he cut an apple in half, took out the seeds, buried them in the dirt, and placed the container on the windowsill in the kitchen.
A couple of days later, while George was at school, Steve cut a small branch with green leaves on it off a tree and stuck it in the dirt. When George came home from school the next day, he saw it and said with excitement, “Dad, my tree germinated in two days.”
George went to school and told his class his tree was already six inches tall. The kids accused him of lying. Convinced his tree was up, he stuck to his guns, almost to the point of getting in a fight with the other kids. When he got home from school that afternoon, his tree was two feet tall, as Steve had put an even bigger tree branch in the dirt. Back to school, George went and again told the class his tree already grew two feet in four days.
George’s teacher was concerned about what he was telling his class, so she talked to Steve’s wife and found out what really happened. In essence, George wasn’t really lying. He was just telling what he believed to be true.
Because George was only six, you can understand why he might imagine a tree can grow two feet in four days. What is amazing is that many contractors actually believe they can get rich in the contracting business quickly, similar to what George thought about his tree. In reality, that just doesn’t happen.
In the context of the conversation here today, this means that if you want success and growth in the future, the best time to act is now. You see, the story about the little boy and his tree happened over 20 years ago. So, if George had maintained the tree by watering it and protecting it from wildlife and other dangers that might hurt or kill it, he would be enjoying fruit from the tree today.
Before you can achieve success, you should consider the definition of success, as it is in the eyes of the beholder. Does having extra cash classify you as successful? If so, how much is required? To some, money doesn’t play a part in becoming successful. To others, having a few thousand in the bank is rich. To many more, having $100 million in the bank is rich. If success depends on how you define it, then we all get to pick our own destination of where we want to be in order to become successful.
There was a time I thought that if I could make $40,000 per year, I would be rich. That was all I would ever need. Now, I often wonder why I wouldn’t be satisfied making $40,000 per year. It is because things change once we get to where we want to go. In reality, it isn’t the goal that is so much fun. It is the journey toward the goal that keeps us in the game.
Instead of planting one tree, imagine if George had been inspired to plant an entire field full of seeds, and would have cared for the trees for the last 20 plus years. George would now be enjoying an abundance of fruit from his labor.
One thing is for sure: it would not have been quick and easy. You can only achieve worthy goals through hard work, and achieving success is something that takes a long time.
My definition of success is not success itself. To me, success is being in the pursuit of a worthy goal. Think about it. As soon as you hit a goal, it becomes a mere destination to something bigger and better, like expanding one tree into an entire orchard.
Can you imagine where you thought you would be 10 years ago compared to where you are today? I bet you never imagined you could have come so far. It’s like chasing the gold at the end of a rainbow. You never get to the end, but it sure is fun looking at the rainbow and imagining you can.
So, plant more seeds today, and keep them growing by watering them and taking care of business while they grow. As you work diligently and patiently toward achieving your goals, you will barely notice the changes. Monitor where you are compared to where you were in the beginning, and realize it is all just a stepping stone to where you will be in the end, because there is Only One Way to Become Successful – Slowly.
Damian Lang is CEO at Lang Masonry Contractors, Wolf Creek Construction, Malta Dynamics, and EZG Manufacturing. To view the products and equipment his companies created to make jobsites more efficient, visit his websites at ezgmfg.com or maltadynamics.com. To receive his free e-newsletters or to speak with Damian on his management systems or products, email:firstname.lastname@example.org or call 740-749-3512.