Are You Swimming With The Fish?

Photo courtesy of A Href via compfight.com

One of the joys of having a fish pond goes beyond all the wildlife that visit and the plants that shower it with color during the summer months. A pond is all about growth as well. Every year I am delighted by the baby fish that spawn from the depths of the pond seemingly from nowhere. We started with 12 fish a few years back and our team is now in the thirties.

Last week I was having a bad day and wandered outside to feed the endless gaping fish mouths as they zoomed to the surface of the pond. The water was a bit murky after some heavy showers but the fish caused a bubbling of activity. Off to the side of the pond I saw a tiny single orange and white speck. It was a lone baby goldfish on a journey to find food as he was too tiny to eat the fish pellets. I watched him for a few minutes and was excited at my first sighting of new fish life this summer.

Little fish was busy on his own just doing his own thing which can be unusual for fish as they tend to school with others. He was fairly ignorant of his surroundings. At that moment I felt like that little guy. My bad mood caused me to feel alone and away from the group on a journey of my own pursuing my interests and goals, not really knowing where I was headed. I didn’t know what life will bring or who will be brought into my life to swim with me.

 I think that we all feel like this at times. We feel that no one understands us or “gets” why we are on a particular path. Our choices seem crazy to others as they swim off in a different direction. To us, they seem to be moving blind while we probably look like the sole rogue fish in the pond to them. As I stood at the edge of the pond the little fish popped out of sight. I turned and smiled because although he may have seemed lonely, he was also independent and venturing out on his own to learn more about his world and to seek meaning. My day quickly brightened as it always does when I am in the garden. I understood the journey the fish was on and how lucky was to be alone and making his own waves.

The next day I went to visit the fish and was greeted by several new baby fish friends. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw so many! My little friend was schooling with the group right in the middle of the pack and they were quickly learning that when the human walks up, dinner is served. It was delightful to see that my tiny friend was strong enough to be on his own yet easily assimilated and was accepted by the group. There is nothing like seeing new life spring up from the pond and surrounding garden.

As I watched the group glided through the pond nibbling away (or trying in some cases!) I reflected. Initially, the day before I felt isolated like the tiny fish in the pond. Guess what? It’s not a negative to feel alone or be on your path. It’s admirable and something that we all need to do to discover what is out in the world and learn how we can have an impact. As my fish friends taught me, you will never be alone because you have a whole team or “school” right beside you for support.

Put on your fins and jump into the murky water to start your journey and know that you aren’t alone, but it’s OK to feel like it from time to time.

How About a Little Renewal and Rebirth This Spring?

Courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. My old things seem dead. I want fresh contacts, more vital searching" - Emily Carr

The past few weeks have been like living in a vortex. Spring has been rushing in and out like a lion running after a bunny. The weather turned inside out with 5 inches of snow dropping on us out of nowhere in the Midwest.  After the snow melted, I was able to get outside to welcome some of my new plants popping up while making the difficult decision to say goodbye to so many others.
Spring is such a refreshing, bright, and growing season. For those of us in the north, spring is like a gift with a big green bow on top. It’s a time when we can get outside again to enjoy nature and change.  We see things that we forgot about over the winter including wildlife, greens, and even neighbors. Once spring rushes in I feel like I have been given new life and my excitement builds to grow everything around me.

Unfortunately in so many areas of the country spring is a tease and we quickly learn that we may need to protect ourselves and our gardens from the snapping chills or snow. Mother Nature doesn’t always play fair we may need to jump in to save the day.  Here are some growth tips for keeping your spring bright and growing.

  •  Don’t be fooled by warm temperatures. Never plant new plants, especially annuals, until you check dates in your area for when it’s frost free or later in the spring to plant. Check online for proper planting dates or check with your local extension program.
  •   I love wandering inside greenhouses this time of year to smell the dirt and growth (gardeners understand!). If I do buy something I leave it inside or sheltered deep on my front porch to slowly acclimate the greenery to the cooler temperatures. Don’t bring shrubs out of a greenhouse and into the ground. It’s like dousing yourself in a cold shower and that’s not a positive experience!
  •  Don’t worry about your spring bulbs or early spring flowers. Bulbs are very hardy and built to survive the ravages of spring. Cut some to enjoy inside and leave the rest to laugh at Mother Nature!
  • It’s not too early to dig. There’s a myth out there that you will damage your soil by digging. This is actually a great time to get some digging in while the soil is soft and can actually be moved.
  • Some perennials are popping up and it’s a perfect time to divide them with a spade and share with neighbors. You can actually begin to see where you may have holes in your garden and where new plants can be plunked in.
  • Look closely at your yard before everything grows up like a jungle. This is the time to pull out trees and shrubs that have started to attack their neighbors or your house. They will come out easily and you will have time to plan what will go in next.
  • You can easily see the lines of gardens beds now. Get out and shape them with a shovel and pull out more grass to add more plants.
  • Pull out dead flowers from pots and fluff the soil or refill with fresh rich soil. It’s easier to do it now rather than when you are overly eager to get planting and throw caution to the wind and do a sloppy job with your soil.
  • Keep feeding your feathered friends. It may look greener out however, there isn’t enough foliage to feed the birds while they build nests and need extra energy.
  • Get weeding now! I am always shocked how weeds can grow under the snow. Pull them as soon as possible and keep it up like a marathon because the spring weeds are the ones that sneak up on you and make your life miserable.

Spring isn’t just for gardening. It’s also a time for renewal and growth in our personal and professional lives. It’s a great time to pick up those growth goals that you forgot about that were declared in January and put them into action. I don’t know about you, but I feel so much more motivated and energized in the spring. There’s more daylight and the warmer days perk me up. People seem happier and even more accommodating to work on projects or support others.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending” – Maria Robinson

Why spring is THE time to focus on your own renewal and growth

  • Annual performance reviews have been in full swing (I know, yuck). This is an opportune time to focus on growth areas and make changes. Pick just 2-3 items at the most for focus because your brain will throw in the towel if you challenge it too much.
  • Employers are in full hiring mode. Maybe now is the time to make a job change or even jump into a whole new field. The improved economy may be an opportunity to go part-time or start that side business you have been dreaming of. 
  • More people are eager to network or dig into some learning opportunities with the weather more encouraging and the increased daylight keeping us awake. Take advantage of events like Network After Work, industry career events, or check out Meetup.com to find something in your area. 
  • Be brave and try something new. How about yoga? Join a bike club? Find a reading group. I want to learn how to meditate so it is a focus for me this season.
  • Find a new lunch table. Stop eating with your normal group of peeps and fan out. Meet some new people in other areas to grow friendships and learn something new. You never know where it will lead. 
  • Change one thing that you don’t like about yourself. Work on a more positive attitude. Be more emotionally engaged. Put yourself first for a change. Finally do one thing to impact your health.
  • Just as we organize plants in the garden in groups of 3, organize your personal space or work area. Better yet, move things around, including yourself if you can, for a fresh start and change.
  • Look around you and pick one person this spring that you can really impact and grow. Maybe you see potential in a coworker or friend. Really focus on helping them grow where they are planted. It will be the most wonderful gift that you can offer someone. Moreover, it will be the best gift that you can give yourself. 
  • Fertilize yourself every day with knowledge. Pick up a book and read 30 minutes a day. Staring at your computer or getting lost in social media does not count. Leaders are readers and books won’t bite!

Come on! Don’t be a stick in the mud this spring. Get out there and grow!


One Lesson One Step At A Time

"Discipline is the consistent application of certain mindsets and actions that are vital for your success" - John Manning

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about goals and just plain getting things done, is that you need to break them down to work on them in pieces. It holds you accountable and makes life a whole lot less complicated and overwhelming. In tackling any project I take it one step at a time and pace myself so that I can succeed and, in the case of learning, absorb information.  

About this time of year I look around my gardens that all are at their peak and in bloom. The butterflies are dancing, the bees are swarming for nectar, and the bugs are munching on everything. There are days where I ask myself “How did I ever do this?” When you look at it as a whole it is overwhelming that not only do I keep adding plants to my garden, but I am increasing the upkeep. I know that visitors always ask how I do it all and many of my friends think that I am crazy.

The key to maintaining a garden lies in baby steps. Don’t try to start and finish a garden project in one weekend. It always takes longer and you will either abandon it or do a half ass job. I can always tell people who have fallen into this trap as I drive around and look at neighborhood yards. You know who you are…. The little 3 foot pond plunked into the middle of the yard growing algae. The collapsing fire pit with plants plunked in here and there…..  

It has taken me almost 2 months to trim and chip my garden beds. I’m still not done putting in 14 yards of woodchips. Life has been busy and things get in the way. I commit to stay on task by doing a few wheelbarrows a day, weeding for 10 minutes a day, watering every few days. The list goes on and on however, I take it in stride and work towards my end goal step by step. This not only keeps me on task but maintains my sanity while minimizing my frustration at with my own impatience.
Bottom line? Don’t be a weekend gardener. You will quit and never start up again. Take one task at a time. You will accomplish your end goal, you won’t feel overwhelmed or frustration, and you won’t hate working in our yard. You may even learn to love it!                                                                                                                        

Like gardening, I am continually trying to learn and grow. I strive to refine my leadership style and discover how I can be a more effective transparent and effective leader in everything that I do. I was fortunate to be given one of the best tools around to help guide my leadership in baby steps. I recently read the book “The Disciplined Leader: 52 Concise, Powerful Lessons Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters” by John Manning. This little gem is the kind of book that I keep on my nightstand to wake up to and digest quick leadership lessons before starting my day. 

Manning is very passionate about the fact that the best leaders are disciplined. They focus on what is important –PEOPLE – in order to get results. To this end, he offers 52 great concise yet powerful lessons to read at leisure and digest. They focus on 3 key areas: 

Ø  Leading yourself

Ø  Leading your team

Ø  Leading your organization 

Each lesson is followed up with tactics, practical advice and 2 action or reflective ideas which is why I loved the format and lessons. I can read just one at a time or skip around and still find relevancy and application to my day. The lessons are very hands on and user friendly. It’s like having a leadership bible at your fingertips.  I enjoyed the easy reading that really helped me to set a leadership plan for life. The meaningful aspect about Manning’s lessons is that they are applicable to both your professional and person life.  

Manning focuses on the concept that we are all too familiar with, the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. 20% of your efforts produce 80% of your results. The same applies to your customer profitability and the productivity of your key employees. By focusing your efforts on what really matters – your people – you will bring out the best in everyone and this is really where the gold is. Learning and using the lessons in this gem of a book will really help you to apply the 80/20 rule and guide you to plan what to do, when, and how. Both you and your team will win.

The best way to use this book is to read the lessons and then sit back to reflect. Pick the top 3 lessons that resonate with you in terms of developing your leadership, your team’s leadership, and bring out the best in your organization. In short, you should have chosen 9 lessons, 3 from each area. Prioritize the top 5 lessons out of all of the lessons. Really focus on them and use them as action steps for your leadership development.  Manning offers a helpful template to use with your key action steps for each that you have chosen to grow as a guide. Ta Da! Your leadership lessons are handed to you on a silver platter to begin your growth and development. 

I love the engaging leadership action steps at the end of each lesson. There are very relevant and engaging examples to guide you. You will feel more equipped to set goals and not overwhelmed. Pick up this great book today and begin learning in chunks but applying to your life in mass!  A great read!

Refire! Don't Retire: Make The Rest Of Your Life The Best Of Your Life

"Refire - an attitude of embracing the years ahead with enthusiasm rather than apathy" - Morton Shaevitz"

How many times have you heard about or even known people who retire and die within a short time? It's more common than you think. Humans are wired to face challenges and grow. As with plants, without the right "nutrients", humans slowly weaken and die. We need a sense of purpose. We want to be important to someone else. We want to leave our imprint on the world. We need to grow every day. We need to feed the mind, body, and soul. How are you doing with your growth? I was given the privledge of reading Blanchard and Shaevitz's new book Refire! Don't Retire and loved it. Start thinking about it now because there will come a day when you may need to Refire!

I have an incredible aunt with a zest for life who is in her late 70's. She retired as a neonatal specialist nurse years ago but continues to do research, teach seminars, and publish papers. She doesn't stop there. She learned Reflexology. She traveled to Thailand and banged drums with natives on a retreat. She travels with a thirst for learning. Aunt Mary is who I thought of when I first heard the title of Blanchard and Shaevitz's new book. Refire! Don't Retire: Make The Rest Of Your Life The Best Of Your Life. Aunt Mary is a poster child for this great read. Age doesn't mean that we can, or should, show down. Life is full and we all need to think about what we can do to make our lives satisfying and meaningful.

Refire! Don't Retire is written in the comfortable storytelling fashion that only Ken Blanchard can tell. The book is an easy and relaxing read about a middle aged  couple, Larry and Janice Sparks, who are in a funk in their lives. They meet Dr. Jeffrey who carries them on an adventure throughout the book meeting different people and learning each step of the way how they can approach life with "more gusto". The book really got me thinking about how I can approach life  differently and make changes that bring inner peace and a satisfaction with life.

The early pages of the book offer a great picture of what Blanchard and Shaevitz want us to remember. We should "Approach life with gusto. It's to see each day as an opportunity for adventure and learning. It's to infuse passion and zest into every area of your life - emotional, intellectually, physical, and spiritual. Heart, head, body and soul." They continue to illustrate how achievements and money aren't truly what make people happy. It helps for awhile, but eventually people crave more. Cravings include happiness, significance, generosity, service, and loving relationships. You can't argue with that!

There are four life  areas that Dr. Jeffrey leads the Sparks through within the pages of our book:

  1. Refire Emotionally.  Love and strong relationships are important. We need to reconnect with others and let people know that we care. Ask them how you can help them and focus on making the world a better place. Do something different. Jump out of your comfort zone and out of your rut. Be more spontaneous and be ready to get up and go to try new things. Don't be a "stick in the mud" as my Mom used to say and just do it! I lovingly refer to my husband as "Last Minute Mike". He's always wants to do things at the last minute with friends or to just go somewhere with no planning or advanced notice. I'm more of a planner and always putting a halt to "Last Minute Mike" adventures. Reading this area in the book made me do some self discovery. I need to be more "last minute" and spontaneous. I need to Refire Emotionally"!
  2. Refire Intellectually. Intellectual growth is a key to the fountain of youth. You need to partner intellectual grow with emotional growth. It keeps your mind sharp, gives you purpose, presents challenges, and prevents you from becoming a zombie. Learn something new every day. Afraid of technology? Face it and take a class or have your kids show you the ropes. Always wanted to learn to speak French? Start now and get those brain muscles firing away. 
  3. Refire Physically. You are as old as you feel and if you don't physically take care of yourself, you will age really fast!. Take care of your body. Set goals to be active. Hide the cookies and eat healthier. You will find that your mind is sharper, your emotions are healthy, and your attitude will be jumping off the scale. 
  4. Refire Spiritually. Blanchard and Shaevitz wind our journey down by showing a glimpse of strain between the spiritual beliefs of Larry and Janice. Larry has life long strong spiritual beliefs while Janice only knows that there are "higher powers" in the world bigger than her. Eventually after some soul searching they  agree that there are higher powers and that they need to respect the individual beliefs of others without prejudice. They learn how critical refiring spiritually is to the overall satisfaction in their lives.
Our lessons are further reinforced at the end of each chapter. Each chapter includes a Code of Conduct for living out each of the life areas. We are also given Pause, Reflect, Take Action suggestions. Some sample suggestions include; Be aware, Be Forgiving, Be Playful, Be Friendly, Be Open to Learn. These are wonderful reflecting points to ponder after each chapter and really bring new meaning to the story that we were included in.

I really admire my Aunt Mary and how she continues to learn and Refire in several aspects of her life. You can't just stand idle in life. YOU need to take control of your growth. Think of the 4 points above as your fertilizer to keep you nourished and growing. Incorporate them into your life now so that you stand strong with gusto as you grow down the path of life.

Leaders Are Readers And Social Media Counts

"Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers" - Harry S Trueman

Knowledge at your fingertips!

Trueman's quote is one of my all time favorites! I've said it before, but I choke when people state that they read maybe 1-2 books a year!  I read that number or more in a week.  There is so much in the world to learn  and so little time to absorb it all. Reading opens up your mind and makes it so easy to share and learn from  others. The internet has really placed the world at our feet and we have a virtual library in the phones that are attached to our bodies.

There's a lot of chatter out in the cyber world about how social media is rotting all of our brains. People are too absorbed in social media on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc. Guess what? I don't agree. Social media is like your education - it's what you do with it. You can be a genius but if you don't put it to use, what good is it? Social media can educate you, help you engage, and open up your mind. However, you won't get these benefits if you use your time stalking people all day on Facebook or tweeting mindless thoughts to your friends on Twitter. Use social media to your advantage - to learn.

I'm active on most of the top social networks. I follow thought leaders and numerous business channels. In the past 6 months I've become very active on channels such as Facebook but not for the reasons that you think. I don't have 5000 friends nor do I want to! I have joined a lot of groups focusing on my favorite business issues and gardening. Wow! There is a lot information to be gleaned from others!

We all love to share our passion with those who understand us. I have found some great communities within social media on gardening. I learn something new every day and can swap ideas or even plants. I have connected with gardeners in England and admire the gardening craft there. I have an outdoor cactus garden and connect with groups about cactus and succulents. Some of the groups that I follow include: Pruning Tips, Gardenaholics Anonymous, Miniature Conifers, The Plant Exchange, The Garden Club. The list is endless. I literally have experts on call that I can interact and share with - for free! I have even joined gardening groups on LinkedIn such as Horticulture, Master Gardeners, Garden Design, and Healing Garden. Some of the top thought leaders in gardening are a part of these groups. I learn  more about the industry and new plant introductions. Don't even get me started on Twitter. There is a wealth of sharing and great pics as well.

Put social media to work for you as a learning and connection tool and you can quickly become overwhelmed. Start with sites such as Facebook and grow from there. I have found that so many of the leaders I follow and interact with are on several channels and it's such a blessing to be able to join them.

"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader" - Margaret Fuller"

Photo courtesy of mgysler via Compfight

We have become an on demand "give it to me now" society and technology continues to accelerate at a dizzy pace. Every day we have new tools at our command to literally bring the world to us. Don't let the world fly by. Jump into reading and learning every chance that you can. We all have some spare time and you need to make it a priority to invest in yourself. If you really can't make time for books (you do know that you can get them online these days right? You can have 50 books in your pocket) then use social media to grow. There are a lot of options out there to pull in new ideas and knowledge. Seek them out and get started.

I was just lamenting this week how frustrating it is to have the ability to only follow 50 groups on LinkedIn. Too many options and too little space. I have found myself making tough choices about which groups to unfollow so that I can join another group, depending on interests. Other platforms are more generous. Do I interact with all of them? Of course not. What I do is soak up articles and thoughts that appeal to me or my work. For instance,  I'm working on improving my speaking skills so what better way to find some tips then joining groups that discuss strategy and share what's worked for them? I have also had the privilege of  interacting with leaders via Google Hangouts and Twitter chats.

Jump in and dabble in some groups where your interests lie. Start small and start the learning curve somewhere. For instance, I love my feeds from Facebook. I follow brands like Fast Co, Inc, Forbes Women, Lead With Giants, Social Media Examiner, Entrepreneur, the list goes on. On LinkedIn I am privileged to be a part of Leadership Hub, Forbes Leadership, Mobile Marketing, Connect Professional Women, and Social Media Today. Imagine the knowledge and ideas that I soak in daily! Twitter offers an untold amount of articles and the ability to share directly with authors and thought leaders. You need to get yourself "out there" and share what you know. If you are hesitant, here's a great article from Fast Company to convince you and get you going Fast Company 15 minutes a day

To be an effective leader you really need to take control of your learning today. Read read read. Share your experiences with others as well. You too have so much to contribute. We are all experts on something and the world awaits your ideas and thoughts.  If books are not for you, make social media your library. Quit wasting your time just flipping through your friend's posts - join groups that invite you to learn and share.

I would love to hear which social platforms are your favorites and how you use them to grow!

"Lab You"

"While you are experimenting, do not remain content with the surface of things" - Ivan Pavlov

Photo courtesy of JD Hancock via Compfight
I have always felt that none of us should ever be willing to settle or allow the little kid in us to completely grow up. We should be willing to try new things and jump out of the box that we have placed ourselves in. For some, it may take several baby steps. For others, jumping out is a regular event. Be open and always willing to experiment in the many facets of your life. Experiment on YOU!

I love trying new things and opening up my mind to new possibilities. It's keeps my brain wires twirling and prevents boredom. I particularly love trying novel things out in my garden. I've had a lot of fails and each one gives me a different perspective, chance to recalibrate, and ideas as to how to change my methods. My experiment a few years back  with Windmill Palm trees outside for a Michigan winter didn't end so well.They were too much work because I had to wrap and protect them. The season end crispness on the fronds just wasn't a selling point to keep them. On the other hand, my cactus garden thrives and I continue to experiment with new varieties. You win some and lose some (literally in my case).

Experimenting is how we grow and become better humans. Failing enables us to learn and make new discoveries. This past weekend I decided to set up a little outdoor lab of sorts. I want to have a specific area in my yard where I can try out new plants or techniques, but have some more control over the environment. We have a septic drain field in our lawn where I can't plant anything. The dirt is fairly sandy so the grass bakes quite well in the sun and it produces great colonies of grubs for the moles. My "lab" consists of 3 large metal fire rings in an area over the drain field filled with rich soil. It will be a perfect spot for growing new species from seed or as a "nursery" for young plants. The raised beds will allow earlier planting, reduce weeds, and the moles will have a tough time tunneling in my plants. Adorned with annuals around it, I know that it will become an art piece in the yard.

This weekend I was very excited when my "lab" was born and I already have plans for next Spring. It will be fun to try unusual plants, learn new things, and challenge my existing ways of gardening. To top it all off, the area offers an aesthetic look to my garden rather than just plopping some plants in an area of ground. It will be fun to grow and stretch my personal limits.

"I'm still experimenting" - Stevie Wonder

Are you experimenting with ways to enlighten yourself or tap your toes out testing new waters? Have you set up a "Lab You" to help yourself grow and challenge who you are? Do you tend to try new ways of working or leading others? What goals have you set for yourself to try something new or work on one of your weaknesses? Are you open to experimenting? Growing? Perhaps it's time! Time to set up "your" lab to grow and experiment on "you".

Setting up your "Lab You":

  • Take a class in an area that you never thought of - Art? Coding? Dance?
  • Learn a new language - use it with your bilingual folks and ask for their help.
  • Pick a new habit and stick with it for 21 days. No excuses to stop. Perhaps just waking up 15 minutes early and trying yoga every day.
  • Emulate one trait of a leader that you admire for 3 months. See what happens!
  • Ask your team for ideas on one way that you can be a better leader. Try what they chirp up with even if it's uncomfortable.
  • Job shadow one of your people to learn what their day is like- Let them in on what you are doing!
  • Look at your past reviews. Pick out one key painful weakness that you have ignored and experiment o improve.
  • Read at least one book every week that you would never have picked up before. Guys? Try a romance novel. Ladies? How about some Sci Fi or a Western?
  •  Stop planning so much or letting others schedule you. Experiment.
  • Take a brain training seminar, there are so many new options out there.
  • Pick the one thing that scares you and just do it! I don't enjoy networking, but I have been forcing myself and actually enjoy it more.
  • Be patient - embrace failure. It's healthy for you.
  • Crap happens. Take it in, spit it out, and move on.

There is only one "you" and you have but one crack at life. You need to be president of  YOU and only you can take control of personal growth. This may indeed require a bit of experimentation. 

 When will you set up your own "Lab You" and what will be your first steps? I would love to hear from you! Good luck and happy experimenting!

Next Spring this lab will be lush with growth and surrounded with annuals

Leaders "Shed" Too!

"To me a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug" - Helen Keller

A pine needle rug of fall gold
To shed is to grow !
In most areas of the country, Fall is truly a spectacular rainbow of color. The smells are even better! Apples, pumpkins, pine, and fires scent the air. Where I live it's common for people to jump onto wagon rides for corn maze challenges and apple picking. Adults love to go up North for wine tasting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

It seems like our leaves fly off the trees about this time in October. Often the pine and spruce trees shed as well. Pools of gold needles fall at the feet of large conifers. New gardeners or homeowners sometimes panic when they see browning conifers and what seems like a large thick pile of needles dropping. Don't panic! It's all about shedding the old and moving on to new growth!

Generally it's the inner needles of conifers that turn brown or gold and drop. Pine trees tend to drop needles every 2-5 years and Spruce trees every 5-7 years. There is dropping every year because the tree is in a constant flux of shedding and growing new needles. New needle growth starts in the Spring after a long winter nap. Trees will drop more needles due to environmental stress. If there is drought (even from the previous year!), root damage (don't pile dirt or stuff on the roots), insect or disease - then the needle drop is on. Be aware that there are some conifers that do drop all of their needles every year just like regular trees. They then sprout bright green growth in the spring. Conifers with this behavior include the Larches, Dawn Redwoods, and Bald Cypress. The great news is that  fallen needles are a free mulch for your yard! Rake them up and put over your garden beds for winter protection. An added bonus is that they break down and feed your soil.

The dropping of leaves and needles on trees and plants prepares them for winter. When Spring arrives they can pop with healthy growth. The growth cycle maintains the ecosystem and the survival of plants and trees. Most of us have seen the damage to trees when they haven't yet lost their leaves when an unexpected snow storm hits. Branches break from the weight of the cold stuff and trees can suffer permanent damage.

 People need to prepare for change and growth as well. Healthy growth is vital to our existence, happiness, and future. Any aspiring leader should yearn to grow and have a commitment to doing so. Growing should be like breathing or eating. Sound leaders make a dedicated choice to grow. You can't use your talents if you don't "prepare" yourself for growth and shed your old "self" to grow into the new.

So... How DO you shed your old self and grow?
Here's some ideas!
  • Shed any old perceptions that you have. Open yourself up to the suggestions and views of others. Be open to criticism and be willing to  change.
  • Shed negativity and pessimism. Treat every day like a  new day.
  • Like our gardens, take advantage of down times (winters) to rev up and grow.
  • Believe in yourself and what you are capable of. Be yourself!
  • Act positive towards others. Let that positivity grow from within and drive you to guide others.
  • Develop a personal development plan for yourself. Carry plans down through to your people to help them grow. Make plans personal and not a condition of a promotion. Everyone needs to have a plan and believe in it.
  • Be proactive. Make things happen for yourself through admiring and growing the talents of others.
  • Learn learn learn! Splurge on learning for your people. Even if you are leading a book club find ways to help others learn through new processes and sharing thoughts.
  • Develop relationships with people at all levels and walks of life. The world is diverse - take advantage of it for your own growth. Don't judge.
  • Don't have an ego and avoid depending on others. Going solo won't work in the long run and you will miss the opportunity to make a difference.
  • Be disciplined. Start with small steps and expand. Doing tiny habits every day will build into something more.
  • Drop your fears and face the unknown. You need to jump into the fire to grow.
  • Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty in life. I can teach myself gardening all day but the real growth comes from just doing it and experiencing through trial and error.
  • Be willing to sacrifice for others. Serve others in order to make an impact. Be humble and let others know that you are on the path to learn and grow.

You can't control your world anymore than garden plants can control the weather. Embrace your own growth and breathe in new ideas, thoughts, and diversity. Like the trees, you need to prepare yourself to grow and change so you can help others down the same path.

Happy raking!

Fall into some learning!

Arum bulb blooming in the Spring

"When planning for a year, plant corn. When planning for a decade, plant trees. When planning for life, train and educate people" - Chinese Proverb

The one thing that I enjoy most about fall is - back to school!! By early September, my boys are so bored and tired of each other that the only time they use their creativity is in finding unique ways to annoy and torture each other - without getting caught! They dread returning to the classroom and don't quite buy the idea that learning is fun and crucial to their future. 

Fall brings cooler weather and my grass actually turns green again as the trees slowly begin their color dance! It's nice to have bonfires in the chilled air and fewer bugs to fight with. In the garden, plants and trees start to wind down for the winter (sigh) and it's seems like the garden is dying back. In reality, your garden is actually doing the opposite - you just can't see it.

Fall is the best time to plant new plants and trees.  It's also a prime time to move plants that have outgrown their space or would flourish in a better spot in the yard. They have a chance to get established before the ground freezes. The plants may die back on the top and trees may loose their leaves however, a lot of growth is occurring under the ground. Roots will expand and strengthen until the ground is completely frozen which in many areas is in late December. Even better is the fact that you can get great steals on plants and expensive trees because nurseries are eager to deplete their stock before the winter. Even if plants look yellowed and worn in the nursery, their roots are healthy and ready to grow (with the exception of evergreens. If they are yellow - they are dying). Some of my best plant bargains have been in the fall. Just plant your deals and keep them watered until the ground freezes. Fall is less stressful on new plantings because they usually tend to receive a lot more rainfall, aren't stressed by the hot blazing sun, and pests have died back. By late Spring next year, your new plants will be well established and ready to spring forward with lush growth.

After a relaxing summer it's time for us all to jump right back into a routine and fall into some learning! We too need to strengthen our roots and grow our minds. Learning doesn't stop when we walk over the stage to get that diploma. If you are dedicated to personal growth and advancing or changing your career, you need to become a life long learner. You can't keep preaching training and education to your teams if you aren't jumping right in there as well. Effective managers are continuously learning and dedicated to developing new skills. There are so many new choices and vehicles in which to learn new things - many without ever leaving your house or changing out of your Pj's!

Unless you have been living under a rock, you've probably noticed that there are sweeping changes happening in the education system within the US. More schools have issued students a lap top for electronic learning. Students are participating in video learning and conferences, teachers have taken on the concept of "flipped" learning, schools are finally realizing that kids aren't benefiting from sitting in a chair all day spitting back information. Learning is interactive and  students are working more in groups to problem solve and collaborate. Several of these new learning concepts are spilling over into the business sector. Companies are making more use of in house self learning computer modeled classes. These classes are more interactive and demand more participation. The Internet has opened up a whole new way of sharing and learning new information. Take advantage of technology and learn!

I love learning! I am a readaholic and I love sapping up new information. I can't fall asleep at night  unless I read beforehand. I'm stupefied when I hear people say that they haven't read a book in a year (sorry if you are a guilty one!). If I become a Web Designer (never going to happen, trust me!) , I want to be the best one out there. I  would read every web designing book on Amazon. Self learning takes patience and drive - you have to be proactive because no one will do it for you.

This past year I was introduced to MOOCS and it has been a great learning resource for me. A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. They are courses offered by top colleges including  Stanford, Georgetown, University of Michigan, and University of Washington to name a few. Classes are taught by distinguished university professors and offer readings, lectures, video, tests, user forums etc. The variety of classes available is phenomenal! You can learn anything from coding to anthropology to exploring quantum physics. The best part is that most of these classes are FREE!! They run anywhere from 4-16 weeks and the choices are endless.

Here are some of my favorite MOOCS that I have personally tried and love!

These programs offer an awesome and credible array of classes. Some of them offer certification certificates that many employers will accept for learning requirements. They give you a chance to dip your toes into learning something new without spending a dime. They may lead to a promotion or a new career path. All you need is a thirst for learning and dedication to achieve.

Here are some benefits of MOOCS:

  • You can become more marketable because you have developed new or advanced skills.
  • Proactively developing yourself may lead to a promotion within your current career.
  • Classes can assist you in making a complete career change vastly different from the field that you are in.
  • More money and flexibility.
  • More education = more leadership opportunities.
  • Small business owners with few financial resources can use these classes as training tools for their people.
  • You can even craft your own "program" by mixing and matching classes.
  • Improve or develop tech skills. One of the sites above offers coding for kids - I may sign up!
  • You can learn at your own pace without pressure. You use the learning style that best suits YOU.
  • Classes allow you to explore areas that you have never heard of before.
  • Develop better problem solving and creativity skills.
  • Satisfy outside "passions" that you have always had.
  • Exposure to thought provoking ideas, new thoughts, new connections.
MOOCS are one of the best opportunities that have emerged in some time for adult learning. They open a whole new world up for all of us and the benefits are enormous. As your garden dies down to prepare for the winter, don't let your brain die as well. Use the quiet of winter to open your mind to new learning and watch the growth that happens within you!

If you have taken some great online classes please share any of your favorites!
Happy learning!

Going to bed for the Winter