Leaves

Shake It Off!

“But I keep cruising
Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
It’s like I got this music
 In my mind
Saying, “It’s gonna be alright” - Taylor Swift

Photo courtesy of Tina Phillips via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
OK. The truth is out. This past year, I became a Taylor Swift fan. I love songs that not only get you moving, but that throw you into action. When times are tough you need to pull your boot straps up and “Shake it Off”! If our gardens had brains they too would need to heed this advice. The autumn weather has been anything but normal in many parts of the country.

Today in the Midwest was an incredible day – particularly for the middle of November. Last year at this time we had a record breaking 31 inches of snow in 4 days! Today I was out and about with holiday music blaring and lights twinkling. It was 61 degrees and sunny. Our fall has been one of the most beautiful that I can remember. We still have green grass and some autumn color. There are even trees still adorned with leaves. Wait! Did I mention leaves on the trees? That’s NOT a good thing in the snow
belt.

The cooler temperatures and waning daylight are triggers for your garden to slowly slumber. Some trees start turning color as early as late August. Dropping foliage and needles prepare our plants for a long nap. It’s their way of sheltering themselves from the cold. Like people, trees have chemicals and enzymes that move throughout their body. This process slows down as winter approaches. When Mother Nature plays a hoax on plants this time of year it can quickly damage and kill.

When the warmth continues and nature remains active our gardens get confused. They are impacted by light frosts but when the warmth hits again, some of them start to slowly grow. I cut down my hardy Banana trees to the ground for winter and they started sprouting again with our consistent warmth. Guess what impact pending snow will have? Plants don’t have the ability to just Shake it Off.

In the bright sun today I saw a lot of large ornamental trees smothered in leaves. Even after some 50 MPH winds last week they stood proud and strong. Not willing to quite give up their leaves. If the trees are root strong and healthy they should be able to shake off any snow that comes their way. Unfortunately, if the swirling snow drops fast the weight may be too much to bear and the tree branches may dangerously sever. Sudden and unexpected breakage can cause irreversible harm. What is the key to thriving in these conditions? Strong roots, sturdy stature, future growth, and the ability to Shake it Off.

In many ways people are just like plants in a garden. Give us “healthy soil” when we start off, offer us tender care, provide nutrients and “brain food” and encourage our growth. This is what develops our roots so that we can grow strong and bloom. Like some of the leafy trees outside my window we may be thrown some curveballs during our cycle of life when the snow hits. Life, like Mother Nature, is effective at blindsiding us even when we know better and should be prepared. We don’t hold all the cards and can’t control our garden path. What we can do when we are hit by life is heed Taylor Swift and Shake it Off.


How to Shake it Off when the going gets tough

·         Focus on being healthy. Get some sleep. Strong roots need nutrients and food in order to make it through the tough “winds” of life that try to topple us.
·         Acknowledge your feelings and accept your situation. You can’t shake off what you can’t accept.
·         Interact with your community. Talk to people. Ask for advice. You may be amazed at how many people have gone through the same circumstances as you. They survived and can share how they coped and survived.
·         Try to look past your hardship in the moment. If our gardens had our intelligence they would look past the perils of winter and envision the spring ahead. Do the same.
·         Don’t over magnify a situation. Perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem. Look around you. Other people are probably moving through deeper issues than you. Put things in perspective.
·         Ask for help. Sometimes you can’t make it on your own. Needing help is a sign of strength, not a weakness.
·         You are not your problem or crises. Your true self is at your roots where your strength is. You will grow and survive to flourish again.
·         Everyone deals differently. Stop comparing yourself to others assuming everyone “Shakes it Off” better than you. YOU are unique and need to do things your own way.
·         Take action. Life throws us rain, snow, wind, and fire. You can choose to plant yourself in one place or face the elements by shrugging them off and growing. What will you do?


How are you going to put your Taylor Swift on and “Shake it Off”?

It's OK To Be Bare

"Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing" - Abraham Lincoln


Photo courtesy of EJP via Compfight

The howling Halloween winds last week snaked through our trees quickly and with force last week.The scenic color palette of yellows, reds, and orange went down without a fight. The result was a scenery of colorless brown trees with a colorful crunching skirting of leaves. Yup. It really is fall now in the Midwest. As sad as I am to see my gardens go to sleep and the trees baring all, it really is a great feat of Mother Nature.

Trees are a lot like us when it comes to the seasons. Their alarm clock to start shutting down is the failing light as the days shorten and the air is colder. Their chlorophyll stops flowing and the leaves slowly change color. Despite what you think, the winds don't grab the leaves off the trees. The trees themselves throw off their leaves like a winter coat. As the days shorten, trees send a signal to the spot where the leaves are attached. The spot where the leaves are attached to the branches are sealed. No fluid can get in or out and the leaves are dropped by the tree. Result? Naked trees.

This whole magical process doesn't happen just so that you can venture out on color tours. The tree instinctively knows that it needs to protect itself in order to battle the cold and snow. The chemicals that were flowing to the leaves are diverted to the tree roots to fortify the entire root system and in the spring, the tree. The bottom line? Being bare is a good thing!

Photo courtesy of Theen via Compfight


I LOVE how the face of leadership has evolved over the years. I remember years ago when I joined a management training program with a local bank right out of college. Back then leaders thought that they needed to act "leaderly". They were more stoic, more commanding, and everyone was expected to follow them (plus most were men!). Input wasn't generally solicited or wanted. They had the final word. Times have changed. Leaders today seek input, show empathy, are more servant leaders than commanders. They see the benefits of empathy. In short, our leaders today are human. We all want to work with or for people who act like us. No matter where you lead from or whom you lead - Don't be afraid to "bare" yourself to people and act human.

What does it mean to be a "bare leader"? It means NOT being afraid to show empathy and emotion. It means being authentic and "you". It means being a servant leader rather than a commander. It means being yourself while earning your leadership title. It means encouraging and empowering people to grow and want to follow you. In short:

Don't be afraid to bare yourself!

  • Don't think that hiding emotion is what leaders do. Bottling feelings up and acting stoic doesn't make anyone a hero. It makes you look weak and pushes people away.
  • People smell fake a mile away. Too much sugar coating and BS WILL be evident. Is it worth it?
  • People want the bare truth. They don't want weak answers or any beating around the bush tactics. You end up clouding situations and making rash decisions in the long run. Being authentic and true eliminates issues that you can avoid.
  • In connecting, speaking, writing, life, HOW you say something if far more important than what you say. How many times have you written or read an email and it's how the information was relayed? It threw you into an emotional tail spin, not what was said. I just had this last week!  
  • Baring your true self really does build trust, strengthen relationships, and help others relate to you.
  • Leaders build vision. Vision takes skill and really jumping into the minds of your people. You can't do that without getting to know them and gaining joint trust.
  • Sharing emotions really goes a long way towards influencing how people think, behave, and react. This also intertwines with your vision creating.
  • Show your passion. Share your frustrations. People want to know that you too have doubts, fears, ideas, and don't know everything.
  • Strong leaders know that showing their real self will help groups bond together to find solutions or make change. You don't want to provide all the answers. Truthfully, you need your people more than they need you. Without them, there is no growth or passion to push on to grow and achieve.
Don't try to go it alone in life. Rely on others and "bare" your authentic self. When you show those Cub Scouts how passionate you are about climbing an obstacle wall but confident in them and that YOU are scared, they will relate and try harder. They will feed on your passion and confidence in them to scrabble right up that wall. When tough department choices have to be made, be truthful and share your indecisiveness to allow your team to give input and work through it. They are closest to the situation. 

Be human. Bare yourself. It's OK