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“Trees have always been the most penetrating preachers.” – Hermann Hesse 

The first trip Beth and I took together was to San Francisco.

One of the most beautiful cities in the world, we toured the Golden Gate and Alcatraz, Russian Hill and China Town, enjoyed a concert and some incredible food. As picturesque as the city is, it was what we encountered outside of the city that was most remarkable.


The mighty Sequoia Forest abounds with trees stretching hundreds of feet into the air. These are some of the oldest, toughest and tallest trees in the world. The enormity of it all is stunning, but learning what makes these trees so mighty is the real gift.

1. Scars make you stronger. These mighty trees have thrived in a fire-prone area for 2,000+ years. They not only survive the fires, but thrive because of them. The scarred and marred burnt bark reveals the pain of past fires, but also serves as visible proof of survival.The new bark actually grows around the old burned edges and becomes stronger because of it.These timbered titans provide four lessons on how best to endure and thrive the fires in life:

We all have scars. Some are noticeable others reside in lesser viewed aspects of life. Take a look at your scars. Will you view them as a painful reminder of what happened and all you lost? Or, will you take lesson from the Sequoia and see yourscars as badges of honor reminding you that you survived and the best is yet to come?

2. Yesterday’s loss encourages tomorrow’s growth. Although the Sequoias might withstand the fire’s heat, the smaller trees, plants and deadwood are not as fortunate. The fire ignites them, chars them and reduces them to ashes. Once cooled, though, these ashes become soil ripe with nutrients allowing the surviving trees to thrive.

Through reflection we come to realize that the fires in our life lead to our greatest moments of growth. [Tweet this.] Although no one seeks struggles, they provide the opportunity to reassess what matters, reprioritize life and live more abundantly going forward. We can look down at the charred mess of yesterday with anger, trusting slowly, and risking little or as reminders of character cultivated, networked expanded and faith deepened.

3. Let it go. The heat from the fires below triggers the cones produced by the tree to open up. The cones drop their seeds into the rich soil below. These little seedlings, then, are free to flourish with new life. What we do not transform gets transmitted. If we don’t deal with the losses and mistakes of yesterday we transfer them to our: kids, friends, colleagues and neighbors.

Ah, but we can also choose to let go of the pain and embrace the lessons within those experiences! In letting go of the things, beliefs, hurts and missed opportunities we’ve been holding onto for too long, we are free to drop seeds of new life, new possibility that can grow and thrive around us. [Tweet this.]

4. Don’t do it alone. These trees don’t have a deep root system. Instead, their roots find greater strength not by going down below their own shadows, but in stretching into and connecting with the roots of the trees around them. It’s their interconnectedness that provides their great strength.

The 80’s rock band Whitesnake proudly proclaims: “Here I go again on my own. Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known!” Although this song makes me want to rock out, too frequently music, culture and training have misled us to believe our strength is equivalent to personal achievement.

Whether recovering from addictions with peers in AA, spending Sunday mornings worshiping with friends or being part of a leadership group, the people most successful, most significant and most on fire for life embrace the joy of sharing experiences with others. Great trees and great leaders embrace this and utilize this truth to collectively reach new heights. 

My friends, the fires come.  It turns out, though, that these fires create an inflection point. We can try to shy away weakly from risks in business, challenges in relationships and unrest in community to protect ourselves. We can allow the heat to burn us up, wilt our courage and destroy our lives. Or we can utilize the lessons from the mighty Sequoia reminding ourselves of the alternative choice. The choice to celebrate the scars that come, to utilize yesterday’s loss to encourage tomorrow’s growth, to let go of what we’ve been holding onto and to refuse trying to do it alone.

Grow on. The best is yet to come. 

If you enjoyed these four lessons to help you better navigate adversity in your life, you’ll love my LAUNCH Leadership Conference. At LAUNCH, you’ll spend two days with me, getting inspired and revealing your brighter vision for what is possible in business and life. Register before September 1 to save $120.

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