Do you dare?

It was above the timber line. The steady march of the forest had stopped as if some invisible barrier had been erected beyond which no trees dared move in a single file. Beyond was barrenness, sheer rocks, snow patches and strong untrammeled winds. Here and there were short tufts of evergreen bushes that had somehow managed to survive despite the severe pressures under which they had to live. They were not lush, they lacked the kind of grace of the vegetation below the timber line, but they were alive and hardy. Upon close investigation, however, it was found that these were not ordinary shrubs. The formation of the needles, etc., was identical with that of the trees further down; as a matter of fact, they looked like branches of the other trees. When one actually examined them, the astounding revelation was that they were branches. For, hugging the ground, following the shape of the terrain, were trees that could not grow upright, following the pattern of their kind. Instead, they were growing as vines grow along the ground, and what seemed to be patches of stunted shrubs were rows of branches of growing, developing trees. What must have been the torturous frustration and the stubborn battle that had finally resulted in this strange phenomenon! It is as if the tree had said, “I am destined to reach for the skies and embrace in my arms the wind, the rain, the snow and the sun, singing my song of joy to all the heavens. But this I cannot do. I have taken root beyond the timber line, and yet I do not want to die; I must not die. I shall make a careful survey of my situation and work out a method, a way of life, that will yield growth and development for me despite the contradictions under which I must eke out my days. In the end I may not look like the other trees, I may not be what all that is within me cries out to be. But I will not give up. I will use to the full every resource in me and about me to answer life with life. In so doing I shall affirm that this is the kind of universe that sustains, upon demand, the life that is in it.”

I wonder if I dare to act even as the tree acts. I wonder! I wonder! Do you?

Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart (Beacon Press: 1999), 123-124.


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The Right Equipment for the Job

I was almost done mowing the lawn last weekend when the front wheels of the mower fell off. This has happened once before and our mechanic was able to “make a part” to keep the wheels on. I should have considered myself on notice. When the problem occurred again a few days ago I was less surprised than impressed that the DIY solution lasted as long as it did. Slipping the wheels back into place not at all securely I slowly and carefully cut the last section of grass.

After that it was on to the edging and trimming. But the 15-year-old “weed whacker,” seemingly in solidarity with the mower, had had enough. When the “auto-feed” feature stopped working I had to stop every few feet to manually pull out some additional line. It was tedious and frustrating and I wasn’t able to finish the job.

It is a truism of the workplace that an employee’s level of engagement – her willingness to bring her creativity, energy and initiative to bear on her responsibilities – is positively correlated to her access to the right equipment for the job. Common sense, right?

If you are asked to take care of something important and then informed that even though most companies, most of the time would use “those tools” and we only have “these tools” you might find that to be (a) an opportunity for creative problem solving and/or (b) more than a little frustrating.

The challenge of doing your best with what you’ve got – being scrappy and efficient with a  “can-do” attitude – is fun for a while, maybe even a little exhilarating. But it’s not a long-term strategy for success. At some point you’ve got to invest in the right – maybe even the best – resources for the job.

I have always enjoyed doing yard work; the physical effort on a warm summer day and the pride of ownership bring a strong feeling of satisfaction. But that’s when my tools are functioning as they should. When they don’t, well, it’s really no fun at all.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Human. Resources.

“Human”

Merriam-Webster definition #3-b:  representative of or susceptible to the sympathies and frailties of human nature (human kindness; human weakness).

“Resources”

Merriam-Webster definition #1-c a natural feature or phenomenon that enhances the quality of human life; and #1-e a source of information or expertise.

“Human Resources”

Merriam-Webster definition #1: personnel.

What? Personnel?

How did we get from words like “sympathies” and “frailties” (read tenderness, vulnerability, transparency…as in the real human experience) and “phenomenon,” “quality of life” and “sources of information and expertise” to personnel, a scraped from the bottom of the barrel word that fails in every way to describe who we are and what we’re made of?

It is, regrettably, an accurate characterization of the state of the “modern,” and so often dehumanizing, organization.

Let’s do better than that. Here’s a new definition for your consideration:

Human Resources (plural noun): (1) those living, breathing, dynamic and creative persons who cherish nothing more than to come together in support of a cause worth fighting for; (2) Any number of individual persons who collaborate with dignity, respect, safety and in a spirit of service to breathe life into an enterprise that is worthy of their presence. 


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.