Important lesson of the day... You have the power to control what is said about you and even what people think about you. The worst way to do this is to try to control what is said and/ or thought about you. Enter "The Character Tree".
Leaves are all the pretty things in the world, just as leaves are the most attractive and enticing part of a tree. Cars, clothes, friends, houses, boats, a "perfect" body, money, esteem, jobs, academic recognition, etc... All leaves.
Branches are worthwhile pursuits. Things that produce leaves. These we will examine in detail.
The trunk is the bulk of what constitutes a tree which is what makes this analogy so apt: the bulk of our life is spent setting a foundation for success; a forum upon which to grow branches and leaves.
These must be planted by someone else and if they are planted wrong, we must go back and trim, relocate the tree, etc as damage control or else we wreck the foundation of nearby houses. Yes, the analogy goes that deep, where the house can be considered social institution. Mess up the person (mess up your life), mess up all those you interact with and thus mess up society via this extended domino effect.
So what do we all want?
In short, as many healthy leaves as possible.
How do we get as many leaves as possible?
There is only one way. If you chase the leaves, you can never grow a tree because even the most beautiful leaf cannot grow other leaves from itself. Bark is ugly, but from it (from the trunk itself and the roots) come the most beautiful and delicate successes (leaves).
This analogy is all about hard work, perspective, and getting your priorities in order so that we can both encounter the process and enjoy the result. So coming back to the question; how do we get as many leaves as possible?
We work our asses off all the while knowing what we are working towards. Lot's of people work hard. But if you bury your head in the dirt and plant 300 trees a day and you don't make time to water them, they will die. If you plant one tree and water it, you will not be able to enjoy the journey because your success will be defined by the success of just one tree. In other words...
There is more to life than work. Don't plant 300 trees a day. Plant many, but take the time to water. Diversify. If your inward success and happiness is defined by your position at work, work runs your life. Don't become dependent on one tree to produce leaves. Also, don't get frustrated if you don't get leaves right away. This is why we have to learn to enjoy the process, because leaves take time.
If you start your college life trying to get a great paying job, you miss much of the experience. If you start your working career looking forward to the perks and not the work, you are making an even bigger mistake. You are trading wealth for health (in the complete sense). If you begin a marriage based solely on looks or your husband's job or your wife's family money, you are trading love for lust or luster... Both of which will wear off.
You cannot have the most leaves on your tree unless you are looking to enjoy, perhaps even become passionate about, the journey of raising a tree. You can't have children and control every aspect of their behavior to produce obedient children. You must give of yourself and teach out of love, and then you will have children who love and respect you, even if they break the rules.
The tree is your daily habits, your sacrifices, and the extent to which you give back to the world. Remember that we all start out as roots, and our parents and perhaps many other people make an investment in us early in life. As such, the tree is about giving back and sacrificing. It is also about taking the time to enjoy the journey. Anything we earn is much sweeter than anything we 'get'. Build a great tree.
Leaves come and go with each passing season. One leaf (one success) for you might be athletic success. If you hold onto that leaf too hard, when it is gone, so goes any fleeting chance for happiness in this life. The great athlete must also learn how to be a great banker and a great teacher; a great role model and father and husband. In fact, any role we take on in earnest can produce many leaves.
Again, diversify. Live a complete and full life with as many roles as you are passionate about filling well. Each of these roles you fill passionately will lead you to many, many leaves. In fact, if you live modestly and work hard, you will become humbled, which produces two things.
First, you will be happy to have grown even one leaf. Therefore any leaves in your life will be blessings and will reward you more than just 'getting'. Earning wins every time. Second, you will give back because you will feel lucky or privelledged. Ironically, giving is the best way to get. The more you give, the more leaves you get and the more you want to give. It is the best kind of onward spiral. In "The Power of Giving", this very spiral is referred to as the giving virus. It's only known symptoms are hundreds of leaves seen growing on beautifully crafted trees all over the world.
Watered your tree today? How many leaves would there be on your "Character Tree"? Get busy living. Get busy growing leaves because you enjoy planting trees! Get busy getting more than you expected because you gave!