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Learning from Spring: Lessons for Business and Life

07Apr 2007

Spring is a fascinating time of year. New growth. Delicate flowers and flowering trees. Longer days. The return of wildlife and insects (I saw three different types of swallowtail butterflies on our lilac bush this week!) And unpredictable weather.

Growing up in Kansas, I never understood what the “big deal” was about Spring. Spring in Kansas consists of warmer days, some flowers and the greening of the grass. But it also includes blustery, windy days; and teasing warm days followed by cold snaps (just this week we had a late spring snowstorm which dumped four inches of snow on our flowering trees and shrubs — and today it is 30 degrees out). And then there are the spring thunderstorms and tornadoes. Not the idyllic Spring I read about in books. [My favorite memories of Spring are associated with May — making May Day baskets of flowers and giving them to friends and neighbors; warm, sunny days with cool grass underfoot; and flying kites on a warm, breezy day.]

But Spring in the South — that is something different altogether. I came to appreciate and see the wonder of Spring when we lived in Atlanta. First, it comes early (early March). Second, the sights and smells fill your senses — flowering dogwoods, vibrant azaelas, along with all of the beautiful daffodils, tulips, and pansies. Spring in the South is delicious — filling your whole being with the newness of life. And lastly, it is long — lingering for several weeks into the early summer of May.

So what can we learn from Spring? Some lessons are obvious. First, life is comprised of seasons — different periods of life that have different characteristics. Spring demonstrates renewal, rebirth from what has been dormant. This is helpful to keep in mind, in terms of business and personal growth, because it reminds us that there are periods of time where life is more dormant — not much exciting is going on, it doesn’t appear (note the term “appear”) that any growth is occuring, the days seem gray and rather lifeless. But during the winter-time, we need to remember and have the hope that Spring is coming. An example of this in business is to put a newer staff member in a position of responsibility that they are not yet ready to handle all of the challenges that they will face. Or it may be pushing a product onto market too early before you have worked all of the kinks out. In family life, it may be giving your teenager too much freedom too soon.

A second lesson we can learn from Spring is that new growth that is exposed too quickly can be at risk for destruction. Why the negative focus? Because many of us, in our excitement and anticipation of Spring, try to plant new flowers, trees or plants too early. We start seedlings in our home and then when the first warm week of Spring arrives we transplant the new plants in the garden or flowerbed. The problem? We forget that there still may be cold weather and frost, even snow. So we need to be patient, continue to grow our plants inside and protect them from the elements they are not ready to survive, and wait until they have reached the appropriate level of maturity and also for the danger of external risks to subside (they never totally go away.) An example of this in business may be placing a newer staff member in a position of responsibility that they are really not ready to handle all of the challenges they will face — putting them at risk for failure. Or it may be pushing a new product into the marketplace before all of the kinks have been worked out. In family life, this may be giving a teenager (or young adult) more freedom than they really are able to wisely manage.

Lastly, we need to remember that Spring doesn’t last forever. An obvious observation, but still a point worth noting. The creation of new growth generally does not continue year-round. Spring is the time where plants push out new buds and shoots. It is the season of procreation for most animals. Then comes the time for maturing, developing and producing fruit. What is interesting to me (as a novice gardener) is that what is produced in Spring (especially flowers and flowering shrubs and trees) are the results of planning and preparation that was completed in the Fall and Winter. You can’t plant tulips or a dogwood tree in March and expect them to flower this Spring. The same is true in business and in our personal lives. First, it is unrealistic to expect fantastic new growth to occur all the time — that isn’t the way life is. There are times of spurts of growth, times of steady, slow growth, and times of no apparent growth (although the root system may be developing more fully). Secondly, for Spring-like growth to occur, we need to be thinking ahead — planting, refurbishing the soil, pruning, fertilizing. Growth in business or in our personal lives doesn’t just happen (usually) — growth is the result of foresight and planning, and the commitment of time and resources to allow growth to occur when the time is right (similar to the adage, “chance is the combination of opportunity and preparation”).

So, enjoy! Take a walk and let the warm sun and gentle breeze caress your face and skin. Stop and smell the lilacs (the roses aren’t out yet in my part of the country.) Stroll slowly and watch for butterflies and honeybees. And think about the new growth you would like to see in your business and life next year — and start making some plans to make them happen.

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