Newton had his apple; I have my acorn.
The other day a speaker shared with me advice he’d picked up as a child while growing up in south Florida.
As a young man, his father introduced him to a couple older landholders who were now in the business of selling their property. Recently farmers, the men decided it was time to get into the business of selling off their land.
“In life,” the old man said to him, “there are two ways to get to the top of an acorn tree. One is to sit on an acorn and be patient. The other is to get climbing.”
His words brought a smile to my face as I recognized that for generations, people continue to appreciate the fact not much gets accomplished when sitting on the sidelines of life.
For the most part, we all know the act of doing something is generally preferred to the act of doing nothing. Inaction begets more inaction – and in the end, nothing generally gets accomplished with the exception of breeding frustration and resentment.
I don’t need to look too far to see this first-hand. Years ago I let my shyness get in the way of countless opportunities in life. God might put doors in front of us but he leaves the walking through them up to us. All told, I probably rationalized myself out of a more opportunities than I can count or even remember. Should I join a club in school? What about applying to a help-wanted sign at a local business? How about going into a room of people I don’t know and start a conversation For me – and other who might suffer through this period, we rationalized away these as ‘just not the right opportunity’ when really it was just plain old fear of the unknown holding us back.
But then I began to notice something – people around me were starting to do some really great things out in the world. One started a company in a field I knew a great deal about. Another moved away to a city I’d always dreamed of living in. Meanwhile, there I stood on the outside looking in – waiting for ‘just the right opportunity’.
I was, in essence, sitting on an acorn waiting for it to grow.
What I needed to learn was how to fail, pick myself up, dust off, and keep going. This is, surprisingly, not an easy lesson to learn for shy people. Sometimes it comes with cuts to your confidence, bruises to your ego and more than a few moments of embarrassment. But at the time, I’d rather drank a bucket of broken glass and razor blades.
Learning to overcome this misconception – the belief by sitting on an acorn I’d somehow eventually ascend to the top of the oak tree in life – was one of the most difficult challenges I ever faced in life. In fact, I (and others) still fight these instincts on a regular basis. For us, learning to overcome our shyness is something you ever fully put behind you. It is always with us.
Everyone who makes the transition from the sidelines to the playing field takes a different pathway. Me, I found myself in a retail commission-based sales job where I was consistently learning how to deal with a multitude of people, personalities and situations. In this place, far from my comfort zone, I made mistakes. I screwed up. But I never let myself lose sight of where I could go (and ultimately wanted to go) if I’d keep learning.
To this day, literally decades beyond when I put my fears behind me and start climbing the limbs of the oak tree, I can still hear a voice in my head calling from down below. And, for those of us who left our acorn behind, we always will.
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