Mother Trees

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, or is it?

Is every man only looking out for himself? I’ll warn you that I’ve searched far and wide for cliches today….

I was recently reading about networks and communities. No man is an island, after all. 😉 In my reading, I kept coming across the concept of ‘mother trees’ and a biologist named Suzanne Simard, who talks about big trees support seedlings, enabling them to grow. Like the mother trees in Avatar, these large, older trees rise above the forest and connect to other trees via a network of fungal threads. It appears these mother trees not only share nutrients with weaker trees, they’ll also do so when it means sacrificing their own needs. In return, the seedlings grow and will provide nutrients to others, including the mother trees.  Ms. Simard describes forests as complex networks of trees who communicate and support each other, making the whole forest more resilient.

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Some of you will say that’s a bunch of hooey and use words like “anthropomorphize”, meaning we’re attributing human traits to non-humans, but how else do you describe the passing of nutrients when needed? We can debate anthropomorphism another day and get back to my original question: Is every man or tree only looking out for himself? Or is it all for one and one for all?

I vote for B. We’re a community and our networks make us stronger. Our ability to support each other in times of need means that more of us survive, both literally and figuratively.

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Back to Ms. Simard for a moment. She also mentions that forests can be more vulnerable because of the trees’ networks. If you damage the mother trees, the whole forest declines. Or, if you let loose a scourge (I always wanted to use that word…. 🙂 ), like the bark beetle, the trees’ network may collapse. How do you make a forest less susceptible to a scourge? Diversity. Instead of one or two types of trees, you have many types of trees, some that are resistant to a particular attack. The more diversity, the less the risk of the community failing.

My point in as few words as possible:

  • Mother trees (hubs) matter. These are the people who connect us to each other and help us get what we need, especially in times of stress.
  • Even the smallest seedling can contribute to the well being of others and their community.
  • Diversity fortifies our community against harm.

As you go through your week, I hope you look at your world with fresh eyes. Who are the mother trees in your network? How do the smallest, youngest, weakest members contribute? How can diversity strengthen you and your community?  In short, how are we better together?

Harmony

dog-howlI can’t sing, just ask those who’ve heard me. See that dog howling? Yeah, that’s me. 😉 I managed to make it through choir (it was a small school, they were desperate!) but I now limit my vocal acrobatics to the car, the shower and my office (door closed, I promise).

Just because I can’t sing doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy listening to others…. especially groups who sing in harmony. One voice can be beautiful but many voices? Breathtaking. We’re deep into the holidays so it’s fitting that we celebrate Friday with a few songs that are all about harmony. Today, I’ve got a few traditional Christmas carols. The next couple of weeks, we’ll listen to some less traditional Christmas songs and also some Hanukkah tunes.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman is an English carol dating back to the 16th century…. here’s a 21st century version God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman – Pentatonix.

Do You Hear What I Hear, on the other hand, was written in 1962. The lyricist was asked to write a Christmas song. Instead of a commercial tune, he and his then wife penned a song pleading for peace since the nation was in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The lyrics are timeless given all that’s going on across the globe and here at home. Do You Hear What I Hear – Home Free

Finally, Silent Night was composed in the early 19th century by an Austrian for a church service. Nearly 100 years later, it became a notable moment in World War I when German and Western forces serenaded each other on Christmas Eve, a short truce in the trenches. Does that not inspire you to put down your weapon of choice (smartphone, tablet, laptop or pc) and call a truce to the angry rhetoric? Here’s a random group of strangers singing  Silent Night – Flash Mob at Macy’s. Wouldn’t it be cool to see this live, to participate? Regardless of your voice, there’s something meaningful in singing along.

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Have a glorious weekend, may it be full of harmony!

A Million Things to Be

We are rich in opportunities. Sure, there are obstacles between us and our goals, but that’s life. Sometimes those obstacles are speed bumps and sometimes they’re brick walls. But what if there is something meaningful on the other side? Will you get stopped by the voice in your head that says, “I can’t”?

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What do you see when you look around, the speedbumps, the brick walls, the can’ts?

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Or do you see the doors, the windows, the what ifs?

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It’s no secret that I see the what-ifs. (Unless I’m cranky, then I’m all about the I-don’t-wannas …. :D) I think this is one reason I really like this hump day ad, Free To Be – 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk and Summit. It’s well designed, cleverly edited and full of feel-goods. By the way, the accompanying song is Cat Stevens’s If You Want to Sing Out.

The ad ran this fall, during the peak of the election cycle, and Jeep did a great job of taking a very angsty, emotional time in the US and flipping it, reminding us that we’re better together. Jeep reminded us that, if we want to, we can see beyond our differences to that which makes us a community. My question for you: do you want to?

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Happy Hump Day, may you find more doors than brick walls!

 

We Can Do So Much

Have you ever been intimidated by a task? Whether it was achieving a personal dream or delivering a project at work, our tasks can be enormous.

How many times have you walked away from a goal because it seemed too large, too impossible? We all have that little voice in our heads that doubts whether something can be done. Sometimes, those voices come from outside.

“You’ll never make it.”

“It’ll never last.“

“What a mess.” 

“Why bother? No one will listen to you.”

I can’t be the only one that has heard these from family, friends and coworkers, can I?

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And yet, we find that we can achieve our goals. Some of you have gone back to school and gotten your college degree while working full time. Or you got  a long dreamed for promotion. Maybe you launched that project on time and on budget. You shot for the moon and made it farther than you ever expected. In other words, you managed to achieve your goal in spite of the challenges.

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Did you do it alone? Did you rely on family, friends and coworkers? Maybe a stranger lent a hand? Were you that person that lent someone else your support?

As we wind up 2016, let’s take a moment to appreciate those who helped us along the way. Let’s also stop to consider who we can support – whether it’s the local food bank or shelter, friend or stranger, I hope y’all reach out.

Move Along

Wow, we made it! I haven’t been so glad to see Friday since…. Ummm, well, last week. 😉

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It’s been a bear of a week, hasn’t it? Just when you start to whine about your challenges, stop and think of those around you. I find it’s easier to let go of the frustration by empathizing, which means focusing on others and their experiences. This not only helps you shift your focus from you and your misery but also opens you up to supporting others. Isn’t that what community is all about?

Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day makes me think of how hard it is to be isolated. Even though it’s a melancholy song, I find myself humming it. It’s also a great crowd-shout song for road trips….You know I can see y’all motoring to this. 😉

Need something a little more upbeat for your Friday? All American Rejects Move Along is an anthem to picking yourself up after a fall.

“When all you got to keep is strong,

Move along, move along, like I know you do

And even when your hope is gone

Move along, move along just to make it through….”

And I can’t help adding Traveling Wilbury’s End of the Line. It’s got me grooving while I clean up email this morning, imagining setting off on a great adventure.

I’ve got road trip music on my mind (can you tell?) – May y’all have great adventures this weekend!

Caryn

Smarter Faster Better

Good Morning, Happy Monday!

Are you ready for the week? Will you get everything done? I bet your answers are “Sure” and “Hopefully”. Every single one of us has studied something about our profession, whether it’s getting licensed, earning a certification in a technology or getting a college degree. Why? Because studying and practicing our craft makes us better at it. But what about your daily routine, do you study that? Do you examine how you structure your day and spend your time? Even if you’ve considered the what and the why, are you so anxious to get things done that you don’t focus on the how?

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I’ve been reading Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg, a book on productivity and why some folks are more productive than others, in large part due to the choices we make. One of my favorite parts in the book talks about teaming, creative tension in groups and how to transform performance by focusing on how we treat and trust each other. If you want a condensed version of the lessons in the book, check out Freakonomics radio or listen to Marketplace Weekend’s coverage on the book and Mr. Duhigg. Both of these sites offer great podcasts overall, hope you enjoy them!

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Have a great week!

Caryn