A Lesson About Success

My son’s class conducted a life skills practical in their fourth term. Each student was given a bean, a shallow metal dish and some moist cotton in which to plant the seed. The goal was to connect the bean’s growth to the story of Jan en die boontjierank (Jack and the Beanstalk). Stone is a born botanist, and has loved plants since he was a toddler. He brought his bean home and made sure the cotton was kept moist and frequently moved it all around the house in an effort to always keep it in the sun.

In time, a shoot broke through the bean’s outer shell and a fragile root system began to develop. Stone kept watering and moving the plant.

One weekend after his bean turned into a seedling, we had to go out of town. The seedling had no water, too much exposure to the elements and appeared brown and dead by the time we got home three days later. Stone quickly took it over to the sink and moistened the cotton, and his father advised that now might be a good time to put the seedling in some soil. I advised that he stop moving it from place to place all around the house and allow it to get adjusted to one spot and the conditions in that particular area. That’s how the bean ended up on the ledge of our front porch, where it rebounded. The old, dry leaves dropped off and new green shoots began to emerge from its tiny stalk.

“Isn’t it cool how new life can emerge from something you assumed was once dead?” I mused to my husband.

A man of many words, he replied, “Mmm hmmm.”

My conversations with Marshall are so deep…

It’s now been two months since Stone’s bean was planted, and it’s about 3.5cm high. Ecstatic that his seedling had achieved some semblance of an actual, viable plant, he asked if he could take it out of the tin and plant it in the garden bed next to the garage. He dug a hole, tipped the plant out and dropped it in. The next morning when he came to check on his plant, it was dead…Really dead this time.

The summer sun and gale force winds that gust around our house at this elevation killed it in 24 hours. Distraught and disappointed, Stone dug up his seedling and put it back in its makeshift pot to see if he could revive it. It’s been over a week now, and it doesn’t show signs of recovering. We are still holding out hope, however.

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Come back to us, bean plant!

Why do I mention this story to you? All of us has a dream; some sort of ambition that we harbor deep within ourselves. The bravest (or more foolhardy) of us will sometimes take the step to put flesh to that dream. It may be a business idea, or a talent, or a philosophy you’d like to see incorporated into the culture. If it’s a particularly unique or good idea, or if you have people who support you because YOU are unique and think you are particularly a good person, you may find yourself pressured to put your idea, talent or skill in the sun before it’s had a chance to develop deep roots.

The function of the sun is to sustain life, but the sun’s rays can also be fatal, as we learned from the demise of Stone’s tender plant. You may be looking at other people in your field of interest and ponder over their achievements. Their success must surely come from full exposure to the sun, whereas your growth has only been gradual because you’ve gotten those rays in smaller measure. This may inspire you to think you’re ready to launch yourself into the same atmosphere, but if your gift is not developed, it will kill not only the gift, but its potential as well. When the winds of criticism, negativity and hostility come, your potential will be shaken loose from its roots. There is nothing wrong with a little caution.

This is written to encourage those who are looking around at your circumstances after putting in whatever effort and asking yourself “Why am I not further along?” The answer may simply be as simple as it’s not your time. Your growth – or lack thereof – is not for lack of trying: It’s because everything and everyone develops at his or her own pace.

We live in such an exhibitionist culture nowadays that people expose their talent in its infancy and the culture consumes and disposes of it quickly. The music industry provides the most visible manifestation of this. We cycle through more rappers and crooners annually than Rob Ford did needles and pipes. (RIP, Mayor.)

Take the time and care to hone your craft and build your core. Sure, there are times when you can drop a seed in a harsh environment and it will not only anchor, but dominate that environment as well, crushing all in its wake. Those are called anomalies…like Beyoncé. Most of us are not anomalies. Most of us are Solanges; or at least we should be trying to be. There’s only room for one Beyoncé in the world at a time, maybe two. However there are plenty of seats at the table for a dozen Solanges or more. (See how I just did that? You like that? Of course you do.)

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Be encouraged. Be glad for other people who have established their roots and have found their place in the sun. When your turn comes, you’ll want others to be glad for you too. Don’t give up, but more importantly, don’t force your success. Build upon yourself, and it will come.

 

 

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