Nature can teach us wonderful business lessons, if we just pay attention.
On one of the greatest road trips of my lifetime (2.5 weeks from Seattle down to San Diego), with one of the best friends that a girl could ask for, I found myself hiking at the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.
At the outlet of the Gorge, is "Nature's Rock Garden" where we had the pleasure of meeting a few "Rugged Individuals"... also known as Doulas Fir Trees. Here, a tree must grow in a bed of rocks and adapt in order to survive the harsh conditions- the lack of soil, and hot, dry summers. The trees send their roots deep into the fractured rock below in search of water (literally growing off of a cliff just a few feet above rushing rapids below). They drink and they cling to the wall like rock climbers on a mountain face.
It's beautiful to see how strong these trees are, and the conditions that they survive in. With the right mindset it is also inspiring. Which leads me to lesson number 1.
1. Be a "Rugged Individual"
Which, I translate into my mantra for a successful entrepreneur: live fearlessly authentic.
So many of us have masks that we wear. Impressions that we try to hold up for the benefit of others, and fears that limit us from reaching our true potential. We trade in the confidence about our own success, intelligence, and unique talents for insecurity about what we lack, how much more everyone else knows, and we focus on our weaknesses.
I hear it all the time from female entrepreneurs. "That (insert competitor) is so much more established than me." "Her business is thriving, meanwhile mine is just starting." "How can I be more like her?"
To that, I say: "Be a Rugged Individual. Just like the Douglas Fir tree."
Because, "Rugged Individuals" teach us to be the most authentic version of our self. To grow in the midst of challenge. To adapt while maintaining the true spirit of our being. After all, a tree -- no matter where it grows in the wild -- is still a tree. And you, no matter where you grow, are still you. It is all within.
To live fearlessly authentic means that you take off the mask, be the version of yourself that is most in tune with what is in your heart. Live with confidence that even amongst the harshest conditions, you can still thrive. You don't have to fear what others think, as long as you know that your own unique existence provides beauty to the landscape around you- just like the Douglas Firs dotting the Gorge wall.
This is the very characteristic that attracts your best clients to you.
On this same hike, my friend and I were also introduced to "The Living Stump."
This stump is further up on a flat surface, away from the Gorge wall. Here, the trees live as a group rather than as rugged individuals. The roots of these Douglas Fir Trees have grown together, helping to provide each other with nutrients and water necessary to survive. One tree in particular had been chopped (and would have otherwise died), but prior to being cut, the roots of this tree had grafted on to a neighboring tree's roots. Because of this, the stump that was left behind continues to live.
Hence, "The Living Stump," which I actually prefer to call "The Loving Stump." And that brings us to lesson 2...
2. Develop a Well Rooted Community
Even as a "Rugged Individual," we do better with the support of a well rooted community. Just like the "Loving Stump," we might get chopped down, or face challenges on our path to building a flourishing business. But as we grow into our fearlessly authentic self, and share our true spirit with others, we develop a community. Community provides us with the support necessary to survive and the connections to grow our business. Connections to make us happier and less stressed, too.
When we live fearlessly authentic, we come out of hiding and we come into bonding. We attract to us those who can truly appreciate us for who we are and the value that we can offer. We build connections that will nourish us and in turn, we support them as well. We open our heart; spread acceptance, and we can appreciate (rather than compete with) others who are on a similar journey. We don't have to forge our path alone, but we do have to do it authentically. Our best clients want to know us. They want to relate and connect to us.
So, build roots. Ask your community how you can help them. Give back through charitable endeavors that are meaningful to you, mentor, and offer valuable resources. Ask your community for help. When you feel doubt, let others support you. When you stop looking at limitations, you start seeing connections. And, that's where the magic happens.
When you cultivate a mindset of abundance, you realize that there is enough good to go around. You realize that your community is not there to take from you, but to share with you. And in turn, you can share your value fully with others. You can be a "Rugged Individual" in a world of "Loving Stumps."