January 16, 2020

The Parable of The Currant Bush

They’re brilliant aren’t they?
Pixar, I mean.

They weave these superb stories into films – ostensibly for children.
But we parents know that the underlying tale and moral is really for us: adults.

Their skills remind us of the power of stories to carry influential messages.
Which is why I work hard to craft every presentation, MasterClass, article, book and coaching conversation around a story.

For example, I used the film ‘Despicable Me’ In December’s Humans Under Management Conference.
It proved a perfect model for describing the leadership style in most small-to-medium-size businesses.

Gazing at our apple-tree-which-badly-needs-pruning…
I recall sharing a particular story with a couple of our children many years ago.
It was about a gardener.

“One early Spring day, the gardener strolled amongst his collection of fruit trees and bushes.
In his hands he grasped his secateurs and pruning saw.

He stopped at a burgeoning young currant bush…
…and took hold of some of the lengthy branches and twigs that had leapt towards the sky in the late Summer of the previous year.

Then he cut them back. Brutally.
Until the currant bush was just a small stocky thing in the dark earth.

As he looked at his work, he saw a little of the sap rising on the wounds.
And he said softly…

“Don’t cry, little currant bush.
I am the gardener, and i know what you can become.
But you’ll only bear an abundance of rich fruit…
If I prune back what won’t help you to grow to your true stature.”

The story goes on to explain that, some time later, the gardener was interviewed for a very senior rank in the Military.
He was confident that his leadership track record would speak loudly of his capacity.
He really was supremely confident.

But he wasn’t promoted.
And, by accident, during the interview he discovered why.

His religious beliefs and value system did not sit well with those immediately above him.

He was devastated!
What was the point in living values which were good, true and noble…
… only to have them thrown in his face?

Anguished, angry, confused, he silently railed and wept in the privacy of his room.
Until, his pain, literally, brought him to his knees.

It was then (he goes on to explain) that he heard a voice in his head say…

”I am the gardener, and I know what you can become.
But your life will only bear rich abundance…
If I prune back what won’t help you to grow to your true stature.”

It’s a good story.
Because it’s true.

Years later this gardener/officer could plainly see that…
being promoted would have taken him down a path…
which would never have led to the massively influential, international leadership position that he was eventually appointed to.

There are so many times when we invest our pride, our fragile egos, in the goals and objectives…
that we absolutely-have-to-accomplish, come-what-may.

Or we hang on to Success Formulae that have worked so very well for so many years.

Then Life and the world cruelly teach us that the must-have road we’d chosen provided only emptiness at the end of its rainbow.
And that Success Formula had a sell-by date in a rapidly changing business universe.

If we’re fortunate, we’re humbled.
(Inflexibility and Ego could always do with a jolly good pruning.)

If we’re smart, we then appreciate the power of Humility to fuel our continued learning and growing.

If we’re wise…
We’ll come to understand why business philosopher
Stephen R Covey determined Humility as…
One of the qualities of True Greatness.