Several years ago, shortly after I moved to Dallas, a psychologist who served on the board of directors of the non-profit I’d gone to work for, said to me, “You have simply grown where you’re planted.” I’d never really given much thought to that, yet looking back throughout my life I guess I have. The Bible, in Corinthians says “Bloom where you’re planted.” But this woman wasn’t referring to the phrase in the biblical sense; she was conveying it in the most practical sense. “Bloom where you are planted” is a philosophy I’ve unconsciously embraced to this very day.
In those early days, growing where I was planted was not something I consciously chose. In order to make life good for me I simply had to adapt and accept the numerous moves from one part of the country to another as a “trailing spouse.” Today, growing where I’m planted much more involves accepting that the years ahead of me are far less than those behind me, yet I still have opportunities to make those years important, productive and meaningful.
How willing are you to allow the dots to connect as you go through the next stage of your life?
Steve Jobs said, “You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.” Can you connect your dots as you continue to grow forward? Here are some steps to guide you as you bloom where you are planted:
Believe that each situation in life prepares you for the next one.
Early in my marriage we had two small children when my husband got transferred to New Jersey. Like many young couples, we met new friends through church and by getting involved in some local organizations. One of my husband’s volunteer involvements was the local Jaycees. Each year they put on a local preliminary pageant as part of the Miss America pageant. Helping with that pageant I met a woman who, because of my having earlier been a flight attendant, offered me a job teaching “Charm and Personal Development” at a locally franchised secretarial school. That, in turn, got me recruited by a junior college of business owned by former McGraw Hill executives.
Later, when my husband was transferred to Cleveland, Ohio, I asked one of the executives what he thought I might do in Cleveland. “You’re sort of like a Barbara Walters,” he said. “I think you should be in television.” Although his answer stunned me, I actually liked the thought. Although I had absolutely no background in television, I decided that once I got to Cleveland, I’d give it a shot.
What crazy suggestion have you followed that turned out to be an unexpected stepping stone?
Accept changes as they occur.
I knew no one in Cleveland, nor did I know much about the city other than having read that once upon a time it had a river that caught fire. Nevertheless, I accepted the fact that we were moving there and set my mind to making the best of it—maybe even getting a job in television.
What challenge did you accept that when looking back, turned out to be quite good for you?
Be willing to take risks.
Once in Cleveland, I began calling television stations, trying to set up an audition. Naïve yet undaunted, I’m sure it startled the producers when they asked what markets I had worked in, and I responded by saying I’d never been in television. I eventually talked my way into a couple of stations and got that audition, but was never offered a job. I did learn a lot, though, and after months of calling the NBC station and being unable to get through to a producer, persistence finally paid off and I got my audition.
Only later would I realize that this station happened to be network owned and operated, where rarely would a novice be hired. Following the audition, several weeks went by before I got a call for another audition. Then weeks later I got another call, summoning me to the station where I met with the producer and was given my first assignment as a contributing editor to a news and information talk show. I had done it. I actually broke into a top ten television market despite all obstacles. A few months later I was named co-hostess to the show, and my host and I appeared on the cover of the local newspaper’s television guide.
What risk/s have you taken to fulfill a passion?
When one door closes, another one opens.
As life would have it, my joyful time as a television personality would come to an end when my husband was once again transferred to Kansas City. Once again I would have to stay home or start over. As much as I loved motherhood, with the children now in school and my husband focused on a challenging new role, I needed something for me. Again, I tried the television route, but none was available, so when I read that Kansas City was about to host the Republican National Convention, I called the Convention and Visitors Bureau and told them they needed me to handle P.R. Since they already had an “information officer,” they felt that was enough, but they did need a writer to re-do some of their marketing materials. I jumped at the opportunity. At least I’d be in the right place.
Sure enough, following the RNC convention, the media was seeking an Impact Study. The “information officer” didn’t know how to do that. Could I, the director asked? I’d never done one, but figured, why not? Thus, I conducted an Impact Study, which then was published by all the national media. About that time the director decided that perhaps I did have value and I was hired as the public relations director for the city’s convention bureau.
How many doors have closed for you only to be followed by new one’s opening?
Eventually the dots connect.
From that P.R job I gained exposure, which put me back in the minds of the television community. When the local daily talk show hostess got pregnant they needed a replacement for the next year and they called me. That exposure, in turn, gave me an edge when Cap Cities bought The Kansas City Star and decided to hire a new Society Editor. It was recommended that I apply and I thought I was simply applying for a job as a columnist. It turned out to be Society Editor and feature writer. I got the job, which led to my being part of the team that earned the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize for the coverage of the tragic Hyatt Hotel skywalk collapse. That journalistic career led to my later authorship of my own leadership book and the continual writing career I have to this day.
Looking back, could I have planned it that way? Absolutely not. But with an open mind, a positive attitude and a willingness to take risks, I’ve had a pretty interesting life and I suspect it will continue to be so until the day I die.
What dots can you connect?
No doubt about it; challenges may come and plans may change, but if you simply have faith and let yourself bloom where you are planted you may be surprised at the unexpected gifts life has in store for you.