Sow now, weep … er … reap later

Published 11:20 am Saturday, March 9, 2019

Once again an e-mail has brought me a life lesson which I’d like to share with you. The story goes like this.  It seems that a very successful businessman was facing retirement.  He needed to find a successor to run his company, but rather than choose one of his children or his directors, he, in a bold and surprising move, turned to the young company executives.

Gathering them all in a room, the man announced to the shocked assemblage that he would be choosing one of them to be the next CEO.  He then continued by explaining that he was going to give each of them one seed.  It was a very special seed which they were to grow and return to him in one year’s time. He would then judge the results and determine the best plant.  With that decision, he would select his successor.

Jim, one of the young executives, was there that day and like the others received a single seed.  He went home and excitedly told his wife the story.  Together they got a pot, added soil and compost and planted the seed.  Every day thereafter Jim faithfully tended to the seed, eagerly awaiting its first shoots.  After three weeks time, much to his dismay, his colleagues began to talk about their seeds, proclaiming how robustly they were sprouting.

Email newsletter signup

Jim continued to nurture his, but much to his bewilderment, nothing happened.  Four weeks, five weeks more went by, but still nothing.  By now, with his colleagues’  successes, Jim felt like an abject failure.

Six months passed and still nothing grew in Jim’s pot.  Convinced that he had killed the seed—where his colleagues continued to boast about their tall and thriving plants—Jim kept his failure from them.  This, albeit, did not stop him from continuing to care for the seed.

The year went by at which time the CEO asked all the young executives to bring their plants so he could inspect them.  Jim sunk into a deep sadness when he told his wife that the next day he would have nothing but an empty pot to show for his year’s work.  Though he felt sick at heart, his wife insisted that he be honest with his lack of success.  Knowing she was right, a greatly distraught Jim sensed this would surely be the most humiliating moment of his life.

When he arrived at work, Jim was taken aback over the variety of plants which the other men had grown.  They were robustly beautiful!  As Jim placed his empty pot among them, many of his colleagues laughed at him.  A few of the kinder men even felt sorry for him.

Just then the CEO entered the room.  He surveyed the display of plants and then greeted the young executives.  Jim tried his best to hide behind them.  “My, what gorgeous, thriving plants you have grown,” exclaimed the boss.  “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!”

That was the moment the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room standing beside his empty pot.  He ordered him to come to the front of the room.  Jim was not only mortified, but also terrified he was about to lose his job.  As he slowly walked up to the front carrying his pot with only dirt in it, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed.  Why hadn’t it grown?  Jim told him the story of his failure to grow the seed even though he had faithfully tended to it for the entire long year.

The CEO then asked everyone to sit down.  Everyone except Jim.  The CEO turned to the audience and announced in a booming voice, “Behold your next Chief Executive Officer!  His name is Jim!”

But, but, but … how could it be Jim the others wondered?  He had failed miserably.

“One year ago,” the CEO continued, “I gave each of you a seed.  I told you to plant it, care for it and bring it back to me today.  But what you don’t know is that I gave you each a boiled seed.  All of the seeds were dead.  It was impossible for them to grow.”

“All of you, except Jim, brought me thriving plants whose seeds you substituted when you found out that the ones I gave you would not grow.  Only Jim had the courage and honesty to bring me an empty pot. Thereby he is the one I choose to succeed me.”

“These are the lessons that you have hopefully learned today,” the CEO continued:

If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.

If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.

If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.

If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment.

If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective.

If you plant hard work, you will reap success.

If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.

Therefore, be careful what you plant now for it will determine what you reap later.

(Aha! So that’s why I was passed over as the next Hormel CEO.  Must have been that failed-to-thrive orange grove I planted in my Minnesota backyard.)