Business Lessons From A Quiet Gardener
This post is an excerpt from the speech by William Rosenzweig
On the occasion of his receiving the Oslo Business For Peace Award in 2010
A gardener sees the world as a system of interdependent parts -
where healthy, sustaining relationships are essential to the vitality of the whole.
"A real gardener is not a person who cultivates flowers, but a person who cultivates the soil."
In business this has translated for me into the importance of developing agreements and partnerships
where vision and values, purpose and intent are explicitly articulated,
considered and aligned among all stakeholders of an enterprise -
customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders,
and the broader community and natural environment.
The garden has taught me about patience
and persistence and the ethical principles of generosity and reciprocity.
It has illuminated the importance of
appreciating the cycles of life and decay.
For the gardener,
composting is a transformative act -
whereby last season's clippings (or failures)
can become next year's source of vigor.
I've learned that it's not just what you plant,
but how you plant it that brings long - term rewards
in life, work and the garden.
Gardeners know that once strong roots are established, growth is often exponential rather than linear.
Also gardening, like business,
is inherently a local activity,
set within an ever - changing and
unpredictable global climate.
Showing up in person, shovel -
and humility in hand is essential.
Gardeners, like entrepreneurs
are obsessed with latent potential -
and can be known to be
We can vividly imagine the bloom
and the scent of the rose
even in deepest of winter.
As the American naturalist
Henry David Thoreau once wrote:
"I have great faith in a seed.
Convince me that you have a seed there,
and I am prepared to expect wonders."
In essence, the gardener's work is a life of care.
We cultivate abundance from scarce resources.
We nurture, encourage, fertilize -
and prune when necessary -
while being respectful of the true
and wild nature of all things.
We know that creating enduring value
requires vision, passion, hard work
and the spirit of others.
I am just coming to understand
this work of business gardening -
and investing in keeping people healthy -
as an act of universal responsibility.
His Holiness Dalai Lama reminds me:
"Each of us must learn to work
not just for one self,
one's own family or one's nation,
but for the benefit of all humankind.
is the key to human survival.
It is the best foundation for world peace.
The Man Who Planted Trees
Story by Jean Giono, Film by Frederick Back