What Are You Planting for Your Future?

Reflecting on a Transition

In January I will celebrate my 20th anniversary as a business owner. Before becoming a solopreneur and The Executive Happiness Coach(r), I spent 20 years as a leader in the corporate space, so I’ve called myself “a recovering corporate executive.” As I shift toward having more time OUT than IN the corporate space, it’s time to abandon that descriptor.
Letting go of labels that no longer serve me feels like an issue of integrity, in two different ways. One definition of integrity is, the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles — don’t lie, don’t misrepresent, right? Thus I’m dropping that old label, and in the process am examining all the labels I apply to myself.
I’m also challenged by the other definition of integrity, the state of being whole and undivided, which is causing me to consider everything I’m doing in my life and work and ask, “how does this all fit together?” I’m sure much of this journaling and reflection will show up in my 2018 plan, so stay tuned.
In my research around what it means to be integral, I took inspiration from a retelling of the following Folk tale, which speaks to the power of Integrity.
I invite you to read the story and consider which of the players most reflect you: the Emperor, Ling, his mother, or one of the other aspirants. 

The Emperor and The Seed

Once there was an Emperor in who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his own children, he decided to do something different.

He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, “It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you.” The people were shocked! But the Emperor continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the one I choose will be the next emperor!”

A boy named Ling received his seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the news. She helped him get a pot and soil, and he planted the seed. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.

After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept going home and checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.

Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing.

By now others were talking about their plants but Ling didn’t have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by, still nothing in Ling’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn’t say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.

A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.

When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful, in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kids laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, “Hey nice try.”

When the Emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the Emperor. “Today, one of you will be appointed my successor!”

The Emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. “The Emperor knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!”

When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. “My name is Ling,” he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The Emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, “Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!” Ling couldn’t believe it. Ling couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?

Then the Emperor said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today.

But I gave you all boiled seeds that would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you.

Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!”

Integrity Creates Strong Roots!

What are you planting for your life and your business? When you plant integrity, you will reap success. It may not come in the form of $$, but it will show up in how you feel about yourself, how you treat yourself, and how you are perceived by others.

“With integrity you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt. With fear and guilt removed you are free to be and do your best.” – Zig Ziglar

Remember: Leadership is not about a title. Anyone can be a leader who has the courage to show up in integrity, for from a place of being whole and solid yourself, it is far easier to respect and honor others.

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