The Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast: Episode 16
Rhonda: Welcome to the Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast from rhondapeterson.com. This is Rhonda Peterson, your Bold & Courageous Leader coach, along with my co-host Andee Marks.
I read a book that made a huge impression on me while I was in a season of endings and new beginnings. Funny that I use the word season, because we are constantly in cycles of endings and beginnings whether we realize it or not.
Andee: That’s so true Rhonda. I think we tend to view life in terms of seasons, but maybe not so much in terms of cycles of endings and beginnings. Why don’t you speak a little bit more about that?
Rhonda: We see endings and beginnings in many areas of life. We see that in the seasons, in winter, spring, summer, and fall, those seasons, one ends and the next begins. We see that in a plant. A seed falls into the ground and dies so a new plant can sprout, leading to a much larger amount of fruit than that one little seed. Or we leave our current job or position so that we can start a new position that has more promise of opportunity, a better fit, or more potential for growth. Or when we become parents, we give up our freedom of our pre-children life for the joys and challenges of new beginnings with our children, just as our parents and our grandparents did before us.
Then as a parent, we move into the empty-nest phase, which is an ending of our focused parenting years and the beginning of our stage of parenting from a distance. The book I read was Necessary Endings; The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward, written by Doctor Henry Cloud. I’ve been a fan of Doctor Henry Cloud for several years, since being exposed to him on CCN in the mid two-thousands. He co-wrote the bestseller Boundaries with fellow psychologist John Townsend. That has led to a series of Boundaries books.
Necessary Endings focuses on our need to end some things to get to the good things we see in our future. Our culture isn’t good at endings, so when we need to end something in order to make room for the new, it’s a struggle for us. Of course, the opposite could also be true. Sometimes it seems we’re better at endings than working through the tough spots. This isn’t about not doing the work, but recognizing when it’s time to continue working, or when it’s time to prune away what’s there so that the new has room to grow.
Cloud uses the metaphor of pruning a rosebush to illustrate the kind of endings we might need. In order to move into the future, we need to have a vision of what the future looks like. Without the vision, pruning isn’t going to get you the beautiful productive plant you envisioned.
Andee: That’s so true. Years ago, I grew rosebushes. I remember that I had much to learn about pruning. I had a vision of having a rose garden with bushes that were just loaded with blooms. In order to realize that, I was going to have to learn that there are very specific methods for pruning a rosebush like only cutting back at a five-leaf stem rather than a three-leaf stem. In order to cultivate that new growth that supports healthy blooms. You can’t just indiscriminately prune or you will kill the rosebush.
Rhonda: That’s so true Andee. Indiscriminately, pruning, even in your life, is going to kill things that you don’t want to be killed off. Pruning not only cuts off the old, dead wood, but allows the new to grow and develop more fully. Doctor Cloud says, “Pruning a bush means making decisions about proactive endings. It turns out that a plant cannot reach its potential without a very systematic process of pruning.” We’re the same way. Without pruning, we end up overscheduled, overwhelmed, and overworked. None of those overs help us reach our vision, the masterpiece work God created for us.
Andee: So Rhonda, how does this pruning relate to our lives?
Rhonda: This pruning relates to our lives because in the pruning, we have to make good decisions about what we’re going to prune. Cloud says there are three kinds of pruning we need to do in order to reach the vision that you have in mind for your life. We have to prune out healthy buds or branches that aren’t the best ones. We prune out sick branches that aren’t going to get well, and we prune out dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive.
Andee: Can you describe what each of these pruning methods looks like and help us understand how we manage the ending process and the implications?
Rhonda: First of all, if we’re looking at healthy buds or branches that aren’t the best ones, a gardener realizes that a rosebush, or an apple tree for that matter, cannot support the total number of blooms it produces. There must be a pruning process so the best buds have the fuel and support to reach their promise to produce beautiful fruit. In the same way, we have to evaluate relationships, activities, and obligations to determine which need to be pruned so that we can thrive. That means we have to say no to the good, so that we can say yes to the best. How many books have been written on that topic? My question for everyone listening to the podcast today is, what small steps do you need to take to prune away the good in order to make way for the best? Probably the first thing you have to do is evaluate what does it mean for something to be good versus best?
Andee: That can be a tricky question, can’t it? We are always inclined to lean towards the good, because that is perhaps the first thing that pops up without actually realizing that there’s something beyond that that’s even better.
Rhonda: That’s true. That’s why really getting clear on your vision and having the self-awareness to know what your masterpiece work is. I emphasize the word your, because it’s important that you know what it is for you, not for the person sitting next to you, is going to be so important. That vision of your masterpiece work will help you understand what’s the best and what is the good. That may be something your capable of doing, but it’s not that thing that you need to be focusing your time and attention on.
Andee: So true. Well what about the second pruning method? Pruning away sick or damaged branches that are not going to make it.
Rhonda: On a plant, sick or diseased branches are a drain on the energy resources on the plant. They can infect the rest of the plant and hold down on production. Actually, I have a story of gardening at my own house where this happened to me. I have a raspberry patch and a couple of years ago the plants were so thick you couldn’t see the ground beneath them. These plants were loaded with blooms. I mean there were a ton of blooms on there. I was so excited because I was going to get the raspberry production of the century off these plants.
Then, I started to have yellowing leaves and big white patches on the berries and those two things are symptoms of sickness and disease in your raspberry patch. Well that was a red flag that told me I had massive issues, and as much as I was so excited about getting all those raspberries on those plants, I had to go in there and prune, and prune hard. I cut off probably three-quarters of the canes of raspberries that were in there, which means that I was cutting off a majority of those raspberries that were forming. But they weren’t going to be any good, so there was no point in saving them.
Out of that pruning, I got the heaviest raspberry production that I’ve ever had because I pruned it back so that the raspberry plants that were there could stay healthy. The leaves stayed green, we had big raspberries that were forming on the plants, and we got jam. I could actually freeze raspberries that year, which I’ve never been able to do before, but we got lots of yummy jam. My grandkids were out there just picking in the patch, and shoveling them into their mouth. It was a very happy time.
The moral of that story is that pruning is a good thing and you can get a better result by doing it, even if it’s sometimes a little difficult to figure out where it is that you need to prune so that you can get back to that healthy space. Out of that, we can learn that we have a finite amount of time and energy. Pursuing endeavors that are unable to produce good fruit is counterproductive. We have to think about the fact that future fruit depends on pruning away things that are sick or diseased, that are no longer serving us. The resources that can go to these things where we need to fully invest our energy, need to be focused on. This is the place where you can make the biggest kingdom difference.
Andee: That brings us to the third and most obvious need. Pruning out the dead stuff.
Rhonda: Absolutely. Dead stuff takes up space that’s needed for healthy branches to reach their full height and length. We have to twist and turn to get around the dead branches in this way. For us, sometimes old, limiting beliefs can be that dead stuff that we need to prune away. Your identity can reflect outdated or untrue information that was fed to you by others. We have to replace these limiting beliefs with truth, of honoring, valuing, and living in your strengths.
We have to truly see our strengths, rather than viewing them as weaknesses. There are activities or groups that might have once supported your purpose, but they’re no longer a good fit for you. If for instance, you change your career path or you move to a different position in an organization, there may be meetings or connections or email lists that you’re on, that no longer fit for you and they’re taking up space, not only in your inbox, but in your calendar. If you can prune those out of your inbox, out of your calendar, out of your brain, it will help you to be much more productive in the space where you need to be today.
Andee: That reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a former colleague. Years ago, we served together on staff at a church, and she used to lead women’s retreats. She’s a great speaker and a lot of fun. I am planning a retreat for the women in our church this fall, I thought I’m going to call Ellen and see if she would be interested in leading the retreat. I was very disappointed when she said no, until she explained the reason for her no. She said that leading women’s retreats really doesn’t fit with what she is doing now. It’s not the best use of her time and energy.
Since those days when we were on staff at the church together, she left the staff role and took on a position at a local seminary. Now she’s leading these online intensive classes that really do require an awful lot of her time and attention, so it was a good no. I didn’t like hearing it, but it was a wise, thoughtful no. I was really glad too that she did not succumb to the temptation of doing this for an old friend.
Rhonda: Absolutely. That is an excellent example Andee, of saying no, pruning out the dead stuff, and what happens on the other end when you’re honest with that. She could have, you’re right, I love how you said she could have succumbed to a request from an old friend, which would have been not the best use of her time. When you hear, as the person who’s gotten the no, when we hear you as the person who’s gotten the no say I was glad in the end that she said it. Of course you wanted to hear a yes because your life would have been easier, but that you know that no was the best use of her time. Which in turn, is going to get you the best result in the end too.
We need to be ruthless in pruning out these dead branches. We may need to grieve those things that were defining as dead branches, those things that were going to cut out of our schedule. It’s okay to grieve them. Or maybe it’s going to be a wake, a celebration of the life that was on the way to the life that’s going to be.
Andee: That’s a good point. Grieving is always a necessary process when we are giving up something that once had significance in our life. It’s a good thing to honor that process. Again, a wake or celebration, that is a good thing too. To celebrate the good that came out of it. It’s a learned behavior I think. It takes a little while to embrace both the grieving and the celebration.
Rhonda: That’s very true, but it’s important to work through that and get to that point of knowing that you need to do that and stepping into the fact that you need to do it. Taking the action.
Andee: We tend to shy away from pruning, don’t we? It sounds really painful and if we’re honest, it certainly can be an uncomfortable process. However, tending to the garden that is my self, cutting back the good in order to make way for the best, cleaning out the dead stuff at the end of a season. All this will help ensure a life that bears good fruit in due season.
Rhonda: What a great way to wrap that up Andee. That’s so very true. If you want more information about this pruning process, and the way that Doctor Henry Cloud approached this, I would strongly suggest that you go get a copy of Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud and read it. It’s a great read. It’s very thought provoking and you just might find some places where you need to do some pruning in your life, in order to get to your masterpiece work.
To find out more about today’s topic, get downloads of our previous podcasts or to learn how you too can become a Bold & Courageous leader, visit rhondapeterson.com. Our ever-growing community is waiting for you. If you liked today’s show, there are three things you can do. You can subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher. You can give us a rating or a review on iTunes. The subscriptions and ratings help others to find us more easily. And you can help us get the word out by sharing the podcast with your friends. This is Rhonda Peterson, your Bold & Courageous Leader Coach. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you for the next Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast.