Thrive where you’re Planted

August 23, 2013 1 Comment

The following is a letter by Akaya Windwood, President of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and member of the IISC Board of Directors. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did and don’t forget to join the conversation! 

About three years ago, I noticed a stick growing in my neighborhood a few doors down from my house. It was right at the edge of the curb, angling out into the street. I didn’t pay too much attention to it.

Last summer I realized it was a fig tree. There were little bitty figs clinging to the branches. I was sure someone from the city would come by and cut it down. Clearly, it was a volunteer fig tree. No one in their right mind would have planted it so close to the street and at such an angle.

I’ve been quietly rooting for this little tree, hoping that no one would cut it down or decide it was a nuisance. I’ve welcomed the new leaves and fruit each year, glad that they grace our very urban street. Our tree brings sweetness to those who pass by, and the fruit is never wasted. This year it’s almost as tall as I am, and is filled with the most delicious bright green figs — you can’t buy these beauties, even in gourmet shops!

I’ve been rejoicing that it continues to grow and thrive. It’s a reminder about deep purpose. All that fig tree “knows” is that it’s here to seek the sun and make fruit. It is not concerned with zoning laws or arboreal civic planning. It’s busy doing what trees do — photosynthesizing, sending roots down for water and sending out oxygen — a gift to humans everywhere. That fig tree was going to be a fig tree independent of where it was planted. It might not have grown so big or so rapidly, but it was going to be a fig tree no matter what!

Like the fig tree, each of us has a purpose and it doesn’t matter where we find ourselves. Our purpose doesn’t change. It is crucial as leaders that we get in touch with and understand why we’re here — what our unique purpose is.

Unlike fig trees, we can move about. We’re not limited to wherever that wonderful bird left its droppings. We can seek work that allows us to express our purpose fully, or choose organizations that will enable us to thrive. It is our responsibility as leaders to find the best environments where we can bring and express our biggest gift — our purpose.

So, go outside on a summer afternoon, lean against a big, strong tree, and reflect on your Purpose:

  • How clear am I about my purpose, why I’m here?
  • Am I in the right and best place for me to bring my gifts?
  • Are the people around me the best people to support my purpose?
  • Do the structures around me allow me to thrive?
  • Is there anything that needs to shift, begin or end?

We humans are so lucky to have cousins like the fig tree to grace our lives and teach us. And I am so lucky to have each of you in my community of leaders.

Sending you love on this bright August day.

From my heart to yours,


1 Comment

  • Jen Willsea says:

    I LOVE fig trees! A whole slew of memories of my backyard in Berkeley in the early ’00s just flooded back. Thanks, Akaya.

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