Lesson from a Pine Cone

Some people like to rot.

Classic pine cone laying in freshly mowed grass

The Backstory

During our family walks at Dawes Arboretum in Ohio, I have noticed the trees have already begun to change to get ready for the winter. What I enjoy about this time of year is seeing trees survive another season. Bigger. Fuller. Still living? I’ve lost a lot of trees to the emerald ash borer, so it’s a victory to see newly planted trees still alive.

Part of the season change is readying the next generation. Trees have a variety of ways to spread their seeds, but as I was walking, I couldn’t help but notice the pine trees and the trampled mess that was being left behind to rot.

The Object

Will this pine cone fulfill its destiny?

The trampled mess… not pine needles… pine cones. Yep, there are so many pines cones lying on the ground rotting along the trail, trying to avoid them was similar to stepping around goose poop on a sidewalk next to a pond.

The pine cones are supposed to fall on the grass like the photos I took for this story.

But, much like my pumpkin seed story, it’s a numbers game.

Even though pine cones succumb to various fates, it is cool how the pine cone has impacted society through its structure and symbolism.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is even an annual Pine Cone Festival in San Bernardino, California at the Rim Nordic & Snow Valley Mountain Resort. As interesting as the pine cone is with its woody protective shell and a million decorative, craft, and meaningful uses, we can learn a thing or few from the good ole pine cone.

The Lesson

The trampled mess of rotting pine cones has created the need for trees to birth pine cones like there is no tomorrow. Some cones will be carried off by animals to fulfill their destinies. Some die where they fell. That’s the trick for those select pine cones that are the “chosen ones”… hope to be carried off by something or someone else.

Think about it another way… people can be like pine cones. Some people want to be carried. Some people want to stay where they are and not grow. Some want to get up and walk themselves. Some people don’t want to spend a few bucks for their professional development and then blame others for their lack of personal growth. Well…

I say, invest in yourself!

For me, I like to take more ownership in my future rather than having something else control my state of professional development. Buy yourself that nice chair or keyboard/mouse, if it makes work more enjoyable, you will be more productive! Win-win.

The pine cone take aways:

  • Many pine cones fall from trees. Only a few make it.
  • Don’t hope to be carried away and transplanted. You may just rot away where you are.
  • Some pine cones will just rot. Don’t worry about them.

When I get asked a question like, “What is the best advice you have ever received?” or “What advice can you give me as someone who is starting a career or trying to move up in one?” My answer is the same for both…

Invest your money where you invest your time.

If you drive all the time, get a nice car. If you sit a lot at a desk, get a nice chair. If you sleep a lot, get a nice bed. If you run miles for fun, get a nice pair of shoes. If you need to learn and stay up-to-date on your industry, buy the apps or subscriptions to read the news.

Don’t be that pine cone rotting on the sidewalk.

Turns out, this pine cone has promise. Do you?

Written by Shaun Holloway.