Strengthening Stems – A Metaphor for Professional Resilience

As an avid gardener, I often reflect when I’m tending to my plants. I’ve come to realize that nature has a way of teaching us valuable lessons. When I was a horticulture student, we learned that seedlings started indoors can become weak and not fit for the outside world without brushing the seedlings with paper, your hand, or the wind from a fan.Since then I have discovered a profound metaphor in how we build professional resilience. Just as plants endure storms, professionals face challenges and setbacks in their careers. Strengthening stems by brushing them symbolizes the challenges that are often necessary to grow stronger, and to become rooted more firmly in our roles.

In the natural world, plants are subjected to various external forces that shape their growth. By brushing a plant’s stem, we enable it to stand tall despite external pressures. Similarly, professionals must learn to embrace adversity, seeing it as an opportunity for growth rather than a setback. We must take criticism, listen to feedback, and face and overcome conflict.

Finally, leaders should not hesitate to brush the stems of others when the intention is known and the goal is to nurture growth, provide learning opportunities, and to create more inspired leaders. My own growth has accelerated after career challenges, constructive criticisms, and professional setbacks.

This summer I watched my lush garden get pummeled by heavy weather and thought my plants wouldn’t survive. After the storm I was in awe of their resilience. Not only did they make it through but even their delicate petals looked good as ever. I thought back to how I strengthened their stems in spring and realized that tough love is a necessary component of growth, life, and leadership.

Kaleena is the Leaders Forums Coordinator. She’s a self-improvement seeker, lifelong learner, and weekend wanderer. She can be found hiking with her dogs, camping with friends, or lost in thought in the garden.