Action Catalyst Blog

Lessons from The Great Angel Oak


The tree in the video above is one of the largest in the world. It’s located near Kiawah Island,  South Carolina and I visited it last week when I was doing a motivational keynote speech for Trane. There are 3 lessons we can learn from the tree:

  1.  Greatness takes time – This tree has been growing for 300-400 years. How long have you been growing your business? How long have you been growing as a person? In the helter-skelter of life and the race against the competition we sometimes lose sight of the fact that great things take time to build. You must have the discipline to remind yourself that success in business and life is a marathon and not a sprint. The Take the Stairs mentality is about steady, consistent growth so take some pressure off yourself about “reaching the top” all in one day.
  2.  Greatness is all relative – The Angel Oak has been around for 300-400 years. Chances are that most of us will be around about 25% of that time. Realizing that when I was there really added some perspective to my life about how easy it is to get caught up in daily minutiae. Although we feel so important, our work and our lives are a speck of dust in the history of time. Which also indicates to me that if we are living to serve ourselves, then we will be forgotten very soon but if we work to create things that will serve others for years to come, then at least our legacy or our message will always be remembered. Perspective is one of the great tools of increasing your self-discipline. What are you working for today?
  3.  Greatness requires help – You can’t see in the video too well but there are a number of metal poles and steel cables that are in place to help this tree grow and to keep it from getting so big and heavy that it brings itself down. Building greatness in anything requires help from other people. We need people to lift us up at times and to support us in growing into all that we can be. So often in our pursuit to be the biggest and the best we want to do it on our own so that we can say “I did that” but we cannot build great companies, families, countries, buildings, or legacies without having the discipline to let go of our own “self-righteousness” and to involve the help of others. Letting go of “righteousness” is tough for me. How about you?

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See you in the stairwell,

Rory Vaden
Take the stairs – Success means doing what others won’t.

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