I own an acre of property reaching down to the middle of the Little Hocking River. Two-thirds of this piece of ground is wooded. There are red oaks, poplars, maples, walnuts, hickory, beech, butternut, locust, linden, box elder, elm, sassafras, and buckeye populating the backslope.
The biggest tree is an 80- to 100-year-old red oak only 10 feet from the river and 10 feet higher than normal water flow. The first year I lived on this property, I noticed that beavers had tried to circumcise its bark a little less than 2 feet high. I bought some black tree surgeon tar and painted the damaged area. A week later, the beaver had chewed off the black tar. I once more painted the wound. This time the beaver gave up and sought other smaller maples nearby on the bank.
Five years ago, a violent storm swept through the valley and the top of a beech tree was ripped off and took with it one of the oak's largest limbs. But again the resilient plant healed its wound and reached higher to the sky.
On May 3, while I was at a conference in Lexington, a three-quarter inch rain combined with a record other inch, 2-inch, and 3-inch rains was the last straw for the giant centenarian. The ground gave way and the mighty tree plunged into the Little Hocking River ripping the limbs off a box elder on the other side of the river and shattering the sandstone bedrock around which its roots had snaked over the years.
I was saddened by the loss. This tree was almost a part of my family. However, I know that nature rules in such events. Next, concern grasped me as I realized this mammoth oak could be a barrier to my canoe travels down stream. I dragged my canoe through the mud on the low terrace and slid it into the river. I found that there were a couple of ways to get around the fallen tree. I could get through under the base of the tree and over the submerged part. For now, it is not a problem.
For every loss there is a beginning. This year, maples, oaks, and other saplings will vie for the open space. Soon, one will succeed and will grow to fill the gap. Maybe 100 years from now, that winner will still claim its spot.
When leaders fail or realize losses, they may mourn. But soon they look for the opportunities available, plant themselves in a new place, and grow with a new plan.
The world can be brutal and at the same time force us to invent new experiences, products, and services. The needs of customers change over time. Our job is to be aware and take advantage of the opening.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.