I’ve been reading a lovely book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Apart from being a fascinating and romantic look at how forests work, there are sooo many amazing financial metaphors.
… now… you know I love a metaphor… I LOVE IT SO MUCH… and as I was reading today there was one that I had to share.
It has to do with what happens when a young tree loses the support of “a mighty mother tree”. These giants offer support in a hundred different ways including sending nutrients to the smaller trees as well as literal physical support.
When they fall, the younger trees are left to manage for themselves and learn how to be stable on their own.
“The process of learning stability is triggered by painful micro-tears that occur when the trees bend way over in the wind, first in one direction and then in the other. Wherever it hurts, that’s where the tree must strengthen its support structure. This takes a whole lot of energy, which is then unavailable for growing upward.”
Learning stability often starts with pain:
I have the incredible privilege of growing up with the support of a ‘mighty mother tree’. My family helped me not worry about money for the first 20 years of my life.
My process of learning how to be stable started as I moved out on my own. And it included a whole lot of painful mistakes.
I named a lot of that pain failure. I beat myself up a lot for how I ‘really should know these things’.
But now I feel differently.
So many of the people that I work with are craving stability. They are at all stages of their lives and careers, but most of them are feeling the pain.
But that pain isn’t failure. It’s a message of what needs to be strengthened. The reframing of that is a powerful message for me, since instead of something to ignore and be ashamed of, it’s something to notice and bring into the light.
“The thickness and stability of a trunk, therefore, build up as the tree responds to a series of aches and pains.”
Increasing Stability Often Halts Upward Growth (for a little while)
Stability is the first step towards growth, but it doesn’t always feel like growth in the moment… in fact it can feel like you’re standing still.
For the tree it means deepening roots and increasing the “thickness and stability of the trunk”. For us it means restructuring resources, building a cash flow buffer (getting one month ahead) and taking care of the annual expenses that can cause debt.
Spending 6 months building a one month cash buffer instead of making big payments on your debt can feel super frustrating, but it’s creating the stability that will make paying off your debt for the last time so much more possible.
We only have so many resources, and investing in stability usually means that there’s less for our other big goals. From the outside it can seem like we’re not making any progress at all, but it’s the progress that needs to happen if we want to… *sigh*… grow up into strong and tall trees.
… sorry for that last one
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator
Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at email@example.com