In his book, The Acorn Principle, Jim Cathcart writes about how the acorn can serve as a metaphor for human potential. Think about it… Every acorn has three parts — a stem, a cap, and a seed. Now, let’s apply this metaphor to your life.
- The Stem represents your legacy, lineage, and everything you came into this world with (DNA, family, genetics, etc).
- The Cap protects the seed of the acorn until it grows strong enough that it no longer needs it for security—and then it breaks away, to grow into a big, strong tree. Similarly, we hold onto, and depend upon our family for security and protection, until we’ve become strong enough, smart enough, and self-sufficient enough to break away on our own.
- The Seed represents potential… Thousands of acorns are produced by a single oak tree in every growing season. Most of them won’t have the opportunity to grow into the big, mighty oak tree that produced it. There are a number of variables that need to work in harmony with one another for an acorn to grow into an oak tree — most of which depend upon the environment that nurtures the acorn, and provides it with enough security to avoid getting eaten by squirrels, and fosters the proper weather conditions to allow the acorn to thrive and grow…
When an acorn is just an acorn, its very survival depends upon its environment.
Acorns are fragile. They can get stepped on and break, or easily get snatched and carried away by a squirrel. This weak, uncertain stage of an acorn’s “life” is exactly why most will never grow into the big, mighty oak trees that they fell from.
And unfortunately enough, this is pretty much out of the acorn’s control.
But when the acorn is lucky enough to be born into a healthy environment, and is provided with the proper conditions to survive and thrive, it grows into its full potential —the big, mighty oak tree.
Environment Is Everything...
As leader of people, it's your responsibility to help as many acorns as you can, by helping them become big, strong oak trees.
If you lead a team or run a business, it’s likely you’ve seen your fair share of newbies. These newbies are like acorns. They’re fragile. They need guidance and constant affirmation from their leader. If you want to increase employee engagement, boost morale, and get people pumped about you’re doing — then you need to set the stage by preparing an environment that fosters these needs.
How do you do it?
Let’s look at an example…
One of the most inspiring policies I’ve ever seen an organization implement is NextJump’s Lifetime Employment Policy. One peak at NextJump’s About page will tell you that they’re unlike any other e-commerce firm around… “We don't hire employees, we adopt family members. We don’t fire… we coach.”
I love that, don’t you?
NextJump is one of those organizations that understands one of the most basic, fundamental human needs: security.
They know that employees thrive when they feel secure and protected — when they know they’re team has got their back. This is why their Lifetime Employment Policy is so effective.
To quote Jim Cathcart once again, “Each acorn contains within it the potential to become a mighty oak. Whether it does so depends upon a multitude of variables. Weather, soil, insects, diseases, and the behaviors of those around it all have an impact. But every acorn nonetheless contains oak potential.”
In the same way that an acorn depends upon its environment to grow into an oak tree; an employee depends upon its employer’s environment to grow into an effective member of the team.