With the exception of brief quotations used in reviews, no part of this book may be copied, reproduced or transmitted by any means, including photocopying, radio or television broadcasts, newspaper or magazine reports, motion pictures, Internet Web pages, emails, audio or video recordings of any type, or digital or microfilm storage and retrieval systems.
“To exist as a nation, to prosper as a state, and to live as a people, we must have trees.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, once known as the “mistake on the lake” due to extreme pollution of Lake Erie. The Cuyahoga River that was the conduit of the pollution, carrying chemicals and more from factories, actually caught on fire in 1969.
But for me, living in Bay Village on the outskirts of Cleveland, it was different. Our house was surrounded by forests and swamps providing the perfect place for exploring and enjoying God’s nature.
One day I started counting the trees in our yard but I stopped at 56 even though there were many more than that. Many were full grown, towering over the house we lived in which was a converted farm house built in 1847 by a German family named Krumwheties.
The first poem I ever memorized was the famous poem about trees by Joyce Kilmer: “I think that I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree.” When I was older, trees continued to captivate me. I was amazed by the tremendous Ponderosa Pines on the Mongolian Rim in the Coconino National Forest located in central Arizona. I eventually settled down in Tucson, Arizona where palm, olive, oak, and mesquite trees are plentiful. I have become convinced that some of the most beautiful things in all creation are trees.
My father, a Scotch-Irish, self-educated attorney, used to admonish me, saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” His point was that money had to be earned. Yet, with all due respect to my dad, I disagree with that sentiment. I believe that money can and does grow on trees, if only figuratively.
For example, in Fresno, California, I saw acres and acres of almond trees. Almonds averaged five dollars per pound retail. That’s money growing on trees!
I used to go walking south of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. Grapefruit trees grew near the sidewalks, and each time I picked a ripe grapefruit just hanging outside the property line I knew I was saving 25 cents – money growing on trees!
Years later, I went into the antique and antique furniture reproduction business. I spent thousands of dollars on woods such as knotty alder, pine, oak, and the specialty wood, Honduras Mahogany. It was important to carefully plan the piece of furniture we were going to make to maximize the use of the wood and to minimize waste. But the furniture we built sold for hundreds of dollars – money growing on trees!
But this book is not about real trees. Rather, it’s about a sort of Tree of Life. A “tree” that you plant and cultivate, and ultimately enjoy the benefit of the fruit it yields. The “tree” I’m talking about might be called your avocation, work, career, vocation, occupation, life’s work, calling, or passion.
We’re going to look at how you can determine what kind of tree you want your life to be, how to plant and nurture the tree to ensure a prosperous harvest of “money” fruit! Until you plant a tree in your life you will never enjoy the fruits of a harvest.
It is my firm belief that ordinary people can enjoy success, debt free living, and abundance when they follow some very simple principles. I am going to share these principles with you, along with examples from my own life.
Chapter 1: Preparing the soil
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
Tree Facts - To ensure the healthy growth of a sturdy tree takes proper soil and location, as well as planning. Different types of soil will support different types of trees, and not all trees will grow in every region of the country. There also needs to be a water source that can feed the roots. How much sun will the tree get? Are there other trees or anything else nearby that could inhibit the growth and spread of the tree? These are all things you need to consider.
Remember 45s? You know, the little vinyl records with the big hole in the middle? Today, they are rare and are often used as wall decorations. But I grew up listening to the Beatles on 45RPM records. I loved their songs like “Hard Day’s Night” and “Paperback Writer.”
I earned the money for my records and my record player by caddying at the Lakewood Country Club. The record player I played those great songs on cost me $90. That was a lot of money back then, especially when you only earned about $5 a day. But I couldn’t listen to the music without the player. It was worth every cent!
I also loved live music. When the rock bands would play in Cleveland, I was there. Cleveland was definitely a Rock and Roll town. I decided to go for my dream and become a musician. Music was my passion.
The record player was a tool. I used it round the clock for years memorizing the chords and lyrics of my favorite songs. We had an old Story and Clark piano in the house, as well. While my brothers and sisters dropped their piano lessons for other pursuits, but I stuck with mine; I was preparing the soil for my tree.
I wanted to be able to play my favorite songs on the piano, and knew that without lessons that would never happen. After learning the basics on the piano, I would take a bus downtown after school to a little record store called the Music Grotto. There, I took blues organ lessons. Later, I would hang out with my friends, and we worked together to learn and perfect songs by Elton John, Leon Russell, and more.
When musicians like Joe Walsh, Bob Seger and the James Gang, and others were giving a concert, my friends and I would show up at the stadium early and offer to help them move their equipment to the stage. I know they thought we were just teenage groupies, but by carrying a few cymbals, amplifiers, and drum parts, we got in free! We even got to sit in as the group practiced and warmed up before the concert. It was worth every sore muscle and drop of sweat!
When I was in college, I became the apprentice of one of the largest concert promoters on the West Coast which got me into every show free. I began learning the music business from the inside while enjoying great concerts by musicians like Pink Floyd, Doobie Brothers, Robin Trower, and Peter Frampton.
But this book isn’t about my career path. It is about how you can find your own path and pursue it. Or, how you can prepare the soil and ensure the right conditions come together for your money tree to grow tall and strong.
First, you have to find your passion. Your passion defines you. The greatest commandment of the Bible states, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27, NIV).Your passion is the soil that will provide the base, the foundation, for your money tree.
What is it you love? How can you harness the very energy within you to work on your behalf? What do you enjoy doing? What are you drawn to? Is it technology, design, cell phones, boats, children, schools, libraries, antiques, movies, automobiles, restaurants, trucks, construction, public service, manufacturing, performing arts, painting, singing, newspapers, books, medicine, or fashion magazines? Or something else?
Each of these has produced bountiful results for those who have chosen them as a career. Many of these fields will expand more and more as our nation goes through continual population growth. That is important. Trees have to have room to grow. If you plant one in the shade, it will never develop to full maturity. If you plant one in rocky or sandy soil, it will never develop the root structure it needs.
After you’ve identified your passion, then you need to do research. What will it take to get where you want to be?
If your goal is to work with automobiles, how will you learn the skills you need? You could get a job in a local garage. You could go to a technical school for certification. You could ask a friend or relative who is a mechanic to let you help them when they’re working on their cars. You can read books and magazines aimed at auto mechanics. Maybe you could even get a job as a car sales person.
Do you love antiques? Would you like to have an antiques business? You can learn by visiting stores in your area, and talking to the owners. Find collectors and ask them to help you learn the ins and outs of the business, and how to spot antiques at yard sales and swap meets. Learn how to repair them when needed, and then decide how you will promote your business and get the word out.
Maybe you love fashion and want to design clothing. You will need to research which are the best schools to attend. You may want to volunteer to help create the costumes for a local drama group. Perhaps you can intern with a tailoring company.
Do you want to be a reporter? You won’t be able to get a job at The New York Times, but you may be able to write for a smaller community paper. Offer to do movie or restaurant reviews. Or do interviews with a couple of local government and business leaders, write them up in journalistic style articles, and present them to the paper as examples of what you can do.
Beginning small is how you begin to clear and prepare the soil for your tree.
While you are clearing and preparing the ground for your dream career you can still earn money with other forms of work. How? Look around you. Aspiring actors and actresses commonly wait tables. Future doctors and nurses deliver pizzas. Others work as clerks in department stores, hostesses in hotels, operators in call centers, and deliver newspapers or do janitorial work.
Many will switch jobs several times before they find something they are comfortable doing and that pays well enough. When you are pursuing a dream or a goal, you can survive nearly any job since even the most mundane task disappears in the bright light of the future.
So how do you clear the ground in your mind to eliminate imagined obstacles, developing a positive and confident attitude? One way is to let go of anything you perceive as a past failure. Each day, each thought brings new opportunities. No failure is truly a failure, and no plan is without value. They are all learning experiences. Not applying the lessons you’ve learned, or not having any plan or sense of direction will lead to real failure.
It’s almost uncanny, but the world makes room for someone with a clear vision and a solid plan. Not all of us are gifted leaders, but we all need to take responsibility for finding and nurturing our dreams. We need to devote our time and resources to bringing them to fruition.
You cannot expect someone else to clear your plot. You cannot expect someone else to plan out your life. It’s your life and no one can give you or take away your future except yourself. You are better off today than Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln, John Wayne, Mother Theresa, Albert Einstein, and Pope John Paul. You can accomplish more than any of them can accomplish. Why?
It’s simple and obvious. They are dead and you are alive!
The living always have more hope than the dead. Solomon said, “Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!”(Ecclesiastes 9:4). What are you going to do with your life?
We can benefit and learn from the achievements of those who lived in the past, but we the living are in a better place to affect real change in our world right now.
Ask you yourself a these three questions:
If I could be anything what would I be?
If I could live anywhere where would it be?
What do I want to be remembered for?
Answering these questions will help establish within you a sense of purpose. It is no accident that many times the sons and daughters of achievers become achievers themselves. They see themselves in the mirror of their parents. Rosanne Cash watched her father and mother perform and George W. Bush watched his father in government service. The list goes on and on. What is it they are really doing? They are clearing away the doubts in their lives and they are replacing the “I can’t” with “I can.” Think about this: Nearly every time you say “I can’t” what you actually mean is “I won’t.” Change those won’ts to wills!
The largest percentage of foreign-born residents in the U.S. who have achieved millionaire status are those who have emigrated from India. They held in their minds an image of being successful in America long before they came here. They have not let language barriers, skin color, or prejudice stand in their way. The dream of who they would become and what they were going to accomplish was able to sustain them through the hardships.
I have spoken with many to learn more about their experiences. They told me that while they were in school they lived in substandard housing and bad neighborhoods. They drove cars that were rusting and falling apart. Yet they persisted in clearing their plot in preparation for planting for themselves an abundant future. Some of America’s largest corporations are headed by people of Indian descent. Their children fill the classes of our finest universities; their doctors fill the operating rooms of our finest hospitals.
I used to wonder why so many in America would rush to the unemployment line for government help when their factory or place of employment closed down. I did that, once. I had lost a keyboard accompanist job while living in Orange County, California. So, since everyone else was doing it, I stood in line for my unemployment benefits. I was there over four hours to get a check for only half of what I had been earning! After leaving the window I promised myself that I would never go back.
Across the United States, people from other countries will congregate early every morning to take on day-labor jobs in landscaping, pool cleaning, carpet cleaning, carpentry, roofing, and more. They will do literally anything to earn money for their own needs and the needs of their family. We hear stories of these illegal aliens doing the jobs that no American wants! But if you follow many of these people through their career path, they take one better and better jobs, earn good money, and settle in our country becoming productive, tax paying citizens.
They know they want to live in America. They know there are opportunities here that don’t exist anywhere else. And they are willing to do anything to stay here. In Arizona, where I live, there are always reports of hundreds of Mexicans dying of thirst in the desert trying to make the two hundred mile walk to America to accept those unwanted minimum wage jobs as window washers and busboys.
One of the reasons that Americans aren’t as willing to take on these jobs as foreigners are is that we remember how things used to be. We remember when good paying factory jobs were plentiful. When anyone with just a high school education could get into a good job and keep it for life. Yet, while we lament the loss of what used to be, those coming into America still see this as a rich land of bountiful opportunity. They haven’t experienced what used to be and so don’t get hung up over what’s no longer there. Their vision is fixed on what is and what can be. Ask yourself how you see things?
It seems more and more jobs are being outsourced and going offshore. But these jobs are being created by U.S. based global corporations, and the profits still flow back into our country.
These profits, this money is flowing to those who are preparing themselves to receive it, to earn it. As building increases, whether homes or offices or retail, the need will increase for specialized workers in the construction field. Currently, in many areas of the country, builders have to wait for as long as year just to start building pre-sold homes due to the limited number of workers.
In each and every city in the U.S.A., companies stage job fairs desperately seeking qualified people to work for them. They’ve got lots of jobs. They can afford to pay the salaries. But the workers aren’t showing up. Could one of these positions be yours? Where do you want your plot to be? Where do you want to plant your tree?
Why do the rich seem to get richer? Is it simply at the expense of the “poor who get poorer” as the saying goes? No. A rich man who wants to grow his wealth is careful about how he invests and spends his money. Odds are that someone who is “poor” and getting poorer is doing so because they aren’t watching how they spend their money. But a “poor” man who works toward his dream by pursuing an education and believing in himself, taking steps towards his goal, can eventually overcome the rich.
There is no arbitrary barrier restraining one from success while granting success to another. But there are barriers; they are internal and self-imposed. Sure, society may make it harder for you to succeed if you have a prison record or some other black mark from your past. But it’s not impossible.
In fact, if you operate your own business, many of these “barriers” can be removed. A customer will not ask you if you have been to prison, or if you have been convicted of a crime, or of there is some other skeleton in your closet. They only want to know if you can do an honest job for them, provide a quality product, give excellent service, offer a good value.
In fact, if you provide exceptional products or services, your business will likely grow due to referrals from satisfied customers. This becomes your “second chance” reputation. You may not be able to work for a government agency or a company that does background checks, but it is possible and probable that if you have a dream and a goal, and you are willing to clear your plot, you will also have success.
The question is: Are you going to give up because some doors were slammed in your face or are you going to sustain your quest to be the best you can be?
In 1975 I graduated from University of Arizona with a degree in writing yet my true love was music. I had studied jazz and classical piano and was determined to be a piano player. The summer after graduating, I was recruited for a band that was part of a seminary in Kerman, California called “God’s Army.” I arrived at the seminary in my Mazda pickup truck with my piano, my amplifier, a small sound system, and all my earthly possessions. Instead of traveling in a band, however, everyone was put to work at various jobs to earn money for the school. I did the jobs I was assigned without complaining. I picked grapes under the hot California sun in San Joaquin Valley. I worked on a tomato harvesting truck throwing out rotten tomatoes while wearing a mask over my face to keep my lungs from ingesting the steady stream of dust. I worked on roofs putting on cedar shingles, which is more difficult than putting down regular shingles.
Yet, every night, no matter how tired I was when I got back to my living quarters, I wrote songs and planned for my future. Then, one day, an opportunity arrived. A song I wrote received favorable reviews in Cashbox Magazine.
Then I was off to LA where I joined Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, a very music oriented church, and began classes in Studio Recording at the Dick Grove School of Jazz. To make ends meet, I worked in a hip clothing store, shared an apartment with three drummers located above the Anaheim Post Office, and went to auditions. After being turned down by five or six groups and doing short weekend road trips with others, I got a shot and joined a group called The Archers who recorded for Light Records, a Christian recording company. Our first gig was in Erie Pennsylvania in front of 50,000 people. Thank God I knew how to sight read music because the band and the singers never got to rehearse, we just turned on the instruments and went live!
The gig with The Archers only last nine months yet comprised about 100 performances at festivals, colleges, summer camps, and even a few night-clubs and concert halls. For those nine months I was living my dream. It ended when their former keyboardist wanted to come back. No worries!
I took a part time job working in South Coast Plaza Mall doing janitorial work for Salmugundi’s soup restaurant. I mopped floors, cleaned toilets, and did all the janitorial work. I saved my money and put together a band that auditioned for Motown as backup group for Tata Vega, the lead vocalist in Spielberg’s Color Purple movie. We passed the audition with Berry Gordy’s daughter IRIS, but Tata wanted to go on the road with her boyfriend’s band.
It was disappointing. Many would call it a failure. I tried and failed. But my career and love of music didn’t stop there. I simply picked up and rebuilt and eventually put together my own band, made recordings, and went on tours.
Each time I was “knocked” down, I got up. It was always easy to get up, but it was always possible. As long as the dreamer is still alive, there will be more dreams. One closed door is not the end. It just means you need to find a different door!
Practical Applications & Tips: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is more than just an old adage; it is true wisdom. Just because your dream doesn’t happen as quickly as you want, or come true the way you think it should, doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Success requires persistence. Don’t give up!
Pick one of the three things that you truly feel passionate about.
Now list all the possible jobs and careers where you could put your passion to work.
Pick one of those jobs or careers that you feel most interested in pursuing.
List 10 things you would need to do to get into that job/career.
Develop a plan of action and a timeline to complete those 10 items.
Chapter 2: The Seedling
“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”
Genesis 1:29, NIV
Tree Facts - It is normal for orchard growers to use root stock from a few trees to start an orchard containing hundreds of trees. Specialty nurseries prepare trees of all varieties by grafting and utilizing the most hardy and disease resistant of the species guaranteeing the farmer that with proper care he will have a fruitful orchard.
There are many types and species of tree. Hardwoods, softwoods, nut trees, fruit trees, palm trees, exotic trees; trees that require a lot of water and trees that require little. We don’t always recognize immediately what kind of tree we are, especially in the seedling stage. It is hard to distinguish trees until they start producing their fruit. In fact, branches of various fruit trees can be grafter onto other fruit trees creating a tree that bears a different kind of fruit! When the first green pushes up out of the earth, seedlings all pretty much look alike unless examined very closely.
But even within the same varieties, just like humans, no two trees are identical. Each has its own characteristics and unique traits at “birth.” As a tree grows, a number of environmental factors will also impact its precise nature. Two trees of the same variety can be planted next to each other and look alike. Yet, those few inches between them can impact the depth and complexity of their root structure, the number of leaves and branches, and more. One may get just a bit more moisture and the other may get just a bit more sun. But they both grow and thrive.
As you pursue your own personal path to success, keep these facts in mind. Your life will never look like someone else’s life. You may share the same career as others, work in the same office, drive the same kind of car, live in the same part of town, have the same level of education, and more, but each life will be substantially different.
Every person is unique. How a person applies their education, perceives others, and responds to the world around them will vary from one individual to the next, no matter how great the similarities may be. A “few inches” in point of view can impact the depth and complexity of their “root structure,” the number of “leaves” and “branches,” and more.
But besides environmental factors, everyone is created with a unique personality and different giftings. You may have a calling in medicine, law, government, technology, or arts but your participation and gifting in that calling will vary from each and every other individual. This is God-given diversity that provides for a wonderful variety of personalities and talents.
So why are you here?
If you were to ask the pecan tree why it was here, and if it could answer you, what might it say? Would it say, “I’m here to produce sap that I can make syrup like the maple tree.” Or would it say, “I’m here to produce luscious red fruit like the apple tree.” No! It would say, “I’m here to produce a bountiful harvest of pecans, year after year.”
They know their purpose and place in the earth because they know what kind of tree they are.
What kind of tree are you? What kind do you want to be? How has God gifted you to fit into His Kingdom?