Monday, June 29, 2009

Renewal, A Lesson from the Soil

Rest is a natural starting point. It is not the end. It is the beginning. Farmers understand the value of letting land lie unused for a season. It is called lying fallow. The ground has a chance to renew without the stress of demanding crops. Neglect this principle of lying fallow, and sustained high yield can only be achieved by the constant and significant addition of fertilizer to replace the deficiencies in the soil.

Alice and I once drove by thousands of acres of lush, productive, garden cropland. The earth was dark, and we remarked how much we would like a few truckloads dumped in our garden. Then someone informed me that the earth was actually dead. It had basically lost its ability to perform. Its only function now was as a medium to contain the plants. It was the heavy fertilization that really fed the growth. The land never lay fallow. It was so pushed to produce that it died as a useful soil. It lost the ability to produce on its own.

The experience of far too many leaders is similar to that land. While others applaud the good results and the crop looks great, the worker is left feeling barren from having done too much for too long without stopping to renew. Fallowness is vital to regain a sense of peace, balance, and renewed focus outside of the hectic rush to meet the needs of people and tasks. Push forward in self-importance and deny or diminish the need and there is a price to be paid.

Once successful governments need to lie fallow to regain their perspective.

Writers need to lie fallow to find new material and a new spring from which to draw.

Teachers need to lie fallow to regain a love for their calling and those they teach.

Leaders need to lie fallow to once again understand their people and priorities.

The list goes on ...

If you have been driving hard for a long period of time, you require this vital period of renewal. It does not necessarily mean you have become ineffective at what you do. It does mean that you realize the importance of taking steps to ensure you do not slip into ineffectiveness.

The length of time or even the frequency are not to be dictated. Each leader and their context vary. What is to be encouraged, and in many cases insisted upon is that each leader take such a time in order to remain at their best.

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