Be Careful Which Way You Lean

Here’s a great guest post from Bret Wortman. Bret has been developing software for federal government clients for almost 15 years. He is president and founder of The Damascus Group and blogs at bretwortman.com.

In my family, we celebrate every Friday with pizza and a movie. We all gather around for a family friendly film. (My kids are 6 and 8.) This week, we decided to watch The Lorax.

At a key moment in the film, I was struck by a particular piece of wisdom from one of Dr. Seuss’ best characters.

The Lorax says, “A tree falls the way it leans. Be careful which way you lean.”

No business person, leader or entrepreneur is ever an island. We rely on many others on a regular basis, whether we’re aware of it or not.

You are already leaning on someone. Is it the right someone? Have you considered who you’re leaning on or how your supporting foundation might change in the future?

In the movie, the young hero Ted learns the story of the Once-ler, a ruined industrialist. Let’s look at how the Once-ler’s business and his support structure changed as the story progressed.

  1. The Once-ler was a solo entrepreneur. Happy-go-lucky, he had a vision and little else.
  2. He then found a nurturing environment.
  3. In response to those mentorships and taking into account the needs of his supporters—not his customers—he changed his approach and adopted a slow-growth pattern, which better preserved his raw materials in the long run.
  4. Flush with newfound success, he made a slew of rash hiring decisions, including bringing in his unsupportive family to help.
  5. He succumbed to bad advice and adopted a fast-growth pattern.
  6. As his growth accelerated, so did his need for raw materials, which he consumed without regard for how to replace them.
  7. When he ran out of raw materials, the Once-ler’s team members left him.

By changing his approach and leaning on the wrong people, the Once-ler ultimately determined the direction of his own failure.

Imagine how different this story would have been had he continued along the slow-growth path, raising his prices to keep demand manageable and harvesting raw materials at a sustainable pace? It would be a less interesting in movie terms, but a far better success story.

Question: How are you being intentional about your own support structure? 

More resources:

KRA – Key Results Area

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74 thoughts on “Be Careful Which Way You Lean”

  1. April Fortenberry

    I’m being intentional about my support structure by reading books by great business leaders and attending business leadership conferences. Additionaly, I am networking with a business incubator. My greatest concern is to network with business leaders that share fiscally responsible views and whose passion is fueled by service needs and not greed.

      1. April Fortenberry

        You are welcome! The business incubator gives me a lot of support and free resources on a local level. Networking at conferences and learning more about Entreleadership has been invaluable.

  2. Wow, Bret, I think I need to watch the Lorax again! I didn’t notice what you noticed. 🙂 (That’s one reason why I read this blog.)

    How am I being intentional with support structures?
    – I’m connecting with great people. Here, mainly. Working on extending that to local people, but not easy.

    – Reading a lot.

    – Investing more in the people I have working with me. I think that is vital. (Culture, culture, culture!)

    Thanks for the great post.

  3. Hey, and before I forget, a big, HUGE congratulations to Chris and family, as I believe today’s the day Chelsea is coming home. Watching her recovery, and how Lampo has supported it, has been an inspiration to us all.

  4. All that from Dr. Seuss. Wow. I must say that “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” is one of my favorite inspirational books of all time. I read it to my daughter every month.

    I’m not progressing like I wanted to five years ago, but I have done a better job of debunking the myth of the solitary leader/entrepreneur over the past few years. I’ve tried to follow Jesus’ model (3 who are super tight…I have two, 12 who are like my board of directors…I have five, and then my larger group…my 72…I might have ten here).

    The process of finding the right people is often as fun and rewarding as what we get from them.

  5. Love how you gleaned some awesome advice out of this movie. I’ve been more intentional this year in building stronger connections, and like you and Aaron, many are virtual. This Tribe is one of my most inspirational support groups.

    I find that awareness is a huge part of the battle – I’m more conscious of seeking other strong leaders and more seem to show up.

    Thank you for a terrific post, and I echo your congrats to Chris – this has been such a long road for Chelsea, and it’s been amazing to see how powerful prayer can be.

          1. Josh, you’re still in. There were some “hanging Chads” from the last vote. Outdated joke, I know. But still funny, right? Okay, not so much maybe.

  6. Wow! The things we learn when we’re trying to teach our kids. Now I have to watch The Lorax.

    Many times you assume because people are related to you or are your friends you could easily work together.

    You made me think of my dad’s experience with owning a business. He hired my mom, my aunt, a close friend of ours and two girls from our church. The only one who talked to him after the business failed was my mom because she kind of had to. Seriously, relationships were strained by throwing work in the mix.

    A support structure in business should consist of people who complement your skills with their own. Build a dream team with a higher purpose in mind and a clear vision and you will succeed. Work with your in-laws and watch disaster unfold.

    As Matt and Carol have already said, this virtual (and virtuous) community has also been a great way for me to receive and provide encouragement and insight.

    Thanks for being part of it and for a great guest post.

  7. I learned these things early:
    1. it was bad to follow suggestions and ideas that went against my instincts.
    2. Not listen to negative, broke, stupid or lazy people.
    3. When to ask for and accept help, to accept the fact that my work will never be fully completed, and to keep doing the next thing.

    Was it the Holy Spirit? Was it my natural caution? Probably a combination.

    I don’t want to think about how poor I’d be if I had leaned on all those folks who sell advice to “starving artists”. And, I wonder how much time and $ I’d have saved if I hadn’t bought books or attended free seminars about marketing that didn’t apply to me or were just a rerun of common sense.

    If I had an assistant to lean on, then if I’d be more productive. But, would I have more customers??

    Never have learned the answer to that!

  8. Great post my friend. Great lessons. I’ve gotta watch that movie.

    For me I find it sooo so easy to fall into the trap that things have to happen RIGHT NOW or it’s useless to even do them! I guess that comes from growing up in the microwave generation eh?
    I’m slowly re-learning that slow and steady wins the race.
    Thanks for the post!

  9. My family and I also picked The Lorax last Friday to go with our pizza. I thought that was a great line, given so quietly you could miss it, like much wisdom is passed along. Thank you for expanding on it. I’m new to this blog, and enjoying the atmosphere very much.
    It is exciting that Chelsea is heading home today. We’ll just keep piling on the prayers.

    1. I think my all-time favorite unexpectedly wise moment came in the middle of “Parenthood”. Be warned, it comes along with some R-rated language, but it’s amazing when it happens. Watch for Keanu Reeves and a box of milk.

      And welcome to the community! Glad to have you with us.

  10. Don’t you love taking movies and seeing many life lessons? I think this movie should be reclassified as a business movie!

    I’m working on being more intentional. I’ve gone so long just “doing,” that it’s taking some time to do more things intentionally. Sometimes, these intentional things take more time than I think I have, but I know there are some future benefits waiting.

  11. I’ve begun cultivating relationships that are supportive rather than destructive and depressing. My hope is that these people will hold me up and push me in the right direction, even when I’m pushing back.

  12. Great example of a poor internal structure, as well as “failure to plan”. I love that you got this from a Dr. Suess movie, no less! Makes me rethink all of the movies we’ve been watching lately.

    We watched ‘The Shining’ for the ump-teenth time last night (after the kids had their sugar crash, of course!). Wonder how Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) would have fared in the DISC Profile exam!

  13. Bret! I believe life is all about surrounding ourselves with right people. Unless we are going to be intentional about our support system in our life, we are doomed to fail in the long run.

  14. I find that awareness is a huge part of the battle – I’m more conscious of seeking other strong role models and more seem to show up.how Lampo has supported it, has been an inspiration to us all.

  15. This Tribe is one of my most inspirational support groups. it is been so lovely to see how powerful prayer can be.I’m connecting with ultimate people. Here, mainly. Working on extending that to local people, but not easy.

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