Which Secret Garden Will We Tend?

Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities; it is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend.  Sarah Ban Breathnach

Several months ago, I was on a business trip in California.

We had met with interesting and influential people, accomplished what we'd hoped to, and I couldn't ask for better business partners.  It was a perfect business trip until…

Until a chance conversation with someone I'd known as a child.

And in the space of moment, my capable, in control-of-my-world adult self had dissolved; I was again a young girl who felt incompetent, fearful, and out-of-control.

I was undone, and terribly sad.

As I tried to make meaning of what had happened, talking it through with several of my trusted friends, it became clear I was going to have to choose how I would remember, or frame, this snippet of time.

Yes — I'd had several hours of profound sadness and loss.  But hadn't this unexpected juxtaposition of my childhood and adult self allowed me to see my trajectory — to see who I've become?

Was the trip a disaster?  A success?  Both?

My choice — my secret garden.


Source:  istockphoto

And what of our current economic environment, and its impact on our net present value?

Nearly all of us are worth less today than we were six months ago.   But isn't it good to have a legitimate reason for belt-tightening, for teaching our children to prioritize.  Relatively few children in the developed world have any sense of what it's like to scrabble and scrape, to really hunger after opportunity.

Is our forced floundering a disaster?  A success?  Both?

Our choice.

There's a marvelous quote by Martha Beck which I'd like to share with you.  I'm ambivalent about her because she's spoken so negatively about my faith…but in the context of this post, it would be a disservice to us all to not share what she's written.

You get to decide…whether your toughness will look like unreachable bitterness or unstoppable resilience; your tenderness the raw vulnerability of a never-healing wound, or a kindness so deep it heals every wound it touches. Regret can be your worst enemy or your best friend. You get to decide which.

Our choice — our secret garden.

What are you going through that is difficult?   Or have gone through?  How are you framing this experience?   If a disaster, where's the success?

In what areas of your life are you unstoppably resilient?  What experience did you have that helped you develop this resilience?

In what areas of your life, or to whom, is your kindness so deep, it heals every wound it touches?  What experience fostered that kindness?

P.S.  Several of you have mentioned that you have thoughts, but don't want to share them in a public forum — I hope you will.  If you don't feel comfortable doing so, please let me know what I can do to make this feel like a safe place?  In the meantime, perhaps you can post anonymously.

Planting Cherry Trees

After the market rallied nearly 11% on Monday, it dropped 1.5% yesterday, and another 9.3% today.  Given that I manage money for a living, and am experiencing this manic market firsthand, I find myself somewhat sympathetic to stories of folks stuffing their money under a mattress.

I think that taking a moment to be kind to ourselves is probably in order.  In fact, curling up for a quick nap on that mattress under which we are thinking of stuffing our money might not be a bad idea.

But then what?

Do we really liquidate all our positions, and sit entirely in cash?


Last week, a CNBC reporter asked a money manager what he thought the market would do this week. He didn't say up or down, but wondered aloud if we shouldn't all take the proverbial ‘time out', given that everyone, including money managers, seemed to be succumbing to fear.

A frustrated, and no doubt exhausted reporter, launched into a Tom Cruise/Jack Nicholson-worthy harangue — “You need to tell us the truth. The people deserve to know the truth.”

But, in this instance, the truth, was, and is — we, those who invest, decide the truth.

Will the market drop precipitously?

If we stuff all of our money under the mattress, the market will drop.

Will it surge?

If we invest, the market will go up.

We decide.

Source:  istockphoto

I recently heard private equity investor Bob Gay make two statements that were meaningful to me when the market was 35% higher.  They are even more meaningful today, and have, in fact, become my professional watchwords.

First, paraphrasing economist John Maynard Keynes, he said, “The social object of investment is to defeat fear.”

Second, “We must have the courage to take limited means, and to invest in and encourage others…”

Said more pithily, and paraphrasing western colonizer Brigham Young, we need to “keep planting cherry trees.”

Source:  istockphoto

Should we throw caution to the wind?

Of course not.

But should we stop investing? Planting cherry trees? No.

Because if we do it will begin to affect everything we do and are.

And not just us, our children too.

Said Sarah Ban Breathnach “Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities.  It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend.”

We decide.

Source:  istockphoto

So yes, the market's bad, and yes, we're scared.

We still must decide which ‘secret garden' we'll tend.

Do we continue to invest in and encourage others?

To plant cherry trees?

To dream?

Dare we not?

P.S. Over the past few weeks, both at work, and at home, I've started making a daily list of what I'm grateful for — an informal gratitude journal in hopes that I can tend the ‘garden of gratitude.'

Google’s Lesson on Dreams vs. Expectations

Dream, do, detach. Sarah Ban Breathnach

Google lost about $13 billion worth of value on Thursday evening.

Why? — you ask.

Wasn't its income up 28% over the past year?


Isn't that pretty impressive? I mean, I'd like to see my income increase by 28% in twelve months.

It is impressive.

But….everyone expected income to go up by 29%.

What? People dumped GOOG because its income was 1% shy of expectations?


A bit extreme isn't it?

Or is it?

If we dump a stock because it falls short of our expectations — even though the actual outcome is impressive — won't we also dump a dream?

Sarah Ban Breathnach writes, “Expectations are the emotional investment that our ego makes in a particular outcome. When we use expectations to measure a dream's success, we tie stones around our soul. Dreams [may] call for a leap of faith, a trusting that [Providence] will be our net, but they set our soal soaring.”

Two years into pursuing a different dream, I continue to believe what I scribbled in the margin of Breathnach's book Simple Abundance — [relinquishing expectations] could transform things — but isn't it difficult not to expect, become attached even, to specific outcomes?

Certainly the Google shareholders were.

How do we know if “expecting” is eclipsing our “dreaming?”

When we spend time with our children, are we disappointed because they didn't want to read books with us? Or are we happy because, in letting them decide what we're going to do, we are 15 minutes closer to our dream of an enduring relationship with our children?

Whether our dream is to paint, write a book, produce a film, start a business, have we become attached to a specific outcome, an outcome that we have no control over (e.g. how others receive what we do?) or are we pursuing this dream because it's an imperative for us — and we're willing to let Providence do the rest?

So, so, hard, but we'll get there.

Repeat after me (you too Google shareholders!)

Expectorate expectations.

And in Breathnach's words, “Dream, do, detach.”

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