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People do come with a manual.

What I, Hettie, love most about living in Tennessee for the past five years is that I can suddenly grow things. It was not the case when I still lived in South Africa. Formerly known for my ability to kill even indoor plastic plants, I can now grow almost enough wineberries, blackberries, and blueberries to provide the whole of England with jam on their morning toast. (For those who don’t know about Tennessee Backyard Berry Farmin’, the art is to just keep clear, let Mother Nature take care of things, occasionally shoo the whitetail deer away, and exaggerate your harvest story. And for those who don’t know what jam is - it’s just chunky jelly for British folks.)

People growing is so much harder than this! People don’t flourish automatically, and letting human nature run its course, is a recipe for chaos. If you have been raising kids, please say this with me in a chorus: They ought to come with a manual!

Well, actually, they do.

When you buy a sapling for your garden, it comes with instructions. A strong, tall tree or a flowering shrub will grow from the now flimsy and tender shoots if you plant it according to that care guide attached to its stem. Put it in its sweet spot, give it the right fertilizer, prune it at the right time, water it just right, and shield it from frostbite. Fruit, flowers, and glorious foliage are pretty much guaranteed.

Like trees, your coaching clients, your students, your children, your spouse, your congregants, and your team members all have a sweet spot where they will flourish too. And when they are planted there and flourishing, they become flexible enough to bend over for kinder living with the “trees” that are different. 

The problem is, there’s a mischief-maker in greenhouses and gardens around the world, snatching care instructions off the trees and slapping one-size-fits-none labels on every kind of tree in defiance of their uniqueness.  

Stephen Covey hit the nail on the head, when he said, “We hear a lot about identity theft when someone takes your wallet and pretends to be you and uses your credit cards. But the more serious identity theft is to get swallowed up in other people's definition of you… Depriving young people of their feelings of worth and uniqueness is, in my mind, the worst imaginable form of identity theft.”

Adults are not exempt, though. Ask a CEO or a mom or anyone who they are. You will hear jargon and cultural roles, the parts they play, and the functions they fulfill.  If they were trees, you’d still have no idea whether to plant them in a sunny corner or a shaded spot; six feet apart from other trees or close together in a grove. In human terms, you wouldn’t know whether they’d hop out and hug you or call the police if you threw them a surprise party on their back porch around 6 am on a Saturday. We need to know these things. They make the difference between a pajama-level friendship (you’ll know what this is if you have one) and a trespassing conviction.

Visualize a compass. It has a magnetized needle that ensures it always points North. The needle’s magnetism guarantees arrival at the traveler’s intended destination. That is what your inborn design is meant to do - it ought to point you and thereby draw you toward your destiny. When identity theft has occurred, though, you don’t trust your North, your magnetism is gone, your needle spins, your aim is off, and you are lost, or at the very least, wandering in circles.

The identity thief is a demagnetizer too. How does he do this? It is really very simple. No creativity is required. He does what I do to grow those backyard berries - he stands back and lets human nature take its course. This is that course: An influential person in our lives, with a design that clashes with ours, sends us a strong message of disapproval, or is just so wonderful but different from us that we think, What is wrong with me?

We lend our ears and hearts out to the world to tell us who we should be and then we start to think we are wrong. After a while, we stop recognizing ourselves. Who am I? While we’re asking around for ourselves, great things destined for us pass us by. Our gifts to the world are lost. 

“The hardest thing for human beings to do is to know themselves and to change themselves”. - Alfred Adler

On the show called Diary of a CEO, Simon Sinek says about people who lack self-knowledge, “People like that are a little bit like yo-yo dieters. They do every diet but they are not healthy people. They say, ‘I read every book but I’m not growing.’” He continues to say that accurate self-assessment happens when both you and other people assess you because “we cannot do this thing called career or life alone. We're just not that smart, we’re not that strong, we’re not that aware … we need each other to watch our backs and tell us what’s working and what’s not working.”

We believe the highest task we have is to become real and help other people be real. Once that has happened, broken relationships can be healed and the identity thief is trumped. 

We acknowledge that this is a fairly free paraphrase of the original text, but this hits home for us:

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (Galatians 6:4-5. The Message).

Would you like your own compass needle to stop wavering and to point straight to purpose and destiny instead? Do you know that something about the life that sits due North for you will also liberate others to live out their design? Then Tall Trees is your tribe. 

If you believe you are called to go head-to-head with the identity thief and look at people in a way that makes their false identities fall off, welcome to the place where people are replanted in their Eden! Before they can be replanted in their sweet spot, they deserve the opportunity to say who they really are, and to receive our pledge that we will use their unique manual instead of a one-size-fits-none solution and that we commit to growing them, not changing them. This promise should be made to people of all ages, even the very young.



If you want to discover more about yourself, head on over to and complete your Tall Trees Leadership Profile. We have them in all sizes - for adults, teens, and kids. And even parents, too! 😊

Or consider staying on this website and looking in the STORE for the product "Tall Trees & Me" for an online, in-depth coaching session packed with self-discovery & self-knowledge.








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