Getting Rid of Stumpy
04-27-2015 at 12:29 PM
Category: Leadership

January 18th was a special moment in my personal landscaping history. It was sky liberation day.

I hired a company to remove a 30-foot mesquite tree from my backyard I aptly named, “arbol del Diablo.”  It was a literal “thorn in my side” as every time I would trim the tree, I would inevitably be punctured by the 3-inch long, sixteen-penny nails growing out of the wood. No love was lost when it came down. Okay, I do miss the shade it provided – sort of. The view of the open sky is quite nice as well. An added bonus is no longer picking up the billions of tiny mesquite leaves from out of our quarter-inch desert landscape rocks each spring.

The company that removed the tree also ground the stump down to just below ground level. No problem, right? Except when my wife and I began redesigning our backyard and determining an ideal location to put a new Black Mission Fig tree. It turns out the only place we could put it was in the same spot where we removed the mesquite tree. I began the task of digging a hole to plant our new future fruit bearing wonder, when I immediately ran into the roots and remaining stump of the previous tree. The more I cleared the dirt, the more I found. Massive roots, tangled and twisted through the concrete-like dirt that is common in the southwest United States. I considered creative solutions to stump removal involving varying levels of explosives, but wisdom brought me back to reality. Wisdom in this case, being my wife.

It was difficult work, but I thought, “I could use the exercise, and really, how hard can it be?” I dug away the dirt from under the stump and roots that stretched in a radius of twelve feet. I chopped away at the stump. I cut roots the size of baseball bats. I took my pickax under the stump and worked to loosen it enough to rip it out of the ground. At one point, it appeared that I had cut away all the roots around the stump and yet was still unable to move it. What was going on here? I was doing all the right things. I had the flannel lumberjack shirt. I had the axe. I had the chain saw. I had the testosterone. To my discovery, there were yet more roots I could not see securely holding this bane of my landscape efforts.

I thought of the landscape of my life and what stumps I have just under the surface, getting in the way of replanting something better in the space I have cleared. I may have worked to improve my mindset and attitude about a particular area of my life, but when I find myself sliding back into patterns of self-destructive thinking, I must ask, “Have I cleared the roots? Have I removed the stump?” I never really thought about it until now, staring at “Stumpy,” my new workout buddy.

Changing my attitude can be effective for a time, but if I don’t remove the roots, that is, my incorrect beliefs, the attitudinal change won’t stick. Internal root removal is hard work that doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it can take quite a while depending on how long the particular belief has been allowed to take root. Stumpy was foundational to an eleven year old tree. I have some incorrect beliefs that have grown in me for much longer.

After days of digging and cutting, I finally found the final roots holding the stump. With those cut, I ripped Stumpy out of the ground, held it high above my head, yelling in victory in all my testosterone-laden manliness. I conquered nature.

Now, to the work of removing some stumps in my mind…

We all have beliefs, thoughts, and ways of thinking that are like stumps rooted in the soil of our minds.

What stump is a problem in your life? What are you willing to do to dig it out?


Jeff Orr is a Personal Leadership Coach to Executives and Business Owners, Author, and Transformational Speaker. Through his coaching company, InDemand Leadership, Jeff empowers his clients to experience internal growth which then translates into sustainable external success. A dynamic and energizing speaker to corporations and groups, Jeff engages his audience through humor, real world stories, and a genuine care for the people he speaks to, helping them to build lasting success internally and externally. He is also author of the highly acclaimed book, Succeed In The New Normal.


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Keywords: mindset, beliefs, habits, attitudes, Jeff Orr, leadership, self help


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