5 Ways Practicing Bonsai Will Make You A Better Leader
Updated: Sep 21
Six years ago I starting messing with little trees.
Unfortunately for me, bonsai is not my full time gig. I’ve also ran a small business for over 20 years. Since I started practicing bonsai, my productivity & capacity have increased immensely. I believe that can be traced to practicing bonsai on a regular basis.
Here’s 5 ways practicing bonsai has taught me to be a better leader and some ideas on how you can do the same.
1. It Will Give You A Creative Outlet
Practicing bonsai is a right brain activity. Wiring, pruning and designing trees is an art akin to sculpture. When I’m working on a tree, I put all my worries aside and I’m taken to another place. When I finish, I’m refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of work and life. To become a better leader, find a right brain activity. Learn to draw, play a musical instrument, or play with little trees. Just about anything will do, just do it. These right brain activities will mend your mind and make you more productive.
2. You Will Learn Something New and Challenge Your Thinking
People follow fully developed individuals, not two dimensional characters. When you learn something new, you challenge your thinking and are humbled by the difficulties of your new adventure. Ironically, being humbled is an extraordinary positive experience. I learn more from losing than winning. And so will you. The best leaders try new things, don't fear the unknown and take a humbled approached to their leadership. Practicing bonsai has been one of the most challenging aspects of my life, and I’m a recovering alcoholic! But those challenges have taught me more than any college course or continuing education class ever could.
3. You Will Become Better at Presentation and Design
When I started bonsai, I had very little understanding of art and design. Now, I know a little, just enough to be dangerous. This understanding has sharpened my artistic eye and I find myself using design principles for just about everything in my life. You don’t have to be graphic designer to understand the value of art & presentation. Teach yourself. Go to museums, or learn to draw. The best book I've found on the subject is “Drawing on The Right Side of Your Brain”. Find it, read it and start drawing. Great leaders understand presentation is often more important than substance.
"The best leaders try new things, don't fear the unknown and take a humbled approached to their leadership."
4. You Will Learn the Power of Patience & Planning
I wrote about patience a few weeks ago. Taking a raw piece of stock and turning it into something worth viewing is a process. It doesn’t just happen. There are steps to take, the most important of which is planning and prepping. To transform a tree, you must clean & prep your entire tree. Every branch, every piece of foliage must be prepped before it can be wired and styled. It’s tedious, but necessary. When done properly, it makes the rest of your work easier and allows you to perform at your best. Leadership is no different. The planning is tedious, but necessary. It’s the only way you can lead effectively. Take up bonsai, learn the power of planning and take those learnings into your leadership role.
5. Practicing Bonsai Will Give You Perspective
There’s a tree in Savannah, GA that is over 300 years old. It’s called the Candler Oak. It’s seen some things. It was seedling when James Oglethorpe settled Savannah. It provided shade to the weary slaves and it surely lost branches as hurricane David made landfall in 1979. It has survived urban decay and global warming. And yet, there it is, growing, expelling oxygen, living. Trees, bonsai or otherwise, give us perspective. They give us the comfort that bad times have been here before and yet, humans and nature survive & thrive. The best leaders have perspective. They understand that this, too, shall pass.
There you go, 5 ways bonsai has made me a better leader. Start practicing bonsai today, and you too, can grow as a leader.
If you practice bonsai, how has it made you a better leader? Do you feel more or less productive since you’ve started playing with little trees? Be sure to leave your comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!