Cam Taylor

Be inspired. Be focused. Be tenacious.

The Secret of Oaks and Diamonds

Do you ever wonder if your life is making a difference? Are you busy waiting for something that hasn’t yet come? Are you in a stormy season that keeps you from “feeling” productive and useful?

These questions, for me, have been answered many times with a “yes.” To be honest, I’m unwilling to settle for a simple “yes” and have been keeping my eyes, ears and heart open to lessons and insights that will lead to growth and deeper learning.

The Bench at Saint-Remy by van Gogh

The Bench at Saint-Remy by van Gogh

A story of “The Useless Tree”

A carpenter asked his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said: “No…why?”

“Well,” the carpenter said, “because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax.”* (adapted from Chuang Tzu, The Inner Chapters)

Strong oak trees and beautiful diamonds are not created quickly or without having to endure stress and harsh conditions. For long periods of time, the oak tree grows quietly in the forest and appears unproductive but is growing strong and at the right time, able to be shade for the weary traveler.

I am five days away from our three year crashiversary but this recovery process still continues! I’m not yet out of the woods! I have more surgery ahead, deal on a daily basis with pain and stiffness, rehab daily, am held back in my work, but continue to lean into the wind of this storm so I can grow strong and rock solid.

I’m writing this post from Japan, where it’s my turn to be the care giver for my wife who is recovering from brain surgery she had a week ago. I have a deep gratitude for how well everything has gone but am very much resting, waiting and letting my “oakness” be further developed.

Five Secrets to Becoming Strong Oaks and Beautiful Diamonds

1. Remember, things are not as they appear

Just when you think you are on the sidelines and feeling useless, something much deeper and more significant may in fact be happening. I’ve gained greater patience, a heightened empathy for those who suffer and am far less rattled by bad news.

2. If you focus only on “getting things done” you’re only half right


An unhealthy focus on production and “doing” can cause your to become weak. Going through times of waiting and adversity, develops (if you allow it) an inner strength of “being” and character that is not produced when focused only on getting things done.

3. A certain amount of stress is necessary for growth

Without adequate stress…

  • muscles don’t grow stronger
  • trees don’t send down deep roots
  • diamonds don’t grow hard and beautiful
  • empathetic character isn’t formed
  • great art will not be created

4. See opportunity in calamity not calamity in opportunity

A prayer by the late Peter Marshall summarizes this so well:

“Our Father, when we long for life without trials and work, without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. With stout hearts may we see in every calamity an opportunity and not give way to the pessimist that sees in every opportunity a calamity.”**

5. When you feel “useless” look for those who need to sit in your shade

As I’ve looked around at the ways I have had impact these past few years, I am grateful for the shade I’ve been to others.  I’m learning to worry less about what I’m not getting done and have eyes wide open so I can see those who need to sit in some shade. I have had time to listen, connect, be with those who suffer, share a smile, and be present when I was simply too busy before.

What in your life is deepening your roots and adding inner beauty?
What secret do you need to apply and how will you practice it?

* Nouwen, Henri J. M. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit
** A Psalm in Your Heart

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About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

3 Replies

  1. Shirlene Henning

    Another great blog, Cam (all the way from Japan). Great thoughts to think about, and thoughts to “apply.” As to not worry, when things don’t get done. That’s a good one.

    1. I always appreciate your willingness to find ways to apply what you’re learning! See you soon!

  2. Greg McNally

    Konichewa Cam. Enjoyed your blog once again.

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