It is the tradition in the Watts family that we select our Christmas tree in the weekend following Thanksgiving. As newcomers to Thomasville, we were thrilled to discover Hubbard Christmas Tree Farm; until this point in our lives, we had always purchased a pre-cut tree. The notion of cutting my own Christmas tree seemed like, well…..a very family-man-like thing to do.
We sauntered into the field armed with a short, and what we would discover to be, rather dull bow saw. It took some time to find the tree that met our critical and lofty standards. There it was, in the back row: the sweeping Virginia Pine that captivated all of us.
To my knowledge, there is no graceful way to saw a Christmas Tree. It involves laying on one’s side while executing spastic and fitful motions. After more time than I am willing to admit, the tree was finally parted from the ground and would be shaken, netted, and placed on the top of our Honda Pilot.
In the field, I discovered it can be difficult to gauge the size of a tree. It turned out that we had purchased a ten-foot tree. This was a challenge, since we have ten-foot ceilings in our home. With a few pinpointed snips at the top, we were able to put the tree in the stand.
It wobbled. We thought, perhaps, that the next morning that the branches would drop, thereby adding stability to the structure. However, it was still wobbly the next morning. We considered decorating it, nonetheless; however, we envisioned it collapsing on top of our remarkably un-agile cat or finding one of the boys pinned beneath its massive trunk.
Of course, we were able to buy a base that was designed for such a grand beast and it is now beautifully decorated for all of our guests to see.
I do not assume that everyone reading this comes from a faith tradition that celebrates Christmas. However, it is safe to assume that we have all seen a Christmas tree. We all tend to look at the lights, ornaments, garland, and candy canes. We do not look at the base. However, that is what holds the whole thing together. In fact, this is what holds us all together.
Consider your base:
- How does a basketball player get a higher free-throw percentage? By practicing free throws.
- How do you become a good debater? By losing a lot of arguments.
- How does a cross-country runner achieve a sub-20 minute 5K? By logging big miles in the summer.
- How do you become an accomplished poet? By writing a lot of bad poetry along the way… and not giving up.
- How does an offensive lineman create space for a ball carrier to run? By lifting heavy weights in pre-season.
- And, as I have learned recently, it takes a lot of boxes of shells to be able to regularly break clay targets in the air (I’m not quite there yet).
A book that I recommend is The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. The thesis of the book is that talent is not innate. It is a function of deep practice and many hours of focused practice and rehearsal. It is also the result of a growth mindset in the student that is supported by caring and attentive parents and teachers.
There is research to support that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to develop a world-class talent. Andre Agassi hit hundreds of balls daily before becoming an icon in tennis. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father, Leopold, quit his own job as a professional musician to devote his instruction entirely to his young son’s musical education for years before Mozart could write his own operas. The Beatles played hundreds of gigs to small audiences before making it big.
Take a look at the base next time.
Your children will grow tall and will be decorated and ornate. However, it is the foundation that is truly most important. Their preparation, practice, and habits will be the basis for what they can do. Their morals, integrity, standards, and compassion will inform who they are.
It’s all about that base.
This blog is a twist on a devotion that I shared with the Middle and Upper School students last Friday. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on education, child development, and life at Brookwood and in Thomasville in the future posts.