The Best Time to Plant An Oak Tree

I love this old saying: "The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today."

Who among us doesn't have at least some feeling of regret about actions not taken in the past? The decisions made in youth often take many years to reach full fruition in later life. Maybe you wish you had mastered a second language, learned how to play a musical instrument, gained skill at a sport, developed your artistic ability, or engaged in any other dream that would be reaping deep emotional dividends today.

Rather than mourning the lost opportunities of the past, aren't your energies better spent developing old or new areas of fulfillment now? I once heard a great story about a 45 year old man who wished he had gone to law school, but felt it was too late. "I could only go part-time and that would take me at least 5 years. I'll be 50 by then!" His wise friend replied: "How old will you be in five years if you don't go to law school?"

The point is well made: don't use lost opportunities as an excuse to not begin the effort of bringing forth your dreams today.  Any master gardener will tell you that late blooming plants often display the most beautiful foliage.  Remember that:

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the famous Guggenheim Museum, generally recognized as the crowning achievement of his illustrious career, at 80.

Grandma Moses started painting in her 70's.

Winston Churchill made his biggest contributions to world history beginning at age 66.

Cervantes didn't write "Don Quixote" until he was 58.

Ray Kroc opened his first McDonald's at age 52.

Raymond Chandler didn't publish a book until 51.

Charles Darwin wrote "On the Origin of Species" at 50.

Ronald Reagan didn't even get into politics until 44 and was elected President at 69

The opera diva Beverly Sills barely made a living until she was almost 40.

Harry Truman was a bankrupt businessman at age 37.

Julia Child didn't learn to cook until her late 30's.

The hugely influential architect and visionary Buckminster Fuller was bankrupt at 32

What will they say about YOU?

No effort that you enjoy expending is tiresome. Heading in the direction of your dreams isn't's exhilarating!  


Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT is an Atlanta psychotherapist.  He helps adults live more healthy, happy and fulfilling lives. One of his specialties is to help people who have trouble with sexual behavior that violates their relationship commitments, personal values or sense of self-control.

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