Life lessons from a pear tree

By Rick Watson Guest Columnist

April 21, 2014

I’ve had some setbacks in my professional career over the past few months and I guess it’s only natural that I would ask myself some hard questions.

Like: Why am I even trying to succeed in this business? Wouldn’t it be easier to aim lower? Or, I gave it my best shot, why don’t I just quit?

I went for a walk as I often do when I need to think and I saw something that answered my question and made me smile.

One of the first fruit trees we planted here in 1980 was a Bartlett Pear. The fruit in late summer was the size of a softball. I have pulled hundreds of pears from the tree over the years, shined them on the pant leg of my blue jeans, and bitten into them.

Each time the warm juice dripped down my chin making my beard sticky. There are few things on this earth as sweet as a sun-kissed pear.

A few years ago a type of blight attacked the tree. I spent the summer clipping out all the bad spots, but rather than let the cancer spread to the other fruit trees on our small farm, I decided to cut it down. It was not a decision I took lightly, but I thought it best for the better good. I flinched involuntarily when the chain bit into the green wood of the trunk.

I thought a year or two later the stump would rot so that I could kick it over and plant something new in its place.

Well, that little tree wasn’t ready to quit. Last year it put out new limbs from what was left of the stump, and it grew. It was a gnarly little tree, but I gave it an “A” for effort.

One morning this past week when I went outside to walk, the little tree had several branches with blossoms white as cotton balls.

I drew the phone from my pocket and snapped some photos of the ugly little tree.

Then the answer to my professional dilemma appeared in my head like a Polaroid photograph.

Here I was, ready to toss the typewriter because I’d received a few rejection letters.

Quitting would have been easy. I knew when I started that success wasn’t guaranteed, but my ugly little tree made me realize – that you only fail when you fail to keep trying.

Successful people often have to keep chipping away even when it seems the odds are against them.

I’m reminded of the old saying, “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.”

It’s only when I become like the little pear tree in my back yard, and simply refuse to give up that I have a fighting chance to not only survive, but thrive.

So this spring I am thankful for that little pear tree. Not only will I have the opportunity to taste its sweet fruit again at summer’s end, but I also have it to thank for the valuable life lesson it taught me.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Happens is available on You can contact him via email: