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TBT: Lessons From Redwoods

Updated: Aug 7, 2020

Originally posted on August 4th 2014.

The main thing that has changed since August 4th 2014:

I not only believe in marriage but bought in completely on July 8th 2017. We did not have anything Redwood related in the ceremony like I mentioned I would in this post but there were succulents, lots and lots of succulents.

The main thing that has remained the same:

I still believe people need people, I think we all need our inner circle and wholeheartedly believe it's important to give as much as you take.


It has been a busy couple of weeks at J&J Vending.

When we set 2014 goals we planned on growing 1 market a month. It was a relatively ambitious goal because at the time that we set it we only had 3 markets in operation.

Things have been going better than expected and this week alone we’ve launched two markets back to back, one was at a tech company in Sunnyvale and one is here on our own street for a company who produces such glorious things as the Kirkland brand chocolate covered raisins and almonds.

I say all of this to explain why at 10pm on a Wednesday night I am sitting in a break room that smells deliciously of melted chocolate.

I have spent the better part of the last two days registering people to their Company Kitchen (CK) card, showing them how to reload money with cash/credit, how to make a purchase and how to pay with their fingerprint even when they don’t have their CK card on them.

This Union City version of a Willy Wonka candy factory operates 24/7 with three shifts starting at 6am, 2pm and 9pm.Yesterday we launched the market for the first two shifts, today is the third shift’s turn.

But more than micro market demonstrations the last 48 hours have been a lesson in translation. The majority of the employees here are Spanish speaking, after 3 years of HS Spanish and 2 years of college courses, I am not.

Explaining that a password has to be 7 characters with 1 digit and cannot include any part of your name or your email address is a little lengthy even when speaking to people whose first language is English. Trying to explain it to people to whom English is their second language is almost impossible. And I say almost for two reasons.

First, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc). His studies are why it’s common to hear that “90% of all communication is nonverbal.”

And second, because there are some very kind bilingual employees who translated the things left unclear by my miming actions.

A couple months ago I visited Big Basin, a California state park famous for its Redwood trees. Our tour was guided by a volunteer who LOVES the Redwoods. She spoke about trees as if they were people making me appreciate them in a way I never had before. It wasn’t long into the tour that I took out my phone and started taking notes. Here is what I typed on May 31st at 3:00PM:

• Two become 1 • Enjoy while it’s here because it won’t last for long • They survive fire well…to a point • They’re all just hanging on to each other… Only 6 feet deep roots • Some trees create canopies, candelabra – some creatures live and die in that canopy

I’ve waited too long to change these notes into a blog and can’t remember exactly what was behind everything I typed but what I do know is in bold below:

• Two become 1 (redwoods get married, in that when two of them grow close enough together their trunks merge to form one trunk. It made me say awwww and make a mental note that if I ever do get married redwoods will be somewhere in the décor.) • Enjoy while it’s here because it won’t last for long (I have no idea what our guide said to make me type this but as someone who is often too worried about the future I really wish I could remember because it sounds like good advice.) • They survive fire well…to a point (it made me think that we all have breaking points.) • They’re all just hanging on to each other… Only 6 feet deep roots • Some trees create canopies, candelabra – some creatures live and die in that canopy (it made me sad for the creatures who neverventured out of the canopy, who never even knew there was a whole world just a few feet down.)

Highlighted in bold and italics is the only point I think really matters (at least for this blog) and it’s something I’ve thought about a lot since the last day of May.

Coast redwoods can grow over 350 feet tall. To put that into perspective, the tallest trees are taller than the Statue of Liberty. The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is native to the coast of California and southern Oregon and is the tallest tree on earth. But its roots are ONLY 6 feet deep!!

How does a tree that only uses 0.012% of itself to stay anchored to the ground not fall over with every gust of wind?

The answer although cheesy is true; it gets by with a little help from its friends.

Redwoods grow in circles, a new tree growing from the tree next to it. Their roots although only 6 feet deep spread wide, interlacing with each other the way couples hold hands.

It’s my conclusion then that people need people the way redwoods need redwoods.

I believe in marriage, two people becoming one, I like the idea of enjoying the moment because tomorrow is promised to no one, I think it’s important to be strong, to test your breaking points and I definitely believe in exploring the world but more than anything I believe we as people need each other.

I understood about 0.012% of most of the things I heard in my Willy Wonka chocolate factory these last few days but what I did understand was enough. Smiles, laughter, the kindness of bilingual friends helping the confused – they are all part of a universal language that to me suggests we as people are better together.

Side note: My mom is someone who self proclaimed “likes to keep her circle small.” If she trusts you enough to let you in you’re in for good. Her and my dad have both taught me that family is what you make it, that friends can be family and that if people are in your circle you take care of them. I like to think that my circle is the best; if we were redwoods the rest of the woods would be jealous. There are moments where I feel like I understand 0.012% of life, when I know that on my own I am not strong enough to withstand the pressures of this world (big decisions, loss, the curve balls of the universe) but in these moments I am incredibly grateful that I’m not standing alone.

#redwoods #marriage #california #wedding #improvingeveryday

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