Reframing Being Pruned as an Opportunity for New Growth

Razor sharp pruning shears make a quick, crisp, whisking sound, as they surgically snip a grapevine.  A career pruning, makes a sound like, “I’m going to need your keycard.” Both are quick, clean cuts, that leave the newly severed, no longer attached to the plant or to the organizational grapevine. The question is, will it whither and die, will it be grafted into a new vine, or will it find a way to root and grow its own vine? Is pruning the end, or is it necessary to bring about new growth?

Maybe those of us, who have experienced professional career pruning, can gain some meaningful insights from a vinedresser.  

When one researches vinedressing,  s/he learns the secret to a bountiful grape harvest, is knowing that grapes are produced on one-year-old vine shoots, often called wood or cane.  Older vine wood, tends to mainly produce grape leaves and non-flowering shoots. The flowers turn into grapes. Each winter a vinedresser must prune off nearly 80% of a vine’s growth. Pruning maximizes the amount of year-old wood on a vine.  Vines that are not pruned grow masses of older wood with many leaves and little fruit. Overly woody and leafy vines suffer from poor air circulation, resulting in deadly fungal infections.

Corporate pruning is often a necessity to spur new organizational growth, or to make the company more financially fruitful.   Old wood jobs are pruned by senior executives, so new jobs can be created, or so that profits can be yielded.  For those of us who have been of the short end of the vine, the snip can feel like the end, when really it maybe the beginning of new growth.

If you’ve ever experienced being pruned from your role, you know it can be a confusing and painful time.  One day the predicable stability of your career path, meets HR’s pruning shear’s snip.  Suddenly you are cut off and cast out.  It’s easy to feel discarded and disciplined.  You ask, What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? You may get stuck for a while asking, Why me?  

When a 12 minute conversation ended my 17 year, upward career path, in a firm I was hoping to remain with for the rest of my career, I was bewildered for a long time.  It would have been easy to become bitter. It was tempting to feel victimized.  Fear and uncertainty produce Oscar worthy nightmares.  Like a sailboat with a cracked mast and shredded sails, the corporate castaway, drifts without a clear course or destination.  They become one of many job seekers who are lost in a sea of emotions.

What I didn’t know then, but I came to understand and appreciate a year later, was I had not been punished.  I had been pruned.  This realization of being pruned, dramatically changed my outlook for the better. It gave me strength and hope to get growing again.

Here’s what I learned while I was stuck in my career doldrums:

1. Life goes on.  You get up. You create a routine. You choose to make your routines healthy, like exercise, religious study, volunteer work, hobbies, or unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol, endless binging on TV and snack food.  

2. Some former co-workers, who you were close to, will stay with you, in a new form of relationship.  Others, will not and you will lose touch with them.  You will meet new people.

3. Losing your title and role, can allow you to find out you always have the only title that no one can take away… called “Me.”  You are more than what you do.  What you do is not who you are. You are the only person on this planet exactly like you.

4. You will choose to put your hope and faith into something.  Choose wisely.

5. Life will never be the same as before you were pruned.  You get to decide if it will be better or worse.

6.  It will take time for a new “what’s next” normal to unfold. What you do while you wait is critical.

While on a 24 hour spiritual men’s retreat with 60 guys from my church, we took a deep dive into the 15th Chapter of Gospel of John.  Jesus and his disciples have just shared the Passover dinner together. He continues to teach them as he knows he only has a short time left with them.  Chapter 15 is where Jesus teaches about the vine and the branches.  He says that God, the Father, is the gardener and He prunes unfruitful branches.  This makes sense to me.  God is justified in cutting off what he judges to be useless branches.  But the second half of verse 2, says that He prunes the branches that do bear fruit, so they will produce even more.

This insight was my personal turning point in accepting what had happened.  I was not being judged and punished.  I had been lovingly pruned, so I could grow again.  What seemed like the end of my professional career, was a chance at age 51, to grow into what God had planned for me. All I had to do was submit to His gardening.  He wasn’t done with me yet.

During that retreat, I realized I had been so driven to find a way forward, that I had not asked God to heal the painful wound where I had been pruned.  As soon as I did, He gladly did. Now I was prepared for new growth and to produce fresh fruit.

There are three options for a severed vine:

1. Be grafted onto the trunk of another vine and start producing as a part of that root system.  This means finding a new job with a new company and fitting in.  For some, this is what the Gardner has planned, and He will greatly bless those laborers.

2. Propagate a new root system so the vine can prosper on its own.  Entrepreneurs are often pruned propagations.  This was what I felt was what the Gardener had planned for me.  It took a year and a half to root my sapling company, AD Growth Advisers Inc..  It was a long hard winter, but by summer, I bore my first fruit.  The work I produced was the best and most rewarding of my professional career. It would have never have happened unless I had been pruned. Pruning is an opportunity to get rid of one’s professional deadwood and unfruitful habits and spur some new growth. 

3. Dry up and die.  I hope you don’t choose this option.

When you find yourself severed, I hope you will trust in the Gardner, and recognize His intention to spur new growth. He will make you more fruitful through painful pruning. Growth takes time and cannot be rushed. Grapes grow on the new growth of year old wood.  

Each year the vinedresser must prune up to 80 percent of a productive vine to ensure productive growth and fruit next season.  Perhaps we should expect to be pruned more often and more deeply.  I don’t know if we will ever welcome pruning and its uncertainty, but if you put your faith in the Master Gardener, you may learn to accept it as normal and appreciate its necessity.

Growth is the surest sign of life.  Here’s to your new fruit!


It’s commencement season. Graduates don caps and gowns and are formally recognized for their academic achievement by the confirmation of a degree, or an official title. The famed piece of paper which qualifies one to move on. Graduation is a time of both completion and beginning. It’s been thirty years since my High School graduation. I’ve since gone on to earn two additional degrees and have come to more fully appreciate life’s learning laboratory and perhaps the more common meaning of degree.Miriam Webster’s Dictionary defines degree as:

1: a step or stage in a process, course, or order of classification

One step forward, two steps back, sideways slides and bruised toes, describe my life’s dance so far. Growing older by degree. One step at a time, toward a certain, ever closer end. Hopefully resulting in a Heavenly graduation.

The next degree forward can seem daunting, but as the experiential learning expert’s at Outward Bound like to say, “If you can’t get out of it, get into it!”

Admittedly, I have a Christian biased worldview. I believe in God. I have faith that everything which happens in life can be used for His purpose. We have the ability to be willing participants in His divine plan.

The challenge is we must show up for life’s classes and get to the hard work of learning. All too often the lesson’s subjects seem too horrible to face, frightening to confront, or painfully boring to endure, so I choose to fly to my imagination, opt for procrastination, throw out a well-crafted rationalization, seek distraction or simply give into my natural resistance to change. All this wasted effort and precious time in a vain attempt to avoid feeling, experiencing, processing and dealing with the situation God placed me in a position to learn from. It’s impossible to learn in these resistant states, so God keeps holding me back to repeat the course. If you want to graduate to the next course, you must commence to learn. If you can’t get out of it, get into it and wring out the essence of every life lesson for all its worth. Learn by doing. Refuse to use the word failed and replace it with the word learned.

Is it time to wholeheartedly get into living your life? The class is mandatory, but graduation is voluntary. The creator of the Universe’s University is waiting on your final day of class to say, “Well done good and faithful servant!”

Life…you can’t get out of it, so why not really get into it? If you do, you will be living Fired Up!


How to Find Direction in Life’s Journey?

Glowing Embers, From my last barbecue of the s...
Image via Wikipedia

Here are some directions in life’s journey:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Gil Bailie.

Eldredge, John (2001-04-03). Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul (p. 200). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…

2 Timothy 1:6 , New International Version (NIV)

Which of your heart’s desires are smouldering inside of you awaiting you to give them some air to fire them and you up?

Fire Up! or Fizzle Out! The choice is yours.

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