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  • Writer's pictureJudy

Sept. 26, 2021: Surround Yourself With Marigolds!

Several years ago, as I was getting ready to present to a group of brand new teachers, I found a wonderful article that focused on one essential rule for these new teachers. To find their marigolds and avoid walnut trees.

Jennifer Gonzalez, the author of the article, pointed out that when gardeners wanted to protect growing plants, they planted marigolds around them. These amazing flowers helped to repel pests and helped the plants to flourish and grow. Gardeners also know, she pointed out, that plants never do well near walnut trees, which give off toxic fumes, damaging other plants. Her premise was that schoolhouses are filled with teachers who are either marigolds or walnut trees. To survive that critical first year of teaching, she advised surrounding yourself with marigolds.

I think her comparison can be applied to many endeavors, especially writing! Whom we surround ourselves with inevitably will affect us. They can either make us better, or bring us down. It was motivational coach Tony Robbins who once said that the quality of our lives will reflect the expectations of our peer group. Those we hang with will either raise our standards, or drag us down.

So how do we find those amazing marigolds? Are all marigolds the same? What makes someone a marigold? While there is much variety among marigolds, they do have common traits.

Traits of Marigolds:

- They have an underlying positive approach to things.

- They are good listeners.

- When you are having a tough time and vent to them, they will help you focus on solutions, not just rehash your frustration.

- They ask questions in an effort to really understand what is going on with you.

- They realize that they do not have the answers to everything.

- They realize that their way is not the only way, so they ultimately support the choices you make.

- They will sometimes challenge your thinking and force you out of your comfort zone. But they will do it in an effort to make you better, not undermine you.

While I am no expert, in my experience, there are also different types of marigolds.

Types of Marigolds:

- Fellow writers who are masters at craft! These are the marigolds whose writing you admire, and just being near them will improve your writing. You can soak up their insights and advice about your own writing. They make you want to be a better writer. They raise your standards!

- Fellow authors who have accomplished what you hope to. Being around them will give you clues about success. Watch them, listen to them, ask them questions. Embrace them as mentors in your life.

- Fellow writers who believe in you and your goals. Your goals may not be the same as their goals, but they understand and support you in your pursuit of your goals. They cheer you on, they read your writing, they give you feedback, and just being around them makes you feel more capable.

Of course, being surrounded by marigolds is wonderful, but we also have to work to avoid spending too much time around those toxic walnut trees. And we know who they are.

Walnut Trees:

- They complain about things that are out of their control and will always focus the blame for negative things on others. They are perpetual victims, and if you spend enough time around them, you will feel powerless as well.

- They focus on the negative and the challenges, rather than opportunities and solutions. Spend enough time with them and you will believe that it is impossible to succeed.

- They think that your passion and enthusiasm is “cute”, and they tell you that you will wise up when you have as much experience as they do. Their cynicism is palatable and toxic.

- They offer advice without being asked, and view themselves as experts on a great many things. No matter how much experience and insight you might have about something, they will make you doubt yourself.

- They are judgmental by nature and set impossibly high standards. You wrote for 3 hours yesterday? They wrote for 10. You sent out two queries this week? They sent out 5. Just being around them will make you feel like a failure, no matter how much you work.

For those that want to read Ms. Gonzalez’ original article, here is the link:

Yes, Marigolds are beautiful and powerful! May we know them, may we be surrounded by them, and may we be them for our fellow writers!

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