Bend a Tree (or a Mind)


A couple of years ago I read in the newspaper a thought that has stuck with me. Former Erwin High School (and now Center Point High) Principal Van Phillips (no relation) expressed a very interesting idea about setting expectations for young people. His view was “it is best to bend a tree when it is young than wait for when it gets old.”

Bored boy

We all talk about becoming “set in our ways” as we age. In our office, we are very cautious of this behavior. We warn each other and our clients that “knowing prevents learning.” That is, we should be careful to not get so stuck on our experience that we miss a better solution.

At what age is it that we feel we can rightfully decide our view of the world, and our place in it, is set? When does learning and vision become replaced with only so-called “facts” about how the world works?

Is this mindset of adults due to lack of vision or do we just become lazy? Dreaming, learning, and growing all take effort. Is growing mentally just too much work once we lose the energy of our youth?

Mr. Phillips understands that as his young students age, they will become their own obstacle to expectations, goals, and acceptance of ideas. It is a problem all around us.

The question I have is why does this have to be so? I’ll grant that experience is a great teacher and over time our experiences can help us in many ways. However, experiences can also limit us when it is all we rely on.

It is easier to bend a tree (or a mind) when it is young, but as the years pass, growth in new directions can still take place. It just takes a strong commitment and effort.


Glenn S. PhillipsGlenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself.  You can email Glenn directly at

Glenn is also the founder, and Senior Consultant, of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.

© Copyright 2013. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.