A couple months ago, I took a trip to Vermont and stayed at the Trapp Family Lodge. This is the establishment made famous from the movie The Sound of Music. While I was there, I happened to be reading the new book by Eric Barker, Barking up the Wrong Tree. In his book, Barker had a chapter that described how we can define people as dandelions or orchids.

The dandelions represent the people who will survive in just about any environment. They can adapt quite readily to the changes they encounter in their lives. The orchids, on the other hand, are more delicate. Like the flower, these people require special care in order to thrive, and once they do, their talents can truly blossom.

I must admit that I’m a dandelion. I was good at following the rules and performed well in school. I took the traditional route of working for a large company and though it wasn’t ideal, I was able make a career out of it. People like me make things easier for teachers and supervisors, but we’re not normally described as being very creative.

The orchids, on the other hand, require a bit more care. They don’t do too well in a structured environment and are often labeled as “problems” because they won’t do as they’re told! Many of these people are misunderstood and consequently are treated in manners that stifle their talents. This often results in their searching for ways to be valued, yet they seldom seem to measure up. And many times, they lose their way because they don’t feel as though they fit in.

As I was walking around the grounds at the Trapp Family Lodge, I noticed a field of dandelions. I decided to take a path through them and the song “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” popped into my head. For those of you not familiar with The Sound of Music, that song is a lament by the religious sisters at the convent where Maria was training to become a nun. To the sisters’ distress, Maria was not conforming to what was expected of the trainees. She preferred to be outdoors, was often late for her obligations and a bit deficient in performing her duties. Since she wasn’t performing as all the novices were expected, she was considered a problem.

It takes an astute mentor to see the potential within these orchids. This person can find the right environment and provide the necessary encouragement that will give the orchid the nourishment she needs to thrive. The message changes from “You don’t fit in.” to “Let’s find what works for you.” Fortunately for Maria, the Reverend Mother provided an opportunity for her to create a life for which she was better suited.

Finding a supportive environment, however, does not necessarily mean that a child must be pulled out of her normal setting in order to thrive. It may take just one caring teacher and a reassuring family to help the child feel successful and understood. There are many ways to nurture the child to unleash her creativity.

Though the environment is extremely important, it is not the full equation. It’s so easy to put the main focus on what is happening outside of the child, but there is so much that child can do for herself. She must develop the drive to help herself and learn the skills to deal with what life may throw her way. Because it’s that drive and the will to face any hardship that presents itself which will ensure her success. The child must learn how to pick herself up from the setbacks and have the confidence that she will succeed.

So, which one are you: the dandelion or the orchid? No matter which one you are, you play a huge part in how successful you can become.

The thing to remember is if your environment is not supportive enough, i.e. you don’t have a Reverend Mother or informed parent who recognizes your potential, there are many things that you can do to make it more so. Don’t expect miracles to happen overnight. Change occurs with baby steps. So, never lose hope and never give up. Your success is in your hands!!