Are you a hosta or a tulip?

I know that’s a strange question, but I believe it’s one worth pondering. I’ll explain the question in a minute.

Last week I shared something pretty personal and raw — the conflict I feel between my public persona and my real self. While it was nice to know I’m not alone, I was saddened to hear from so many others who feel that same struggle to present a fairly shiny, pulled-together version of themselves to the world, while “behind the curtain” they feel considerably less than shiny and pulled together. As I continued to explore these thoughts and feelings, I was forced to face another tough admission — jealousy takes up residence in my heart more than I care to admit.

I’ve owned my business (sparkspace) for more than 17 years now. I believe we do what we do better than anyone on the planet. We have a world-class team. We have incredibly loyal guests, and we win over new guests every day. Our reputation is rock-solid. We’ve been profitable every year since the day we opened. And it is a super fun place to go to work every day.

And yet sometimes when I see another company getting accolades, awards, or another feature article in a magazine, I get really frustrated. I’d go so far as to say I get insanely jealous of these other companies (and their founders). It’s an astonishingly unhealthy feeling, I promise you. It’s FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) ×1000. Even if the attention is well-deserved, I can still find myself envious, wishing my business was receiving the same kind of attention or success. Silly, I know. But the feeling is real. And hard to shake. The saying “Comparison is the thief of joy” doesn’t just apply to seeing someone else’s perfect kids getting their honor roll certificate on Facebook. It can also apply to seeing someone else’s business showing up on the cover of Columbus CEO magazine.

A Natural (and Perfect) Analogy

But this week, as these thoughts were swirling in my head once again, spring came along with the perfect analogy (as nature often does). I was reminded that my company (and its founder) is a hosta, not a tulip.

Hostas are those amazing plants that come back, consistently, year after year. They’re one of the first plants to come up in the spring, and they last until the very end of the season in the fall. They are extremely reliable and almost impossible to kill. You can even dig them up, cut them into pieces, transplant those pieces, and they will grow into more hostas. I accidentally sprayed weed killer on some hostas once. They looked sick for a few weeks, then bounced back.

Hostas rarely get much attention. Very few people “oooh” and “ahhh” over a bed of hostas. But anyone who has ever planted a hosta has a pretty deep appreciation for what they are. They do produce a flower once a year, but it’s not the flower that makes hostas special. It’s the consistency, dependability, and ease they bring to a flower bed.

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Tulips, on the other hand, get LOTS of attention. Rightfully so. They are beautiful. Stunning. Breathtaking. But they are fragile and have a very short lifespan. So they are the center of attention for a brief time, 1–2 weeks in most places, and then they’re gone. Many do come back year after year, but plenty do not survive the winter (or any kind of adversity, really).

I’ve seen many businesses and people get lots of attention for a short period of time, and then they’re gone. Celebrities (tulips) come and go. I have lost count of the number of businesses that looked so successful on the surface, yet didn’t last more than a few years at best. But when they’re blooming, it seems like every single eye in the world is looking at them while the hostas disappear from everyone’s view, even though they’re still there doing what hostas always do.

Hosta or Tulip? Decide.

Here’s the thing: there’s nothing wrong with being a tulip or a hosta. You just need to decide which one you are (or which one you want to be) and then be the best dang tulip or hosta you can be. If you’re a tulip, maximize and enjoy the time you have in the sun, knowing it’s not long. And don’t be sad and surprised when it’s over. If you’re a hosta, realize that you may not get much attention, but your reward is longevity.

Whatever you do, don’t be a hosta and wish you were a tulip. Or vice versa. Being 100% you also means you are OK with being 0% somebody else. That doesn’t mean you won’t ever experience envy, but it will help keep things in better perspective whenever you feel that emotion. Like the rest of this journey, it’s about progress, not perfection.

After all, we’re not really hostas or tulips. We’re just human, with all the fun and imperfection that comes with it.