What Kind of Tree Are You?

As someone who has conducted hundreds of interviews on college campuses over the years, I have often heard this used to be a popular question recruiters ask college students. I never asked this question, but I understand why many did. They say it is a ‘depth’ question, meant to see who deeply people can think in the abstract. Since I am a writer who has founded a not quite real tribe about something as simple (yet amazing) as up, let us take a few moments to think about this interesting abstract question.

What kind of tree would you be if you could be any tree? My answer may seem simple, but the reason is anything but. I would be an oak tree. The reason for this is something a dear friend and I were talking about a few weeks ago at Joe and Rosies in Dexter. She threw a word at me, and it has made me have quite a few thinks about our conversation (shout out to you Courtney from Verapose Yoga). Of all the tree types out there, I chose the mighty oak for a single reason. It has the most heartwood of nearly any other tree.


What is heartwood you may ask? According to Google, heartwood is “The older harder nonliving central wood of trees that is usually darker, denser, less permeable, and more durable than the surrounding sapwood.” This is why you chose an oak you may ask? Well, there is more. Without heartwood, trees cannot grow to mighty heights. And they would not exist to grow as tall and wonderful and useful as they are today. Another definition of heartwood is, “Heartwood is the central, supporting pillar of the tree. Although dead, it will not decay or lose strength while the outer layers are intact. A composite of hollow, needlelike cellulose fibers bound together by a chemical glue called lignin, it is in many ways as strong as steel.”

If we stop and think about heartwood for a moment, I am hoping you will see my point. Most furniture and things made from wood are made from the heartwood part of the tree. Even though this part of the tree is technically dead, the living parts would have a very difficult time surviving without it. Heartwood quite literally is a tree’s backbone. And if I were to come back as a tree, I would definitely want to have a lot of heartwood to withstand the trials and tribulations of being a tree.

As we think about our happy little Tribe of Up, do you know anyone who needs a little heartwood? Do you know of anyone struggling with the howling winds and storms life throws at us? We all have an opportunity to be heartwood for people we know. Kindness, generosity, a strong moral compass, empathy. All these things can help us grow our human heartwood. The best part about this analogy, is we can give this human heartwood away without be ‘cut down.’ I would like to offer a simple challenge. Find moments where you can give your human heartwood away. Maybe it is a donation. Maybe it is time. Kindness, being genuinely kind and nice costs absolutely nothing. Advocating for more joy gives massive amounts of human heartwood away. Oaks have the most. Perhaps we need to be human oaks. Human heartwood. That is the type of tree I want to be. How about you?

Steve Gwisdalla is a Dexter resident and the Owner, Chief Arborist Officer, Vice President of Acorn Development and Kindness Giver at Better Place Consulting, a success and career coaching organization. Reach out to him at

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