What’s a durian plant got to do with mentoring – Reality Distortion Field

Durian Plant grown from seed in my garden

Botanical drawings of durian plant from William Farquar collection at the National Museum of Singapore

We did it.

Our durian seed has germinated and grown into a plant.

Nothing extra. No fertilising. Just put the seed, from our delicious feast, into a pot of soil.

After 6 months, hidden in a corner.   We’re not the only ones who’ve experimented with growing durian plants from seed. Check out this wonderful blog with a blow-by- blow account.

But before my friends start camping around our terrace, I’m sad to confess that a durian plant from seed, unfortunately will revert to its wild nature.

Those with fruits for consumption are usually grown from marcotting or air-layering. Growing from seed is not about the length of time it takes to grow into a mature tree. But that its unpredictable.

As how a plant expert explained to me, “Like beautiful and smart parents may not guarantee beautiful and smart children.  Sometimes genetics play a game of dice.”

Durian trees like apple trees are not true to type. One doesn’t get edible apples from trees grown from seeds. Most are self-unfruitful. You need cross-pollination from a separate variety.

So what’s it with mentoring.

Lots. Our learning curve is shortened through acquiring mentors.  As with plants grown from grafting/ marcotting/ air layering. It acquires the age of the parent plant,  skipping the growing pains. (A tree grown from seed takes 7-10 years before you can tell if its fruit is edible.)

Mentors can be acquired through many ways. A real life mentor, someone wiser to guide you. In reality, such mentors are busy busy.  Or through books. Heros alive or dead can still mentor us through words of wisdom.

To celebrate my 78th post, I typed a tribute to Steve Jobs on my Macbook (sob sob after my Mac Air was stolen).  L brought home Steve’s telephone-directory thick autobiography over the long New Year weekend. (This post was written in Feb 2012).

Steve was one such mentor to many.  Albeit, like a durian, very prickly.  One theme in Jobs’ life was what his associates called his “reality distortion field.” Jobs would demand that his engineers create impossible gadgets and designs. There were actually signs posted in the Apple offices saying, “Beware the reality distortion field.” Yet, face-to-face with Jobs, even staring right at such a sign, people tended to forget their own limitations and believe that they could do what Jobs said they could.

What was the real reality distortion at work?  As Martha Beck opined, the fact is that most of the “impossible” things Jobs demanded were actually produced, though their creators had to work feverishly to create them. In other words, the reality all along was that they had this capability. Their conviction that they could not do extraordinary things was actually the distortion of reality.

How frustrating would it be to know something was possible and that your friends could do it, and to have every one of them denying the reality you knew?

So as Martha challenges her readers, I’m thinking about my own reality distortion fields. Where is my mind attached to ideas of limitation that are in fact distorted version of reality?

I’m recently struggling with some areas of learning. Frustrated. My worst critic came out snarling at my whimpering self. Mental replays of recordings from ghosts of christmas past.

In reality, I can learn.

We may not be at Steve Jobs. But I can be my own mentor, coach, BFF.  Maybe all I need is just enough light to see my next step and “figure out my supposed limitations are actually distortions of reality?” Can I hang on, past the sugar high, to the “impossible dream” to see it become real?

One day at a time.

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