Slow and Steady: Late Bloomers Need to Be Understood

We all have the need to be understood. In the midst of short attention spans, however, slow and steady growth often goes unnoticed. Here’s some encouragement for late bloomers.

A father’s story

Looking ahead to Father’s Day, I’d like to share one of my father’s favorite stories about his father.

My dad said that growing up, he was often in the shadow of his younger brother. My uncle was both quick-witted and fast on his feet and, therefore, quite popular.

One day, my grandfather noticed that my father was struggling with this. He pulled my father aside and said,

“Your brother is a forsythia, the bright yellow flower eager to bloom with just a hint of spring in the air. But you are a chrysanthemum: you bloom late, but your bloom lasts long into the fall. Be patient. Your time will come.”

Our need to be understood

When my father tells this story, tears well up in his eyes. I used to think they were the result of his missing my grandfather. But I now suspect they are evidence of a moment significant and memorable to him because he felt completely “seen” by his father. He felt understood by someone he loved. And, he saw the truth in what his father was saying.

Having coached so many smart and caring women, I’ve learned many important lessons. Perhaps one of the most important is this:

Everyone wants to be acknowledged and appreciated for what they do and loved and accepted for who they are.

We live in a time when it feels harder to be seen if we are not fast and furious. It seems if we don’t go viral, we don’t get noticed. Crowdsourced, short attention spans don’t give recognition to slow and steady growth. Yet there are so many amazing people in the world–too many ordinary heroes that don’t receive the attention they deserve. It just seems so unfair.

Encouragement for Late bloomers

Late Bloomers, too, need to be understood, and while they do not get attention, there are two good reasons to feel good about themselves:

First, as we age, we become wiser. According to Daniel Levitan

“As we age, … abstraction occurs without our conscious awareness, and it accounts for one of the most widespread traits that oldsters have: wisdom… the ability to see patterns where others don’t see them…. Oldsters aren’t as fast, perhaps, at mental calculations or retrieving names, but they are much better and faster at seeing the big picture.

Successful Aging: A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives* by Daniel Levitin

Second, those who rush to be “pioneers” are more likely to fail versus late movers, or “settlers.” In his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World* (for which I have a book note), Adam Grant offers two key reasons why:

  1. Pioneers are prone to overstep. “One study of over three thousand startups indicates that roughly three out of every four fail because of premature scaling–making investments that the market isn’t ready to support.” Meanwhile, settlers will wait to see how pioneers did and improve it.
  2. Settlers don’t follow the crowd into hyped-up markets but will wait to see how consumer tastes change and adjust accordingly.

Your turn

In conclusion, this Father’s Day, in honor of all of the fathers in my extended family, I will aim to truly see those around me — that is, to pay better attention to them. In particular, I will look out for the late bloomers in my midst, those who focus on slow and steady growth–paying no mind to the hype and flash, but striving to make progress and move forward.

What stories might you share of your father, or other fathers or father figures in your life?

How do you bloom and grow? How will you see and be seen?

This is a revised and updated version of an article from May 2013.

*Some of the links on this page are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive small commission.