The Acorn Theory



How would it change your life if you knew that what you came here for was already handwritten on your soul?


Imagine a specific thing, a gift, that only you can give the world; something of an essence or deeper truth. This aspect of us is often called the “genius”, and may be expressed as a skill, some form of knowledge or intellectual ability.


When I think about that idea and imagine it to be true, I feel a sense of comfort. I feel more rooted in my sense of a meaningful personal reality, like a tree is rooted in the ground.


Interestingly, the words “tree” and “truth” have a shared origin: deru-, "be firm, solid, steadfast".


There is much richness in our language. And even more in our stories…


There are two stories happening all the time:

  1. The story of the drama of the world (planet earth)

  2. The story of the drama of the individual (you and me)


What is curious is that we don’t often ask the question - “What is the purpose of the world?” It’s as if it’s too big a concept to grasp.


Yet, we often ask ourselves - “What is the purpose of my life?”


The audacity, huh?!


Here’s an unpopular idea: I suggest that we actually don’t care about our purpose.


What we are really seeking in pursuing the idea of a purpose is a sense of stability and groundedness in the world. In seeking that, we look outside of ourselves. We look into the world, to see where we fit inside it (notably, without ever referencing the purpose of the world for context).


This is problematic, because the world is shaky.


This tendency to look outward suggests that many hold a fear they are empty inside. A “tabula rasa”, a Latin phrase referring to a wax tablet (tabula) that had been blanked (rasa), more simply, “blank slate”. Hollow.


The implication of this is that we are without an innate, inborn essence, and that all knowledge, character and capability we find ourselves with comes to us by way of experience and perception. We are then left open to be written on by the world. Destiny is absent. We have no enduring sense of meaning.


When we find ourselves believing in this idea of the tabula rasa and turning to the world to define us, we can take no inner respite. We have no safe place to go inside. Hence, we are easily consumed by that sense of emptiness, helplessness and overwhelm.


There is another story available.


The one about the genius. The inborn essence.


The story goes that we are all born with a core self that is already seeded inside of us, perhaps inside our souls, and it is aimed at something meaningful. The seed waits to be propagated, to release its gift, its destiny, as it grows. It brings inherent meaning and purpose.


So what is our role in all of this?


I’d suggest that for a large part, it’s in trusting the unfolding of life, trusting that the cracking open of the seed is necessary for it to produce a shoot, and then a sapling, and eventually a tree.


And, to know that we cannot influence what that seed becomes.


After all, an acorn can only produce an oak tree.


It cannot produce an apple tree.


It cannot produce a pine.


It cannot produce a gum tree.


Only an oak tree can grow from an acorn.


We cannot become someone else, no matter how hard we try. In fact, we really shouldn’t.


What we can do is cultivate the environment in which an oak will flourish.


We can trust that in times of drought, the roots will be driven down into the soil to reach underground water.


We can trust that when the wind blows hard, that the branches will be strengthened.


We can trust that as each season moves through there is a fortification and refinement happening.


Remember though, before we grow, we must be cracked open. The potential must be revealed, and then it can be cultivated. That cracking open might feel like destruction in the moment it occurs, and to some extent there is an element of death to it. There is a death of the seed itself, or at least the idea of being a seed. It can feel painful, like giving birth. But it is necessary for new life to emerge.


Our spirit is seeking to be revealed. It’s trying to emerge.


So many of us keep it bottled up, stifling the life of our genius and withholding it from ourselves, and the world. An inner conflict is then created, and it can turn against us.


Moving to cultivate it by following the clues offered by life and doing more what lights us up can be a way of soothing that inner conflict, and truly meeting that often abandoned part of ourselves. Our connecting to our own gifts in this way can help bring stability to the world, not just our own lives.


The wonderful thing to acknowledge about all of this, is that the acorn does not need to learn how to become an oak. The oak already exists in the acorn-ness. There is nothing to be added.


And nothing needs to be added to you, either. Your job is simply to act as a steward for the seed’s becoming. For its growing into whatever type of tree it is destined to become, by virtue of that truest essence.


Howard Thurman said:


“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”


I can’t agree more.


I am blessed to witness people come alive before me on a regular basis. As a coach, I am helping people to connect to that genius. When a glimpse of it shows up, there is often a shared laugh, a recognition. “Hey there, genius, I see you.” It almost always feels scary at the start, hence the (awkward) laugh. But after the loss of the form of the seed has been mourned and the sapling starts to take shape, there is no doubt that this is what it’s all about.


And no, this is not about a dream job or calling.


It’s not about getting that car, or that house, or that spouse for that matter.


It’s about embracing one's unique expression in the world. It's about BE-ing, not DO-ing.


Anything that is created from that place, is what was seeking to emerge. The work of the genius. The mystery that was once locked inside the acorn, and then became an oak.


When you realise that for yourself, you’ll also realise that there is actually only really one big story after all.