Are You Deciduous Or Coniferous? (Guest Post)

Honestly, I’m not taking a break (again). I just think I tend to recognize notable things when they pop up. This guest post is a short piece by Jessica Hagy from Forbes complete with her trademark graphics.  Her thoughts are of particular interest because they expand on one of my earlier posts on trees, Bonsai in particular. We’ve both connected behaviors with other things we often take for granted. Jessica hones in on some particularly interesting characteristics of different types of trees that can also be attributed to us as leaders and people of influence. (Not coincidentally, both types of trees she mentions can also be successfully trained into bonsai, which I guess makes for an additional very much appreciated affirmation of my earlier thoughts). Also not coincidentally, her observations connect directly to success in career and life. I’ll let you enjoy her post before closing with a couple of cents worth of my own.

Are You Deciduous Or Coniferous? (And Why It Matters In Business)

I’ve been reading a lot about career trajectories, about our changing economies and about healthy and unhealthy reactions to current economic conditions. I’ve been diving into economic charts and employment figures, and wallowing in the trend pieces on who is doing what and why. But I have a theory that the biggest differences aren’t between boomers and millennials or between the white collar and the blue collar or between the permissive and the authoritarian. The real differences are between the deciduous and the coniferous.


Deciduous trees sprout leaves in the spring and shed them in the fall. The word deciduous actually means “falling off at maturity.” These trees have a dormant season and a growing season. They rely on external cues for when to act, and they thrive in temperate climates. Deciduous people take their cues from external sources, too. Deciduous people reinvent themselves with each economic season—switching careers and jobs as needed. They can drop what skills or assets they assembled and make new ones. They conserve their resources during lean times and spring into action when the time is right.

Freelancers? Serial Entrepreneurs? Inventors? Designers? Deciduous. Every new season, they’re back with a new take on the world. They are perceptive and flexible and people can’t help but stare at what they create.

Trendy? Impulsive? Noisy? Deciduous. Deciduous people roll with what comes their way. They go big, then they go home. They’re vocal and promotional and they make headlines. They have multiple hobbies and many groups of friends. They tend to dress better than the coniferous, but their marriages are shorter. Deciduous people take dares and bets and spur-of-the-moment road trips.


Conifers don’t have the glorious foliage of their deciduous friends, but they have a steady output, and no on and off seasons. That’s why they’re often called evergreens. They figure out what works and they stick to it. They don’t drop their needles unless other ones are already growing in. They require more water than deciduous trees, but they’re never as idle or as bare. They can thrive in harsh climates.

Olympians? Archeologists? Priests? Doctors? Coniferous. They stick with one thing for a really long time. They’re steady and dedicated and they get tenure and vested stock options. They look the same every season, but they always keep growing. Old-school? Cautious? Polished? Coniferous people aren’t flashy about their work. They dig in and get things done. They’re behind the scenes. They’re diligent. They’re measured. They’re not one-hit wonders; they build deep back-lists. They tend to have better financial pictures than the deciduous. Coniferous people are pragmatic and trustworthy and they inspire loyalty and devotion.

Conifers like to see what new madness the deciduous people are up to, but they don’t envy them. Deciduous people admire conifer’s dedication, but they could never be so motivationally monogamous. The deciduous have the best parties. Conifers have the couches their deciduous friends crash on.

By this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “I’m totally a conifer,” or “Yeah, I’m deciduous and proud of it.” It’s an interesting dichotomy to apply to your friends and the people you work with—even if it is, at its core, kind of a sappy construct.

I use graphs and charts to tell stories, jokes, and truths. You can find more of my work in book form here.

Brilliant.  And not sappy.

I would only add, most likely based on my own demonstrated life-as-pinball trajectory, that rather than trying to identify ourselves, our friends, or our coworkers or potential hires as “Either/Or,” either deciduous or coniferous, we ought to realize that in reality we are all “And/And” or should be. Some of one and some of the other. Just not 50/50, certainly not all at the same time, and not just “at work.” Much more fun this way, and much more successful. And well worth hiring. Or becoming friends with.

Connect with Jessica at @jessicahagy, via her column on Forbes, or on her blog.


About Jim Edmonds

I am a husband, father, mentor, who once was a chemist turned physicist turned marketer turned executive turned missionary turned professor. And survived it all.
This entry was posted in 11: Growth, 12: Character, 13: Values & Self, 14: Behavior, 16: Culture, Career and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Are You Deciduous Or Coniferous? (Guest Post)

  1. says:

    You are having fun with this. Great!


    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Jennifer says:

    Coniferous; though perhaps as you state, somewhere deep, deep down I could have deciduous tendencies. Not sure I’m aware of them:)


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