Banyan vs palm

Given a choice, what would you choose to become – A banyan tree or a palm?

Lot of parameters to base the decision on. The width, the breadth, the height, the deliciousness of the fruits it bears, the beauty of the tree, the shadow it provides, the strength of its trunk and so on. What matters to you?


A palm is tall and pretty, sometimes bears delicious and nourishing fruits!
Banyan may or may not grow tall, isn’t the prettiest in a garden, occupies a lot of space with its thousands of curly, ugly trunks and roots… best used in a horror scene to give a gloomy feeling.


In such a setting, it’s natural for anyone to choose to be a palm and be agreeable to everyone around us.

But now in the same horror scene, imagine a heavy storm. The strong winds leave the palm shattered into pieces while the banyan stands still, unshaken (or probably a little bit shaken), definitely unbroken.
Because before it gained height, it made sure of spreading its branches in all directions, rooting strongly in spaces wide and far. It built a foundation so strong in all directions, that now no force can uproot it. No matter where the wind flows from, no matter if the earth quakes a little (this may be a bit of exaggeration, but a banyan will stay stronger longer than a palm would).

Of course, a lot of other factors matter. The soil, the strength of the wood, pest infestation, and so on. But provided all of these remain the same, the spread does make a difference.

Now let’s get out of the Botanical world and get into our own.

As a kid, I saw the elder students around me going to higher studies after finishing college to specialize in something, then study further to super-specialize in something. It was a thing, back then. I used to be fascinated about being an ‘expert’ of something.

I had that fascination for a long time, even after I finished my B-school and started working at Practo.

After my first six months at Practo, there were a couple of new openings internally. Now there was a choice – First option was to move upward in hierarchy in the same function, get more money, probably get more power, more respect. The other option was to move laterally to a new team and a new function, keep earning the same (even miss one entire appraisal cycle, because I’d neither be in the earlier team nor in the new team completely), but learn newer things.
I chose the latter. I moved to OpX – Operations Excellence. I didn’t get a senior title and a higher salary, but for the next one year, I got to work with operations teams of literally all the business verticals Practo was growing into. I got to lay my hands on data collection and curation function, software support, service delivery, large HIS implementation, and so on. Had I chosen a vertical growth, I would have never gotten an in depth exposure to as many functions as these in such a short period.

Recently, I moved from Practo to a much smaller company. It was a move to a different industry, a different role, moreover an absolutely different culture.
Higher salary? Not yet. Better designation? – Doesn’t really matter when I am moving to a more than ten times smaller team.
Anyone, who knows the growth prospects for an IIM graduate with moderate experience, would call it a foolish decision. Unless they look at it from a banyan versus palm view.

When you start working in a new function from scratch, you are building your foundation. When you start working in a new industry altogether, you rebuild your resilience against all odds. When you are growing a new network and relationships from zero, you are sticking your roots into new grounds.

Being a palm is being happy with a vertical career growth. Being a banyan is never settling for any ground and keep on growing horizontally.
I choose to be a banyan. Because no matter where the wind flows from, no matter if the earth quakes a little, a banyan will stay stronger longer.

Of course, you will fall and you will fail, at times you would want to bang your head against a wall. But stick with your decision, and it will pay off.
Forbes, in one of its articles says, that vertical career growth requires us to master other people, whereas horizontal career growth requires us to master ourselves.
Quoting Trixie Cordova, vertical growth is characterised by titles and tenure, while a horizontal growth is about strength and passion.

So, if you ever find yourself at a junction with these two choices, decide what is important for you and make a wise decision.

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