Sometimes, it’s important to understand that the most significant contribution we can make in the world requires complete transformation.
When I first interviewed with Ulu Ventures, I was curious about the firm’s name and wondered, “What does ‘Ulu’ mean?” I quickly found a page on Ulu’s website that answered that very question. Ulu means “breadfruit” in Hawaiian; the word (and the tree from which the breadfruit grows) is also a cultural symbol of abundance, inspiration, and growth. Good answer! But the sociocultural etymology geek in me was still curious—how did the ulu tree come to be associated with these qualities?
With a little digging around the web, I turned up the backstory. In one Hawaiian legend, the ulu tree was a gift of the great god Ku, who sacrificed himself for his mortal family and their entire village by transforming himself into a breadfruit tree to help them survive a famine. He planted himself deep under the earth, growing a massive root system with only the top of his head above the ground, which then sprouted into an abundant fruit-bearing tree. In other words, when no other options were available, Ku literally became the solution and the answer grew from his head.
Sometimes, it’s important to understand that the most significant contribution we can make in the world requires complete transformation. Sometimes that transformation requires sacrifices we did not expect, investments we did not previously contemplate, and changes we could not have foreseen. It might even require a radical re-visioning of who and what we imagined ourselves to be. This can be a difficult path, to be sure. But, like Ku, we may well find the resulting growth and abundance—within ourselves and for those we help as a result—well worth the challenges associated with the transition. As someone who has experienced multiple deeply satisfying personal and professional transformations in my life, this legend has significant meaning to me. As a symbol of what we do at Ulu by supporting the transformational work of entrepreneurs in the world, the legend of Ku and the ulu tree seems spot-on to me.