Bamboo is one of the most amazing plants in the world. In fact, a single stalk of bamboo has more tensile strength than a steel cable of the same thickness! (In South America, it’s referred to as “vegetable steel”).
A rope made of bamboo fibers can get up to 20% stronger when wet, as opposed to hemp, which weakens. And it grows. Fast. Some species of the plant can grow a staggering 3 feet in a 24 hour period and reach over 100 feet in height!
It’s the most rapidly growing plant on earth. It’s used for everything from construction, to medicine, to cooking, to textiles. But if you were to plant a handful of bamboo seeds in the ground tomorrow, you’d be incredibly disappointed.
Well, there’s one HUGE problem that makes growing bamboo almost impossible for most people.
And strangely enough, it’s probably the same reason why 99% of people give up before they ever accomplish their goals. Are you making this mistake?
The paradox of overnight growth
Most people don’t know that for the first 5 years of their lives, bamboo seedlings don’t even break ground. Yes, you read that correctly. Even with perfect care and maintenance, you won’t see any progress.
You won’t even be sure if they’re still alive down there. This presents many inexperienced, would-be bamboo farmers with a dilemma: They can’t dig up the plants to check on them. But they’re so tired of waiting for the plant to sprout — and the suspense is killing them.
So what do they do?
Well, the successful bamboo farmers wait patiently. Even without seeing signs of growth, they are watering their seeds. Day in, day out. Even when they’re discouraged. Even when they’re sure that it’s futile. Then, after 5 years of labor and faith in something they can’t see, they’re rewarded with the miraculous “overnight” growth.
By the end of the week, their formally non-existent tree is taller than them! And of course, this begs the question: Did all that growth really happen “overnight?” On the one hand, the apparent answer is YES. If “what you see is what you get,” then all that growth happened in only a few short days.
But none of that growth could have happened without the gardener’s consistent action, day after day, to nurture something that was still developing — even though she couldn’t see it. Without that action, the bamboo would have died in the ground, without even a chance of sprouting. How often do you let yourself die in the ground? How often do you get frustrated when something that you want isn’t happening immediately, or at the pace that you’d like it to happen?
When we get frustrated, and we don’t see the results we want, it’s easy to give up. Just like the unwatered bamboo, our ambitions can die in the ground before they ever have a chance to sprout. We think to ourselves…
“What’s the difference? I wasn’t making progress anyway.”
But you’re wrong.
First of all, you need to redefine what qualifies as “progress.” Progress isn’t always linear — and sometimes taking an unconventional path to your end goal means you won’t be able to see every step in the staircase. But you still have to keep moving.
And remember, sometimes you have to work at something for a long time without any apparent progress before you get a “break” — at which point now it will seem like you’ve succeeded “overnight.” If you let negative thoughts get you down, and you stop doing the day-to-day activities that are nurturing your goals, you’ll never make it.
If you quit doing the little, incremental improvements that add up to a big difference, you’ll have nothing to look back on after 5 years. If there’s one thing to be learned from bamboo, it’s that patience + persistence (with the right things) = growth.
Remembering this on a daily basis will make it easier to push through, even when things get tough.