Finding personal success can sometimes take more time than you think.

A friend of mine explained to me how Chinese Bamboo Trees grow. I thought it was very insightful and really helped me to think about the idea of growth and personal success in a different way.

Now, I should note that there are over 1500+ types of bamboo trees. Just remember, these probably aren’t those little office plants you’re used to seeing. You’ll see what I am talking about in a moment.

“Energy and persistence alter all things.” – Benjamin Franklin

  • 1st Year – You plant a bamboo seedling and give it proper sunlight, water, nourishment and in the first year except for a tiny sprout, there is no growth.

    Photo by Jonas B

  • 2nd Year – During the second year you care for the bamboo in the same way. You give it constant attention, watering, sunlight and maybe you even throw in some praying, but still the bamboo does not grow. You were told it might take a while to grow, so you keep soldiering on.
  • 3rd year – Another year goes by. You give the bamboo the same love and care. You keep giving it the best fertilizer, sunlight, water, but again much to your amazement, nothing happens. You start asking yourself, why isn’t this thing growing? It’s at this time many people just throw their hands up and give up, but no that’s not you. But how discouraging is it that you’ve waited patiently and cared for this bamboo only to have nothing happen?
  • 4th Year – During the 4th year, you care for it, fertilize it, and give it proper sunlight. You take a look around the garden and realize that all the other plants are blooming and teeming with life and vibrancy. But your poor bamboo seed has nothing to show for. For four whole years, you’ve been patient and truly tried to help this seed grow. Except for a tiny sprout, your bamboo is no bigger than it was during the first year.
  • 5th Year – It is not till sometime in the fifth year the bamboo tree will start to grow. And when it decides to grow, what happens in the next 4-6 weeks will astonish you. The tiny bamboo sprout you cared for will grow as much as 3 feet in a single day till it reaches as high as 90 feet. How can this be? While in the first through fourth years, the plant was not growing above ground, it was actually growing below ground. It was developing miles of its intricate root system which would eventually help propel its massive upward growth in year five. The bamboos’ intricate root structure takes four years to prepare itself for the growth it will experience in its 5th year.

Life is very much like the growth of the bamboo tree. You can do everything seemingly right, but still see no results. Just remember, although you may not be growing above ground, you just might be developing your root system. Hopefully it will one day propel your growth. Keep persistent and never give up.


15 Responses to “Finding Personal Success Takes Time”

  1. markcondon on September 17th, 2008 9:59 am

    I wonder where I can get Bamboo Tree seeds…

  2. Liza on September 17th, 2008 10:13 am

    Inspiring :) I wish in my case it was months instead of years, though. :P

  3. reegsta on September 17th, 2008 10:14 am

    totally not what i expected, since i was picturing Jackie Chan in Rush Hour 2 saying Bamboo is the strongest tree or something, but still appreciated. persistence pays off!

  4. stergeron on September 17th, 2008 10:27 am

    @ Mark, let me know if you find some.

    @ Liza, hahahha. I hear ya. Yah that would be nice for sure. Sometimes months can even feel like years though.

    @ Reegsta, thanks man.

  5. Alano on September 17th, 2008 11:02 am

    So this is why I am stuck in my rut. I guess I’ve been gaining some valuable experience for my career and its been 3yrs. My big payoff should be around the corner. Thanks for showing me the light at the end of the tunnel…

  6. stergeron on September 17th, 2008 11:07 am

    @ Alano, and even if your payoff isn’t just around the corner, keep truckin.

  7. Chris on September 17th, 2008 11:34 am

    Inspiring story and a great reminder that perseverance pays off. Thanks Stergeron!

  8. Diamondk21 on September 17th, 2008 9:08 pm

    Very cool story…. But I feel a little discouraged. I’m also turning 30 soon, and the bamboo only needed 5 years to figure out how to reach it’s potential. I’m still searching. By now my roots should be firmly planted, but they’re not. I suppose I’m more like a cuscuta plant, the parasitic plant that inserts itself into the vascular system of the host plant. I guess what I’m saying is you don’t always need to be firmly planted on the ground to grow, you just need to surround yourself with people who are.

    Hang in there buddy! ( No pun intended)

  9. stergeron on September 18th, 2008 7:59 am

    @ DiamondK21, thanks, I think.

  10. girlatastartup on January 7th, 2009 6:23 pm

    I totally relate to this story. Good post.

  11. Greg Bell on April 9th, 2009 3:00 am

    This is great – in fact I just wrote a book using this as metaphor for success. My research indicates It is the only way to have true success check it out the book is entitled Water The Bamboo

  12. Adrian on May 26th, 2009 6:06 am

    Wow… I love this post… simple yet awesome example of why it takes time to succeed at anything! Thank you!


  13. Juddha Fitzgerald on June 17th, 2010 10:58 am

    Napoleon Hill wrote, “The strongest oak tree of the forest is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun.”

    Enjoyed reading your article!!!

    Let life come and live generously,
    Host & Philosopher
    Juddha Shaddai Fitzgerald

  14. Anthony Doctolero on June 18th, 2010 3:30 pm

    Great quote Juddha. I may post that on the site.

  15. Mehboob Ramzanali Jafferali on April 27th, 2012 3:55 am

    Incredible, i first read about it in Zig Ziglar’s “Over The Top”, The Bamboo Tree is truly an incredible metaphor set by God to teach us something, i personally learnt that “if you really want to grow into something big, you have to patiently “water your bamboo” for many years before realizing something, but if you want instant success, well you can have it too, but after you get it……… I d rahter be a bamboo tree, thanks, truly inspiring

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