What is the ONE Similarity Between You and Bamboo?

Bamboo is a massive grass-like plant. And we're...humans. So surely, we share nothing in common with them right? Well, there is one thing...

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An Introduction to Bamboo

There are over 1000 species of bamboo across the world. Bamboo is a perennial tree-like grass with a hard, woody, hollow stem. They grow in temperate, tropical and subtropical climates of Asia, America and Africa. Their main uses in Asia include:

    • Furniture
    • Building and construction
    • Fencing poles
    • Paper and pulp
    • Scaffolding
    • Charcoal

But one specific bamboo is Moso Bamboo:

Phyllostachys edulis, commonly known as Moso Bamboo, is a bamboo native to China and Taiwan. When mature, it produces the hardest and densest fibres (2-3X harder than oak) and can develop stems with diameters over 20 cm. Moso is the largest temperate bamboo on earth.

Like any commercially grown plant, it requires constant care and specific nutrients.


How does Moso Bamboo Grow?

Many plants will begin to germinate in 1-2 weeks. Four weeks at the latest. With the Moso Bamboo, you don’t see any difference after 2 months. In fact, after the first 4 years (if you hadn’t given up by that point), there’s still pretty much nothing.

Imagine caring for a plant and watering it day after day, week after week, for years, not even to see a shoot. You wake up in the morning to make sure it gets appropriate water. You spend money on buffers to regulate the pH of the soil and buy specific nutrients. You google ‘How to make my bamboo grow’. You do everything you can, diligently, only to see nothing happen at all – even after four years.

How many of us would have given up and said that it would not grow? We’d all probably say ‘it is dead’ or that we planted a broken seed.

But during the 5th year, within 5 weeks, it grows 30 m. Magic? Maybe. But probably not. For the first 4yrs, the bamboo was building its foundations – the roots. So although it appears that it all came at once, it didn’t. The seed was always growing, just beneath the surface.


The same applies in other circumstances. Bigger buildings need deeper foundations. Larger projects need further planning. Bamboo growing as tall and strong as it does require foundations. More than anything, they require time and patience. Growing the roots for only two weeks (or even two years) would not have sufficed for the giant it was to be.

The Moral of the Story

You. I. All of us. We are bamboo. It is easy to become disheartened by what we can or can’t see. We’re blind to the reality of things. We fixate on the wrong things because we expect to see the fruition of what we do within a given timeframe. Worst of all, We’re impatient.

Many of us don’t have to practise patience. We can order a meal from UberEats expect it to come in 20mins. Or we buy something and get it within 24hrs, without ever leaving our house. Everything is immediate.

But I would argue that many meaningful, substantial things in life take time. It takes time to learn a new instrument and decades then to master that craft. It takes years to build a business into a multinational corporation. It takes time to train for any event for the Olympics. It takes time to build deep, substantial relationships in a couple of days.

Many of the substantial things in life take time.

The things in the world that are meaningful don’t come at the click of a finger. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t do much of a good job of showing that.

It's something I Struggle with Too

I can remember when I used to do my door 2 door sales job. I loved it, and I was pretty decent. But I remember having one major problem: I was impatient.

I was always in a rush, trying to do things as quickly as possible. In my mind, I was just trying to be efficient, which I didn’t see as a bad thing. The problem was that I became obsessed with speed. I couldn’t tell the difference between efficiency and rushing.

I believed that every task was a race; otherwise, it was time wasted. I was taking shortcuts when training and teaching others. I was rushing my pitch with customers. And it was all frustrating me when things weren’t working or taking longer than expected.


I talked with my manager, who helped put things into perspective.

I was working part-time whilst aspiring to become a doctor at that time. So he asked if I still wanted to go down that route. I said “yes”. “So, how long does it take to fully qualify as a doctor then?” he asked. I replied, saying “7 years”. He asked me to explain, and so I did.

It’s only then he slapped me with some truth:

“There is nothing you can do to qualify under 6/7years. You can’t speed it up or take a shortcut. It takes 7 years, and if you want to be a doctor, you’re going to have to do the full 7 years”.

I understood what he was trying to tell me. It was one of those times you felt stupid from something so obvious and simple. You knew I got it because I just stood there blank-faced, realising how silly I’d had been.

"Some things take their time, and you can't rush them..."

The Change We Have to Make

Many of us would have given up on that bamboo tree, purely on the basis we don’t see it growing. What makes us any different? The bigger the building, the deeper the foundations. The taller the tree, the deeper the roots. We’ve all seen a construction site that suddenly becomes a full-fledged skyscraper. It’s coming.

We’re doing our best, working as hard as possible and giving it our all. But because we don’t see the results straight away, we allow doubt and disbelief to creep in. We become fearful and begin to lose faith and give up.

If you’re anything like me, this is especially true. I go off of what I see and hear and often take things literally. If A, then B. If C, I must have passed B.


So if I don’t see the shoots after long enough, that’s enough for me to believe that it’s dead or something went wrong. Or I may adopt a new good habit and expect to reap its fruits immediately.

It’s something I struggle with too. This is why I write this post for me as much as for you.

Many of us have plans for what we want and goals we have to achieve. That is amazing. Hold onto them and don’t let them go. Do all you can to achieve them. But appreciate the time it requires. Sometimes there just are no shortcuts.

Be patient with yourself and trust the process. It’s coming. Be patient. Keep endeavouring. It’s going to come. You can’t expect to grow a tall bamboo and a blade of grass simultaneously. Regardless of your religion or beliefs, faith and patience is something we all have to exercise. Remember this: you don’t reap in the same season you sow.

Part of the issue is what we focus on. As much as you should hold on to your goals, you can’t concentrate on them. Otherwise, you’ll always feel far away and like it’s not working. For some, it works. But for many, like me, it doesn’t. That’s why you focus on what you can do now. 

Do what you can, with what you have, with where you are. Let everything else worry about itself.

However, don’t become disillusioned. If you aren’t watering a plant or caring for a plant, then don’t expect a bamboo tree or even a sunflower. Something doesn’t come from nothing. So if you haven’t started yet on your passion or goal, this should be a good wake-up call.

But for those who know they are watering your seed, keep going. Trust the process. Be patient and understand that not all growth is visible. Appreciate the time you’re building your foundations. And soon enough, you should have a Bamboo Tree standing tall above you, and you’ll be using it scaffolding and furniture. You could even use it as construction material for your next big goal…

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