Why You’re A Bamboo (and How It’ll Shift Your Mindset)

You're more like bamboo than you think. Bamboo takes 5 years to grow and here's why and how you need to apply it to your life.
Why You're A Bamboo

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You’re a bamboo tree; you don’t know it yet.

Or maybe you’re not.

There are over 1000 species of bamboo. However, the story of Moso Bamboo is the closest to our own and has the most to teach us. Most plants will begin to germinate in 1-2 weeks. But bamboo doesn’t even shoot after four years.

You’re that bamboo.

You wake up in the morning to make sure it gets appropriate water. You spend money on buffers to regulate the soil pH and buy specific nutrients. You diligently do everything you can, only to see nothing happen – even after four years.

There are three questions you ask yourself.

  1. First, you question if what you’re doing is even working
  2. Second, you question if it’s really worth it.
  3. Thirdly, do you continue?


We’re about to answer all three now.

Is it even working?

Most of us are impatient.

Many of us don’t have to practise patience. We can order a meal from Uber Eats and expect it to come in 20 minutes. Or we buy something and get it within 24 hours, without ever leaving our house. Everything is immediate. We expect things immediately. Otherwise, something is wrong. If we don’t see it, it must not be there.

News flash: Seeing is NOT believing.

Seeing is NOT Believing

What you see or don’t see is hardly ever the whole picture. Our vision is limited. Our eyes aren’t a reliable source of truth. What we see is subject to:

  • the lens we put on
  • where we decide to look
  • what we want to see
  • what is visible to the eyes in the first place.


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.

But we didn’t see that – our eyes lied to us.

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. Remember this: you don’t reap in the same season you sow. The price we pay for this is we allow doubt and disbelief to creep in. We become fearful and begin to lose faith and give up.

If we don’t see the shoots after long enough, that’s enough for us to believe that the seed is dead or deduce something went wrong and give up.


  • 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.
  • You can’t trust what you see or don’t see. 90% of the time, there’s more to see, or you can’t see what you need to.
  • You only reap after you sow.

Is it worth it?

Well, that depends.

What are you trying to grow?

Your expectations have to be relative and proportional to your desired outcome. The development time is proportional to the size of the output.

If you want to grow a patch of grass, then fine. You don’t need to do much; don’t expect it to take too long. But you can’t have the same expectations if you want to grow an oak tree.

If you want to build a tent, expect it to take 10 minutes, but you know it won’t withstand the storm. Rain and cold – it’s not a long-term solution. If you want a long-term solution, you know a brick house is best, but it will take 100 times the effort and time to finish.

If you want to cook a meal to satisfy your hunger, microwave food is the best option. But it won’t taste as nice, or be as healthy, as a home cook meal with more investment of time and energy.

So all you have to do is ask yourself: “Do I want a patch of grass or a 20m oak tree?”. “A short-term tent or a long-term house?”. “A frozen pizza will be quicker. But a home-cooked meal will taste better.”

The commitment, effort, energy and time are directly related to the outcome’s depth, size, needs and value.

Meaningful, substantial things in life take time. It takes time to learn a new instrument and decades to master that craft. It takes years to build a business into a multinational corporation. It takes time to train to go to the Olympics. It takes time to build deep, substantial relationships.

Bigger buildings need deeper foundations. How deep of a foundation does your goal need?

The meaningful things in the world don’t come at the click of a finger. Unfortunately, the world needs to do a better job of showing that.

You can’t expect to grow a tall bamboo and a blade of grass over the same period of time.

Throughout the first four years of the bamboo story, we see nothing. But during the 5th year, within 5 weeks, it grows 30 m. Soon after, it’ll produce the hardest and densest fibres (2-3X harder than oak), stems with diameters over 20 cm and heights over 20m. Moso is the largest temperate bamboo on earth. Eventually, it’ll be turned into furniture, houses, fences and even paper.

Growing the roots for only two weeks (or even two years) would not have sufficed for the giant it was to be.

So ultimately:

  • “is it worth it?” depends on how great you intend it to be.
  • The greater the destination, the greater the journey – the more it becomes worth it.
  • The length and effort required for the journey are directly proportional to the greatness and value of the destination.

Do I continue?

You. I. All of us. We are bamboo.

Some of us would have given up on that bamboo tree because we didn’t see it growing. Others because we didn’t see the point anymore. But then, what do they gain at the end?

If you aren’t watering or caring for a plant, don’t expect a sunflower, let alone bamboo. Something doesn’t come from nothing. If you haven’t started on your passion or goal yet, this should be an excellent wake-up call.

The ones that do leave with something in their hands are the ones that don’t rely on immediate results. The ones that play the long game instead of looking for the quick win. Those with a strong enough ‘why’ to endure the toughest ‘what’.

If you’re one of those people, hold onto them, and don’t let them go. Do all you can to achieve them. But appreciate the time it requires. Sometimes, there are no shortcuts.

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.

Soon enough, you’ll have a bamboo tree standing tall above you. Use the fruit of your labour, perseverance and faith to your heart’s content. You’ve earned it.

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