Photo credit: Matt Morris
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Some years ago I’ve heard the Chinese bamboo story. There is something amazing about Chinese bamboo and the way it grows.

Once you plant it, you need to water it, nurture it, and fertilize it every day. But nothing happens the first year. You do the same thing the next year, and still nothing happens. That’s right, you see no results for 4 long years!

You’re waiting for results, not seeing any evidence of progress. Can you imagine yourself doing the same things every day, not having any evidence that your efforts are having any effect? The only thing you know, is that the result is supposed to come in 4 years. But then what happens on the fifth year is just awesome. One morning you wake up and see a small bamboo sprig, then the next day an even bigger one and in 5 weeks it has grown up to 90 ft. (27 meters)!

WOW! When I have heard this amazing story for the first time, I was stunned – really? Yes, this is how Chinese bamboo grows.

Three powerful lessons about success from the Chinese bamboo story

What do you think – did it do all its growing in the last 5 weeks, or was it growing for 4 years?  It’s obvious that the bamboo was growing underground the whole time – without visible evidence, but it was growing. It was developing the solid root system necessary to support the height and weight of the bamboo stalk for a lifetime.

Chinese bamboo reminds me a lot of living a successful life. Here are several important lessons I have discovered that are illustrated by the Chinese bamboo story. 

1. It all starts with a solid root system

To stand strong, the bamboo grows and develops its root system for 4 long years, so it can support the whole structure and weight above ground when the day comes. This support system enables it to survive in the harshest conditions for many, many years, thanks to durability, strength and flexibility it developed ahead of time. Without that solid foundation, it could grow from the beginning – other types of bamboo do – but it could not support the size and long life it does with that root system.

I’ve discovered that the same thing happens in life, doesn’t it? If you want to achieve long-term success, have great relationships, and get everything you want in life, you need to have a solid foundation to support those things – your character, your values, your attitude. It all starts with YOU. Become the right kind of person and you will do the right things that will allow you to achieve what you want. 

  • Do you do the right thing when nobody is watching?
  • Are you trustworthy?
  • Do you keep promises?
  • Do you encourage others or put them down?
  • Do your words align with your actions or contradict them?
  • Have you discovered your purpose in life and defined what success means to you?

Food for thought: What things do you need to stop doing? What things do you need to continue to do? What things do you need to start doing?

2. It takes small actions every day

In the early days, the bamboo does not grow overnight. In life, there is no such thing as overnight success. Yes, that’s true, in spite of what you constantly hear in the media and what we all wish. Real success takes time and diligent effort. You become successful by doing the right things on a regular basis to move closer to your goals. Small actions today make a big difference in the long run. 

  • Are you eating right?
  • Are you doing the most important things first when each new day comes?
  • Are you exercising everyday?
  • Do you spend quality time with your family on a regular basis?

Food for thought: What one small step you can take toward your goal today?

3. It takes persistence, patience and faith

Some dreams may take months or even years to accomplish. If you start working on your goals and dreams today, but don’t see immediate results, will you continue tomorrow? How much faith and patience will that require? Successful people don’t stop – they move forward, even if they don’t see immediate results. They know that if they put in the effort, doing the right things every day, then results will eventually come. Remember, the Chinese bamboo story is a perfect example of that. 

Don’t let your mood, circumstances or people derail you. Get started, and keep going. You’ll be amazed at what you achieve. And what is more important, is who you will eventually become as a result.

Food for thought: What will help you continue rather than giving up? How will you structure your days to make sure you do the most important things everyday?

Three ways to implement these lessons in your own life

To implement the lessons the Chinese bamboo illustrates about long-term success in your own life, start working on these aspects today:

  1. Build a solid foundation to stand on (your character, values and attitude). Ask yourself – what is one thing I can do today that will help me to improve my attitude toward work, people, life?
  2. Remember, it takes small actions everyday to make a big difference in the long run. Ask yourself – what one tiny thing can I do today that will move me closer to this specific goal?
  3. It takes persistence. Don’t give up. Keep going. Even if all you can do is just 5 minutes a day, do it. Continuous progress is more important along the way than doing it perfectly.