Apr 23, 2020

What I Learned From the Chinese Bamboo Tree

Chinese bamboo tree

Have you heard the story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree? Ok, well here’s the short version:

When planting a Chinese Bamboo Tree from a seed it requires, like all plants, water sunshine, good soil and consistent care. But even if you do all that, nothing will sprout for the first year.

Or the second year.

Or the third.

By then most people might give up on it and move on. The seed dies.

But if you keep watering and caring for that seed, in the fifth year the tree will sprout. And when it does, it can grow 80ft in just 6 weeks!

Mind. Blown.

The metaphor here is pretty obvious: Patience, care, not giving up. You get it.

This is obviously very poignant in this first half of 2020 and what feels like endless isolation with no immediate result. It’s easy to give up, start getting sloppy about social distancing and feel like our efforts aren’t working. But we need to stay the course and remember that below the surface, our dedication and care is making a difference.

This bamboo metaphor also resonated deeper for me than only in the immediate term. It resonated as both a mother and as a leader in “regular” times too. I am responsible for people’s professional growth and for bringing in revenue to make sure the company stays healthy too. Sometimes we can all feel like we have been watering and tilling and nurturing and nothing seems to be sprouting. Reading this story reminded me to be patient and consistent long after we come out of this pandemic. Something is happening even if we can’t see it “on the surface”. Working towards our goals even a little bit every day will not show immediate results, but will in the long term, if we just stay the course.

But wait, there’s more! That seed is not just vegging out there under the soil (pun intentional). It is building resilience, preparing for its future above-ground growth by storing nutrients and developing a strong network of roots below the surface. [Fun fact: if you dig up the seed before it has sprouted and is ready for its growth, it will also die. So patience and trusting the process is the key].

Each day we are all learning, storing knowledge, building networks, creating friendships, giving and receiving love, and nurturing our bodies, minds and future growth both professionally and personally. Nothing we do is a waste of time if we keep that in mind. If we invest in that process, invest in ourselves, stay consistent, don’t give up nor expect immediate payback, we could just wake up one day and realize we are exactly where we need to be … staring up at a forest of 80ft tall bamboo trees that are there because of our care.

So keep watering your seeds. Your work matters. Your care matters. Your experience matters. Your investment matters. It will be worth it in the long run 🙂

[And yes, I did fact check this Bamboo Tree story and it is “horticulturally” true and not just an apocryphal story with an easy metaphor].

New respect for Bamboo trees and the Chinese farmers who stayed the course for 5 years to learn this!