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The Patience and Persistence of Bamboo

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From Joshua Medcalf’s book, Chop Wood Carry Water:

Many people love bamboo.  They love the bamboo trees, and they love the bamboo wood, but very few people understand the process of growing bamboo.  You dig up the soil and make sure it is good soil, and then you plant the bamboo seed.  You then must faithfully water it every day.  After three months, guess what starts to happen? 

Nothing!  You see absolutely nothing happening.  You keep watering it and watering it, but you continue to see nothing happening for one year, two years, then three years.  Do you know what happens after three years? 

Nothing!  You see absolutely nothing. 

What you don’t see happening is what is taking place beneath the surface.  Beneath the surface, a massive, dense foundation of roots is spreading out all throughout the ground to prepare for the rapid growth that the bamboo will experience.  So, you keep watering it and watering it, and eventually, after five years of seeing nothing at all happen above the surface, the bamboo tree shoots up to over ninety feet tall in just six weeks! 

Most people want the ninety-foot-tall bamboo tree without the five years of the process.  They want the bamboo to grow to ninety feet tall in six weeks, but without the five years of invisible growth, the bamboo wouldn’t have a solid foundation, and it could never sustain the massive and rapid growth that occurs.”

We all see this, we may not recognize it but we all see it…. everyday from all different people and probably know it of ourselves.

They want it, but don’t want to put in the time and energy to get it… at least to get it and hold on to it.

Everyone wants the big prize, whatever that prize may be: the six pack abs, that muscle-up, the rock-solid-hot-&-steamy relationship with their partner, the long life free of disease and prescription medicines and nursing homes, the job or business that they love doing and going to, the kids that genuinely love spending time with them.

But, the “prize” isn’t rewarded, or at least not for very long …to those who aren’t willing to demonstrate the often painfully challenging personality traits of consistency, commitment, humility, a hunger to learn, unshaken work ethic and an appreciation for adversity, patience and persistence.  The traits necessary to build that root system.. that foundation.

Most importantly, patience with the process.

Everything you do, every decision you make, and every thought you allow to reside in your head, every morsel of food you put in your mouth all contribute to your ability to move forward, down the road to your prize, your goal.

This includes, but is not limited to, all of the things that don’t seemingly have anything to do with your prize or the process that you would assume will get you there.

-Your commitment to your regular workouts affects the quality of your relationship with your spouse.

-You being present with your children gets you closer to your 1 mile run PR.

-Your openness to coaching and criticism affects your ability to eliminate sugar from your diet for 3 months.

It’s all related, even though it doesn’t seem so on the surface. It all builds your roots.

You can’t get away with compartmentalizing prizes and goals in your life for very long before you realize that you will continue to hit walls until you’re willing to develop the whole person, not just one part.

Now, when you can fine tune your patience with the process, the building of your foundation, you can trust that your prizes will eventually come on as fierce as that of bamboo after years and years of commitment.

It all just contributes to your underground root system.