Grow Like Bamboo

I remember in my previous job, I knew of a vet nurse who was a year qualified and struggled with restraining cats for blood sampling. She said, “I have trained for so long and been qualified for a year and yet I am not able to do this. I must be really bad at this and maybe this is not for me at all.”

This incident reminded me of a story.

There was once a man who felt discouraged. He took stock of the resolutions he made last year. Nothing in his life had changed. He was still the same person with the same problems. He began to lose hope. So he went to speak to his mentor.

His mentor asked, “Do you know how long it takes for the giant bamboo to grow as tall as a building?”

“During the first year, the tiny plant is watered and fertilized… and nothing happens. It is watered and fertilized for another whole year… and another… and another… and another… and still nothing happens. Then on the fifth year, it shoots up to the sky. In six weeks, the bamboo grows 90 feet. So how long does it take for it to grow so high?”

“Six weeks” the man replied.

“That’s your mistake,” said the mentor. “It takes five years. If the farmer had stopped watering the plant at any point during those five years, it would have died. What was happening in those five years was underneath the ground, an enormous network of roots was developing to support the bamboo’s sudden growth. Growth takes patience and perseverance. Every drop of water makes a difference. Every step you take makes an impact. You may not see the change right away but growth is happening.”

Coming back to the vet nurse, she did not give up and persisted on her trade, learning cat by cat, restraint by restraint, clocking up the moments she did well, learning from the times she could improve, she did not give up nor did she give in. Now, she is one of the best cat handlers I know and continues to give back by teaching others how to handle cats (gently of course!).

It is like going to the gym. The first day you sign on, after lifting the weights and sweating it out, if you look in the mirror, you will not see a difference. After the second session at the gym, it will still not change. You may think that it has been a complete waste of time as nothing has changed. Some give up then. That is a mistake. If you were to persist for years, the change would be evident.

Something we expect too much results in too short a period of time when we are trying to change or improve something. When we do not see the results, it can be so easy to think that we are not making a difference at all. We have to learn to look past that. Not seek for instant gratification but rather, relish on delayed gratification.

I remember teaching my sons Mandarin from birth. For those who know me, will know that I blatantly refuse to speak to my sons in English but only converse in Mandarin. I felt that English was a given in this country and wanted to preserve their Chinese heritage by teaching them Mandarin. It was not easy. Speaking a language no one else is using to new born baby, 6 months old, 1 year old, I really had no idea how much was going in and how much impact I was making. They look back, smile a bit, gurgle a bit, mutters something and crawls away. I really had no idea. Then suddenly, they started to reply in Mandarin, singing in Mandarin and even reciting Chinese proverbs! It was unexpected and it was beautiful. I understood that all the time when I was speaking Mandarin to them and seemingly had no response, their little mind were quietly processing the sounds, the meaning and slowly (but surely) training their tongues to finally utter those first words in Chinese when they were ready. It was amazing. I just needed to be patient.

Consider the skill you want to learn, the dream you want to fulfil and the goal you want to reach. What are you doing today that is going to take you closer to that skill, dream or goal? What are you willing to do to make your dreams come true? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? Are you willing to take action? Are you willing to push past your fears and doubts? How much faith and belief are you willing to have?

We need to lay the foundation down slowly but surely for success to come. Patience and perseverance is key.

“We tend to overestimate what we can achieve in one year and underestimate what we can achieve in five years.”

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