Chinese Bamboo Tree: The tree that takes 5 years to grow

by | May 4, 2022 | Communicate Effectively, Lifestyle

Perhaps you’re familiar with the primary message of patience and persistence that is usually associated with the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. However, there are three other messages hidden in that story, if you look for them.

The story of the Chinese bamboo tree is true and is as follows: This particular tree has a seed that is so hard that when planted, it will do nothing for almost five years. Nothing happens in the first year or the second, not the third or the fourth. You have to water and care for that seed all those years, seeing no results from your labor. That is, until the fifth year.

In the fifth year, the seed breaks through the soil and begins to grow into a tree. And grow, it does. In fact, the Chinese bamboo tree has been recorded at growing upwards of 3 feet a day, almost 90 feet in about a month. You can literally stand there and watch it shoot up! (It has actually been timed at approximately one inch of growth every 40 minutes.)

Now, during that five-year period, if the person who had planted that seed had stopped watering it or taking care of the ground area, the seed would have died. If the planter had gotten tired of waiting and dug up that seed to see what was taking so long or walked away in disgust… the seed would have died.

But, if we look a little deeper, in addition to patience and persistence, there are other lessons to be learned from the planter.

Specific Goal:

It seems obvious that if someone wants to plant a Chinese bamboo tree, they wouldn’t set off to plant an apple tree. However, for many of us, when it comes to our goals, we have a tendency to either not be specific or try to accomplish too many things at one time.

If your goal is to become wealthy, that is not specific. What do you mean by the wealthy? Wealthy means different things to different people, as does the goal to become successful. If you want to lose weight, that is also not specific. If you have a goal to lose 20 pounds, that is specific. But if you want to lose 20 pounds AND AT THE SAME TIME reorganize your house, get a new job, and travel to Europe – that may be too big of a bite for most people. In reality, the chances of achieving any of those goals to the degree that would be desired is greatly diminished, because, as the old saying goes, you can do three things at the same time, but you can’t do three things WELL at the same time.

Being specific about want you want to accomplish is critical, as it helps you to focus on what you need to do. Additionally, if you are trying to do a variety of things at the same time, you are limiting how much attention and time you can direct to each goal, which can lead to unnecessary mistakes, missed opportunities, and setbacks.

Message: Be specific about what you want to achieve and focus on one goal at a time.


In addition to the bamboo seed, the planter needed to procure the appropriate tools and find the proper location for the tree. This may have been accomplished with just a simple list, but that list – no matter how small or simple – is a plan.

Most people don’t create a plan for their goals. Instead, they “wing it” and most fail or never get their “wings” flying in the right direction. Depending on the complexity of your goal, you need to not only write down your specific goal but also create a plan. (The internet is loaded with studies that prove the power of writing down goals and a plan, so no need to rehash it here.) So, whether it’s a simple list or a detailed strategic plan…

Message: Write down your specific goal and a plan.


While dealing with negativity is a crucial component of patience and persistence, what is not alluded to in the typical telling of the story of the Chinese bamboo tree (and excuse me for taking a little literary license) is dealing with the negativity of others, while you strive to achieve your goal.

Now, I have no idea if the planter of the bamboo seed had to deal with friends or family chastising her for watering a piece of dirt for four years with no result. But I can tell you that as you work on your goal, there will be those who won’t be pulling for you. It’s a sad commentary, but it’s true. And sometimes, those people who won’t cheer you on are those who are closest to you like family, friends or business associates.

In some cases, it may be helpful to let as many people as possible know what you would like to achieve; however, in many situations, the less who know – the better. The more people you tell, the more opinions and judgments you will receive. And while some people may be positive, there will be those who are not.

Message: If you choose to tell others about your goal, be careful with whom you choose to share.

You may feel that I have squeezed every last ounce of juice from the story of the bamboo tree, and perhaps, you’re correct. As the Irish priest and essayist, Jonathan Swift said, “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.” Like a photograph, the more you look, the more you find.

The story of the Chinese bamboo tree contains hidden messages, beyond the apparent ones of patience and persistence. It is a story that is rich in meaning. You just have to look.

Copyright: You can reprint or repost this to your own blog or website but you must include the following: ©2016 Bob Garner. Used by Permission. Originally posted on


Related Posts