The Chinese Bamboo & What it Teaches Us


Let me start by telling you a story, the story of the Chinese Bamboo. In China there is a bamboo tree that is planted and watered, and for the first four years nothing happens. There is no visible sign of growth. But as the fifth year approaches, the tree grows about 90 feet in six weeks. Now ask yourself- Did the bamboo tree grow 90 feet in merely six weeks or did it take five years to grow? If the tree had not been watered and taken care of for four years, would it have grown that tall in the fifth year? The answer is no.

What is the moral of the story? It is indeed very simple – be patient and do what is right. Even though the results may not be visible for sometime, something is definitely happening. I am trying to emphasise the relevance of perseverance in our lives. We have become used to getting things instantly- be it ready to cook mixtures or the 24-hour delivery system of online shopping sites. But success is not something that comes instantly. As someone has rightly said that success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. One of the essential ingredients of success is perseverance.

Perseverance is the trait of successful people. The best example of perseverance I can find is Colonel Sanders, who is today best known as the founder of KFC. But there was a time when he only had $100 in his pocket. He therefore decided to do something to improve his financial position. He replicated his mother’s fried chicken recipe and went from door-to-door trying to sell it. Can you guess how many doors did he have to knock before he got his first order? A whopping 1008 times! Some of us quit after probably two or three attempts and then complain by saying that we gave it our best shot.

Another man who defines perseverance is Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb the mighty Mount Everest. He scaled the peak in 1953 and was lauded for this feat. However, what many of us do not know is how he achieved it. This was not the first time he had climbed the mountain. He had tried and failed a year earlier in 1952. But since he had tried, he was asked to address and motivate a group of people in England. As he walked up to the stage, he was greeted by an overwhelming applause. But, knowing that he had not done anything to motivate anyone, he stepped away from the microphone. Next, he made a fist and pointed it at a picture of the Himalayas. He then said-

Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time because you’ve grown all that you could….but I am still growing.

And the rest is history.

Walt Disney was rejected by many newspaper editors who said that he had no talent. But did he give up? The Wright brothers were laughed at for trying to invent a machine heavier than air that would fly. Lee De Forest, the man who invented the triode tube-a tube without which bulbs cannot function, was charged for using fraudulent means to mislead the public into buying stocks of his company. Many production houses rejected the movie Star Wars before it was finally produced. Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was ‘too stupid to learn anything’. These are not merely stories of success, they are stories of perseverance.

We tend to give up after encountering a minor roadblock and say that we gave it our best shot. Agreed that there are numerous aspirants and limited opportunities and if we do not act fast, somebody else may walk away with the opportunity. This may happen, but it does not mean that if one is successful, the other will fail. If we believe in ourselves and keep working towards our goals, we are bound to succeed. Through hard work and struggle, everyone of us can carve a niche for ourselves. Rejection does not mean the end of one’s career. Steven Spielberg was twice rejected by the University of California School of Cinema Arts. After Harrison Ford’s first small movie role, an executive took him into his office and told him he’d never succeed in the movie business. Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers.

What these incredible people teach us is that failure does not mean the end of career path; rather failure is a guarantee for success. This is because every time we experience failure, we have an opportunity to grow and become better. Every time we improve we are a step closer to success. All we need is perseverance. Believe in yourself and have patience; you will succeed. As Samuel Johnson has rightly said-

Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.

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About author – Kudrat Agrawal, a 2nd year Law student at National Law University, Delhi.


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