Why I Hate the Bamboo Story

bamboo story

If you’ve been to a “motivational” seminar or heard someone talk about success in, say, the last 10 years, you’ve probably heard the “Bamboo Story.”

The Bamboo Story goes something like this…

“The Bamboo is amazing. You water it and wait. You wait an entire year and nothing appears. No bud, no twig, nothing.

“So you keep watering and protecting the area and taking care of the future plant. You wait another year. Still, nothing happens.

“Another year passes, and still no sign of growth. It has been three years. Should you give up? Someone told you that it might take a while to really see the fruits of your efforts, so you keep on keeping on.

“Another year passes. No plant.

“You begin year number five with the same passion as day number one. You keep watering and keep waiting. Finally, after five years, the Bamboo starts growing-and in six weeks, it grows to over 80 feet tall! Yes, 80 feet in six weeks! Well, not really. It is 80 feet in five years.

“The point is simple. If you had given up for even the shortest period of time, there would be no Bamboo. It took almost impossible persistence. The plant is there for one reason and one reason only-because you never gave up on it.”

This story is supposed to illustrate the power of persistence and never giving up.
But think about it…

You watered it for the first year and didn’t see any results. The second, third, fourth, and even fifth year, you did the SAME THING and got the SAME RESULT.

That means you spent more than 1,825 days doing the SAME THING, getting the SAME RESULT, and expecting something DIFFERENT.

And that’s what most people are doing in their lives.

They keep doing the SAME THING, getting the SAME RESULT, and expecting something DIFFERENT.

How’s THAT workin’ for ya?

Look, I get it: The Bamboo suddenly shoots up from the ground after your long, arduous years of sacrifice and patience, thereby showing the benefit of faith and persistence.

Just one problem:

The millionaires I’ve coached and worked with have NEVER used this formula!

Do you honestly think Donald Trump or Ted Turner would sit there and water their non-existent plant for five years before seeing any results? Not on your life.

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So here’s the reality-and I know some people are going to hate me for saying this, but here goes:

The only purpose of the Bamboo Story is to make you feel better when you’re getting lousy results in your life.

Sure, it feels good for someone to come along and say, “Hey, I know things look bad right now… But don’t worry. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and I’m SURE it’ll turn around eventually!”

But that is a recipe for disaster.

I am Exhibit A. Several years ago, my business was struggling. I was providing great information, and my clients were getting awesome results, but my company wasn’t showing any profits. In fact, every month we were going deeper in debt.

Not coincidentally, the woman who was my business partner at the time subscribed to the Bamboo Theory. She told me, day after day: “Don’t worry. Things will turn around. It just takes time!”

But I never believed her. I told her over and over again:

Time is UTTERLY IRRELEVANT when it comes to success.

The only thing that’s relevant is following a BETTER STRATEGY.

Naturally, she didn’t listen to me. That’s why we’re not business partners anymore!

Now think about this…

Let’s say you are doing the WRONG things for the WRONG reasons. And you keep doing the WRONG things for the WRONG reasons.

Is doing that longer going to get you better results?

Of course not.

But you’d be amazed by how many people succumb to the Bamboo Theory. (We’ve probably all done it at some time in our lives.)

So here’s what I want you to keep in mind:

Nature can make a Bamboo plant grow because Nature has a hidden SYSTEM that works.

Nature also has hidden Systems for healing your body, digesting your food, making babies, and millions of other things we experience every day.

But we don’t necessarily know how those hidden Systems work. And even if the Bamboo Story were true, it wouldn’t make any difference-because the person watering the Bamboo doesn’t know what caused it grow so fast in the first place!

When we succumb to worn-out cliches like the Bamboo Story, all we’re doing is perpetuating the belief that “things will somehow work out”… without taking responsibility for our own ACTIONS and RESULTS.

I’m all for persistence. I’m all for believing that things will work out for the best. I’m all for having faith.What I’m NOT for is telling people that continuing to do the wrong things will somehow make things work out.

You have more power than you think.

Don’t succumb to the belief that spending more TIME doing the wrong things will somehow create the RESULTS you want.

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Take control. Take action.

And if you’re not getting the results you want, try something new.

It’s only by following a better STRATEGY-not “hoping” for something better-that you’ll see better results, and a real change for the better, in your life.


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  • Bob

    Bamboo grows like crazy, no need to wait 5 years

  • Damien

    I get what your saying and you make a great point. Doing the wrong things over and over expecting growth; is in fact insanity. However, in regard to faithfully watering the bamboo persistently for 5 years, isn’t that doing the right things to grow that specific plant?

    In my opinion, the bamboo story solidifies your perspective, in developing the right process to grow a specific dream/goal. Or maybe I’m just not understanding the moral of the story and or your take on it.

  • Vicki

    It was growing a root system for 5 years that allowed the plant to sustain an 80 FT growth in 6 weeks. If it grew that fast without a stable root system, the plant would die. I think you missed the point of the story. Sometimes the growth required seems like it is not producing the result you need, but you need to have certain things in place in order for the visible growth to occur.

  • Jason

    This may be true for entrepreneur who needs cash flow to maintain liquidity.. However for long term projects, engineers, software developers and designers need to start with the end in mind. Usually projects that have a defined goal allow engineers to make better informed decisions earlier and results in better final products. Projects driven with short-term check-boxes often get to same endpoint, but typically not as efficiently and the the final product it usually not near as refined.

  • I totally agree with both comments above (Jason and Damien). Your article is a great way to sell your products and get people who have failed in the past to try just one more product or service that may be the magic bullet they’ve been looking for, but I believe you’re missing the whole point of the story. The farmer in the story, watering those seeds year after year, was not repeating an unsuccessful process year after year hoping for some outcome. He understood the bamboo plant and knew it would require incredible patience in order to achieve an outcome that had proven itself over the centuries. I may want to remind you of the other classic that Napoleon Hill shares in his “Think and Grow Rich” about the man who gave up digging for gold within feet of where it would have been found. For the simple reason that he lost patience and gave up on something he had been doing, he lost a fortune.

    The world of network and online marketing is chock full of people who jump from one thing or another because the last thing they did didn’t work, whereas if they had just stuck with what they were doing and stayed consistent with proven strategies, they would have been extremely successful.

    I would suggest you re-read the story of the bamboo with a different perspective.

  • QL

    Think you are missing some facts about the bamboo theory. The bamboo is actually growing roots to prepare it to able to shoot up to 80 feet in 6 weeks. Just like in a newly start business, you can be going for appointment meet new prospect and yet there are not much result. This is the same as growing roots, you are creating awareness for your business.

    A classic example will be Facebook, they are not making money at the start with investor putting in money. They only start making money after a few years. The problem with nowadays business is they are not strategies to last long enough to grow roots. They are strategies to straight away shoot up and earn quick cash. The base is really important.

  • Bryan P.

    but even if hes not getting the results he or she wants , these people are making an effort which is driving there “RAS” and eventually it will unfold

  • Tim

    This story is based on doing things right not wrong as evidenced by the end result. Your line of thinking is stop watering it and find another tree that doesn’t take so long to grow. In other words if it doesn’t happen as fast as you want it too, so go find something else to give up on. It doesn’t matter what goal your looking to achieve it does take persistence, it does take time and it does take a proven strategy that works for everyone not 5%. Micheal Jordan one of the best basketball players ever wasn’t even the best player in college player in his era. Yet through years of hard work, belief in himself and persistence he became the best player to ever play the game and also has one of the most successful clothing and shoe line in the world. Maybe he should of gave up and bought a quick rich scheme book like yours and played golf instead.

  • novnita

    I was thinking of using the bamboo story in one of my lectures but i always do a proper background check. I did not find the kind of bamboo that takes 5 years to shoot up. It is usually faster and the root or rhizomes can be used to grow a bamboo plant way faster than to use a seed. I don’t want to give a motivating speech about bamboo that is scientifically incorrect and less rational.

    • Nice find, thank you!

  • Mary

    And once that bamboo grows and populates…. it is crazy hard to get rid of it or kill it🌱

  • Reginald Green

    I just read story in a book& im like “that cant b true”& wudayaknow, its not! &this article gave me more than i asked 4🖒🖒🖒

  • You’ve got a point there… But in an age of information overload, we can spend our own lives trying new things with little or no results. I still believe we can learn a lot about success from nature. For example symbiotic relationships teach us to collaborate instead of competing, hence creating more win/win situations. I’m thinking joint ventures. Etc.

  • Marten Rößler

    The Bamboo story is still great, you just poured your “bamboo” with milk all the years instead of water.

  • goodgolly

    It’s not “NOTHING” happening when the farmer is watering the roots. In showbiz, it’s called paying your dues. In politics, as well as other businesses, it’s building a network. In coaching, it may be working with your inner world, removing self-doubt, fear and negativity, before you will see results in your outer world. I’m sure anyone can turn an inspiring story into a reason to continue failed behavior, but the message of the story isn’t that the action is futile, it’s about ROOTS. We all have roots, we all have to start somewhere, and many will give up because they don’t see anything “happening” when they do need to continue working hard. It’s like the old adage about the successful entertainer who becomes an “overnight success” after 20 years of playing hick bars and getting booed.

    • This guy gets it, even though the author of the blog post missed it.