Do you ever feel like despite your best, most diligent, inspired effort, discipline and patience, you don’t seem to be getting anywhere? Maybe you have a vision that excites you – an idea of how something could be done differently, a creation you’d like to breathe life into, a way of improving your quality of life – or that of others. You plan, you prepare, you do the work. Repeatedly. But despite all that effort and persistence, you have little if anything to show for it.
You might question yourself. Are you doing it right? Are you missing something?
You might get angry and try harder to control the outcome – double down your efforts, research extensively to figure out how to foolproof your plan, do whatever you can to MAKE it happen.
You may take your anger out on others. Why aren’t they cooperating? And how is it that everyone else seems to have it easier than you do?
You may question your vision. Is this really worth investing your time and energy in?
You might feel like quitting and moving onto something easier, more mainstream, with less risk or exposure. You gave it a good run. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.
But the idea of throwing in the towel feels even worse than continuing what seems to be a losing battle.
And try as you might, you just can’t shake the hold of that vision. It beckons. It haunts. It enchants – revisiting you in your quiet hours, whispering about what is possible.
What do you do?
Have you ever heard the story of the Chinese Bamboo tree? It’s quite unusual. A farmer who plants these seeds will water, fertilize and tend to them daily. After a year of care and nurturing, the ground looks the same way it did when the seeds were planted. Another year will pass as the farmer continues his efforts, with no seeming growth at all. A third year of care and feeding will go by. NOTHING. And then another year of watering, fertilizing and patiently waiting. Still nothing. In the fifth year, small sprouts will appear. And in the six weeks that follow, the little shoot will grow up to ninety feet tall.
What we don’t realize about these seeds – and our precious visions – is that while patience, faith and perseverance may not produce tangible signs of progress for quite some time, they work wonders beneath the surface, laying the groundwork for what will follow.
To sustain the towering height these trees grow to, the root system must be deep and vast. We too must have a strong inner foundation to ensure we have what we need before we can share it with others. So many of our efforts are a quest to prove to ourselves that we are worthy. We often mistakenly think that accolades, prestige, wealth and all that comes with success will allow us to feel strong and fulfilled. But that approach is backwards.
The “trappings” of success fade over time and are as easily toppled as a tree with no root system. If instead we start with a strong, grounded feeling of worthiness and appreciation for ourselves, we can extend our gifts to others knowing that we have all we need and that sharing it with others will only make us stronger – in the same way that bamboo continues to grow after it is harvested. This strength is cultivated over time, and often happens during the times of our lives that feel most barren. We endure disappointments, we try something and fail, we learn about who we are and why we are here. This is all growth that happens beneath the surface. And it makes us strong and resilient enough to stand tall, reach high, and do the work we have been inspired to do out of joy rather than necessity.
Visions worth working for often don’t come to fruition right away and timing is not something that can be controlled. When we try desperately to speed things up, we will often experience frustration, and feelings of desperation that may lead to anger and/or withdrawal. Just as we cannot peel rosebuds open or shorten the time it takes for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, we cannot rush the progress and transformation that happens with our visions and our very selves. Sometimes our efforts to speed things up actually delay progress, as when we get too attached to a certain course of action that interferes with the natural progression of things. This is analogous to digging up and replanting seeds that have not yet sprouted.
The “overnight success” we often hear about is more often than not the result of years of dedication, commitment, perseverance and faith that like the growth of the Chinese bamboo tree took several years to come to fruition. As you pursue your grandest dreams and visions, many will tell you that your efforts are in vain, that you do not have what it takes, that you should quit while you are ahead. And you may begin to question yourself as well. But as you weather these storms and continue to believe in and cultivate something that cannot yet be seen, you will ultimately be rewarded with seeing that which you believe. And it will enrich your life – and that of others in ways you may never have anticipated.
For more on bringing your grandest dreams and visions to fruition and laying the foundation necessary to sustain them, check out The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader now available in both ebook and paperback formats on Amazon.