“I’m doing all this work, and I have nothing to show for it,” my client recently lamented as she explained how much effort she’d been putting toward getting her work out into the world. She compared it to a house that is under renovation – she feels like she is just wooden framing and unfinished drywall as far as the eye can see, with no pretty, polished photos of finished rooms to share.
I know this overwhelmed and hopeless feeling, but instead of wallowing in that big, unfinished metaphor of a house, I suggested we reframe it as giant bamboo. Ever heard of it? If not, it’s a fascinating plant, and it actually has a pretty cool message for us all.
When you buy this plant and bring it home, it doesn’t appear to do a whole heck of a lot. In fact, for the first several years you have it, you don’t see a darn thing. However, despite a lack of action above ground, this bamboo is growing an incredibly substantial and intricate root system. In fancy botanical-speak, it’s called a rhizome, or creeping rootstalk, but the bottom line is that this plant is secure!
Later, approximately 4 years after it is planted and once the root system is complete, the giant bamboo shoots up about 65 feet in just 6 weeks! Sometimes that equates to more than a foot of growth per day! It definitely makes up for all that seemingly dormant time.
The thing is, unless it had such a well-developed root system, there is no way the plant could support 65 feet of speedy growth. Without those roots, its massive stocks would flop right over. They certainly could never withstand high winds and the elements. And if you’ve ever tried to remove giant bamboo, good luck! As anyone who has tried will tell you, this stuff will grow back even when you think you’ve removed its children’s children.
The moral of the story for my client and everyone else out there is not to panic if you’re not seeing exponential growth in your life right now in areas where you’re planting seeds. Whether it be in your work, your relationship or elsewhere, keep the giant bamboo in mind. Know that your efforts are creating a strong and substantial root system that is designed to support something awesome. And when the time is right and the root system is strong enough, then your creation is going to shoot through with a force that is both beautiful and impressive to behold. But not a moment before. And not if you don’t give it the patience it needs to create that huge root structure.
I’d also point out that this giant bamboo doesn’t really give a damn if anyone else thinks it should be sprouting through faster and shouldn’t be spending so much time doing its root thing. It relies solely on its own inner plan and the intelligence of life. Similarly, remember that your own right timing is not dependent on what anyone else tries to tell you or dictate. And if you think it’s taking too long and you’ll be too old to capitalize on all this growth, remember the words of Liz Gilbert in Big Magic: “You are not finished; you’re merely ready.” So just continue doing your root thing and follow your own inner knowing. That way you’ll be ready when it’s time to shoot sky high.