Chinese Bamboo and Paulo Coelho

Chinese Bamboo. Paulo Coelho. Success.

What connects the dots?

Chinese bamboo spends five years as a little sprout. After being planted, watered, fertilized, and nurtured by a farmer for four growing seasons, it grows outwardly no more than one inch. There is nothing tangible that the farmer can show for all their labor. It seems that his painstaking effort is to no avail.

But wait. After five years, the bamboo puts on a spurt and grows up to 30 metres high. This is just in one growing season!

Apparently the little tree keeps growing underground in order to develop a robust root system to support its outward growth in the fifth year and beyond.

The reflection on Chinese bamboo reminds me of one of the writers I greatly admire, Paulo Coelho.

After leaving the music industry in 1977, Coelho went to live in London to pursue his dream as a writer. He returned to Rio de Janiero a year later, without being able to write a single line.

His first two publications, Hell Archives, published in 1982,and The Pilgrimage, published in 1986, did not make much impact. Even his third book, The Alchemist, published in 1988, was not successful either. Its first edition was only printed 900 copies.

Rather than feeling doomed in failure, Coelho decided to invest more work, time, and effort, while encouraging his own personal growth with love and dedication.

Nothing happened for four years though. Success seemed to be far beyond his reach.

It was five years later that the light appeared to end the dark tunnel of his life. Soon after publishing Brida in 1993, The Alchemist became a best-seller in Brazil, and later in the world. The Alchemist has now been translated into 71 languages, holding the Guiness World Record for most translated book by a living author, and has sold more than 65 million copies.

If the Chinese bamboo tree did not develop a strong intangible foundation underground, it wouldn’t have sustained its life as it grew. Had Coelho not dedicated a strong unseen foundation in his characters for the first couple of years of his vocation, he wouldn’t have reached the unimaginably successful writing career he is now enjoying.

One’s success seems to be taking off after a painstaking effort of developing their characters, an arduous journey of ceaseless personal growth to overcome adversity and challenge.

We may invest weeks, months, or even years, without any visible signs of progress, and then all of a sudden, things take off. Our dreams come true.

Toiling patiently towards dreams and goals while by the same token building strong characters are the only ways to reach success. They are the only ways to grow the Chinese Bamboo in our life.


26 thoughts on “Chinese Bamboo and Paulo Coelho

  1. A strong candidate for “Freshly Pressed” in this post! Your beautiful analogy is one with universal implications and wide ranging applications. No wonder so many are reblogging this! I am grateful to have been introduced to you and your blog. Keep on going.

  2. Hi Subhan

    I am sharing this wonderful story in the next soulsnet post. I hope you will come and visit and enjoy. It is all about “Growing where you are planted”, so your post seemed particularly appropriate.

    I have reblogged it, first time I have done a re-blog and also linked back and credited you.

    I hope all is well with you
    With love

  3. Hi Subhan

    I really enjoyed this post, together with the one that I have just read about Psy and his inspirational story, which led me to this one. The analogy between the Chinese Bamboo and the success of Paulo Coelhoe is powerful. It is a timely reminder that the development of character is the necessary antecedent to not only success, but having the something worth saying that leads to it.

    I want to do a piece at soulsnet on a similar theme and would like to link to this post and the one about Psy. It’s not ready yet, but reading your posts has given me the idea. I’ll let you know when I’m going to post and credit you and link back and I hope you will come and visit and enjoy.

    Have a good day.

    Corinne at soulsnet

  4. I love this story…so you must have read “Aleph”, no? He has a chapter in it titled “Chinese Bamboo”. Paulo Coelho is my favorite author. Truly there is no such thing as an “overnight success”. You have to work at it everyday. Something Paulo said resonates “If I believe in victory, victory will believe in me”! You too are one of my favorites, Subhan;o)

  5. I read The Alchemist several years ago and have gifted it to several friends.
    I have several books on my night stand—one of which is Paulo Coelho’s.
    Your blog is reminder to once again visit his inspirational and sensitive writings.
    …there’s a reason, you know!

    Thank you.

  6. Thanks for your analogy about how a bamboo shoot grows and the writing career of Paulo’s. I think your post speaks to hope and perseverance.

  7. nice write up…

    Paulo`s works used to be a great inspiration for me but now I find them increasingly monotonous and so ,for me, they lost most of their earlier appeal.

    anyways, I am glad I stumbled over your blog . nice work!

    1. Hi Madiha,

      Thank you for your comments. I guess there are always two sides of it and losing their earlier appeal is certainly one thing that an author wouldn’t want to.. 🙂

      Thank you for visiting my blog. Do come again next time.. We’re happy to have you here.. 🙂

  8. Every one needs to understand that success is resulted from the good effort. Every famous person builds their career through a long, hard even bitterful processes. By doing this, unconsciously, they also have saved many people by inspiring them of how a success can be achieved…
    Nice article mas Subhan…indeed:)

  9. One thing I learn from this good piece is that one has to be patient enough to grow inward before enjoying the glory of growing outward. In building a house, preparing good foundation is as important as (or sometimes even more important than) developing beautiful, visible part of it. Sometimes, it is easy for one not to dedicate time and energy to prepare something that is unnoticed to others. Thanks for writing this inspiring piece.

    1. Mas Andi: You’re totally right, my brother. 🙂 You are. Please consider sharing this with your friends whom you think might enjoy it as much as we do. That way we keep the candles of inspiration in aflame. 🙂

      Warm regards,

      Subhan Zein

    1. Thanks, Bu Itje. Please consider following my blog yah Bu 🙂 I’d be sharing stories like this in my upcoming posts and I hope you’ll enjoy them too. 🙂

      Warm regards,

      Subhan Zein

  10. What a beautiful story! Thanks for thinking about me and sharing it. I still have a copy of The Alchemist and I always have a look at it to find new things.

  11. Thanks, awakeningpsyche!

    I love Paulo Coelho, and I love the bamboo story. It reminds me of a constant personal growth we should be doing to ourselves, to always build our characters to the better.

    And I enjoy your poems very much..:-)

    Warm regards from Down Under.


  12. I read this story of bamboo tree in “You can win” by Shiv Khera. The story itself clears that we should never feel belittled for anything in life… and Paulo Coelho is a great inspiration to think about our own life…about how we see ourselves.
    Thanks for sharing this and refreshing my memory…:)

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