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.
On writing this, I am indebted to Bunda Suharti Sutar and Kerrin Houghton; Subhan Zein in Canberra, 24 January 2012.