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When I was young I would frequently say to my father, “I want to hurry up and get through with school” or “I want this or that to happen faster.” His reply was “Don’t wish your life away.” In other words, enjoy the journey and your life right now, instead of feeling frustrated because you have not yet arrived at your destination.

Life consists of both journeys and destinations. Journeys lead us to our destinations. For example, if you are a college freshman pursuing a college degree this is part of your journey. It may be a journey that takes you four or more years to complete. Your college degree or goal is your destination (which will probably begin a new journey). It is not that the journey is bad and the destination is good. Both can be perceived as good, especially if you enjoy them. They are both helping you to fulfill your desires and goals.

You are only guaranteed the present moment in which you are now living. The past is a memory and the future is uncertain and has not yet arrived. Now, in the present moment of your life, is the time that you can live, act and enjoy. Both your journey and your destination can only be experienced in the present and both of them can be enjoyed.

The problem is that many of us become impatient with the journey to our goals. Then frustration and discouragement replaces feelings of success, optimism and enjoyment. During the journey it is as if you are planting seeds and nurturing the soil before your effort bears fruit. There is a story about this that I tell my students which helps them to see the journey in a different light and to become more patient for results from their efforts.

The Story of the Chinese Bamboo Tree

This is a true story about the Chinese bamboo tree which may contain lessons and truths that can be applied to your life. You start by planting a seed in the ground and then you must water and fertilize it frequently. After one year there are no visible signs above ground that the seed has sprouted and that growth is occurring. You continue to water and fertilize the seed for another year, and still, there are no apparent results from your efforts. So you continue to water and fertilize the ground where you planted the seed for a third year, but you still see nothing happening. You continue for a fourth year and still there is no apparent growth.

During the fifth year you can begin to see a shoot above ground and signs that growth is occurring. And then something remarkable happens! The tree grows over 90 feet in six weeks. Eventually the seed you planted is capable of becoming a tree that grows over 200 feet tall.

Once the bamboo tree becomes visible (even as a shoot) it grows rapidly. What was happening during all of those years that you were watering and fertilizing the seed? It was developing strong and wide root structures to support the tree and its rapid growth above ground. In other words, the foundation upon which it would grow and stand was being developed during the first four years.

Lessons from the story:

  • Your life dreams are like seeds
  • Plant, water and nurture your dream seeds
  • Keep working and be patient
  • Results may remain invisible for some time
  • Just as a tall tree can arise from a tiny seed, so can your dream
    seeds manifest into something great
  • Take care of the seeds and reap the harvest

Please answer and think about the following questions:

  1. What is one experience from your life that is similar to a lesson in the story of the Chinese bamboo tree?
  2. How can you apply an important lesson in the story to your life? What is that lesson and the action you will take?


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An adjunct professor of college and career success courses at Austin Community College. He is author of Achieve College Success and Achieve Career Success and trains educators how to teach these strategies.