James and the Giant Bamboo

Two neighbors had big plots of land right next to each other. They’d just purchased them. James, always a friendly and outgoing guy, saw his neighbor out back and decided to go introduce himself.

James: Hey neighbor, I’m James

Derek: James, nice to meet you, I’m Derek.

James: What are you planning to do with all this land?

Derek: Well, since we’re in a great area for it, I was considering bamboo trees.

James: That’s awesome, I was thinking of doing the same.

Derek: That’s great. Let me know if you decide to do it, we’ll go grab everything together.

A few days later James headed over to knock on Derek’s door.

Derek: Hey James, I was thinking of heading to go grab all the supplies, want to join?

They both hopped in James’ truck and went to grab all the stuff.

Neither knew much about the trees, they just thought they looked great.

Over the next week or so each of them planted their seeds.

They were both ecstatic. They couldn’t wait until their land was full of bamboo trees.

They would always see the other out back when they were watering the soil.

They’d excitedly share their vision.

James was planning a walking path surrounded by all his bamboo trees, and towards the back of the bamboo forest it would lead up to the small pond that was on the back of his land.

James1Derek planned to cover a lot of his yard, but to use a portion of the trees to produce income for him. Bamboo trees were in high demand, so he figured he could sell off a portion of them each year to make money.



James couldn’t wait for his vision to turn to reality. He even had a vision board collage up on his office wall about how his yard would look when his bamboo trees had grown. He envisioned walking with his kids back to the pond.


He was out there all the time making sure to consistently water and fertilize them. He used fresh water, and made sure they had nitrogen so they had the greatest chance of success.

When he saw Derek, he’d usually be using tap water.

James: Derek, don’t forget they’ve got a better chance to grow big and healthy if you use fresh water. The fluoride from the tap water doesn’t do as well with them.

Derek: Ahh, it shouldn’t made that much of a difference. Cheaper doing it this way.

Over the few months, James started to see a little less of Derek.

When he caught him out back one day he went over to make sure he was okay.

James: Derek, where you been man? Haven’t seen you out here as much.

Derek: Nothing’s happening man. They’re not growing.

James: They told us it would take a long time, remember.

Derek: Ya, but I mean, there’s NOTHING. I don’t know if it’s even working.

James: It’ll still be a long time before we start seeing anything. It hasn’t even been a year yet. Remember what they said at the nursery. These things are really slow to get started. Just keep at it, it’ll work.

Derek: Ya, I guess you’re right. I should probably fertilize them it’s been a while.

Over the next few weeks James saw a rejuvenated Derek out back watering and fertilizing. He was still using tap water, but hey, at least he was back at it.

Then just like before, he saw him less and less.

Eventually, he didn’t really see him at all. Finally one day he bumped into him.

James: Hey, where you been man! Good to finally see you back out here.

Derek: Ya man, I’m planting some apple trees.

James: Apple trees, oh nice. What about the bamboo, haven’t seen you out here much.

Derek: Forget the bamboo trees, they didn’t work at all. I see it didn’t work for you either.

James: But Derek, it hasn’t even been two years yet. We’ve still got a ways to go.

Derek: Ahh, I don’t even know if it’s going to work. I’ve heard stories where people spend all sorts of time watering, fertilizing, and it doesn’t work. I’m not even sure if the soil is good here, that’s why I’m planting these apple trees in a different spot over here just to be safe.

Besides, apples are hot right now. Because of all the droughts, buyers are paying a lot for them. I figure I can make more off these than I would have for the bamboo. You should do these too. There’s a lot of money to be made with them.

James: I think I’m just going to stick to my original plan.

Derek: Dude there’s nothing growing. It might not even be working. What if you never get any bamboo trees? You would have spent so much time for nothing!

James: They told us how long it would take. If I just keep doing what they suggested, I should get the results.

Derek: Ya, but if you don’t, you will have wasted all this time.

That kind of frustrated James.

“What if Derek was right”, he thought. “What if I spend all this time and nothing ever comes of it.”

It was demotivating to think about.

“Maybe Derek had a point. Maybe I’ll look into apple trees.”

The next morning when he woke up, James went into his office to research apple trees. When he sat down at his desk, he couldn’t help but look up at his vision board. The amazing bamboo tree forest he’d been envisioning for years. He knew he couldn’t stop now. He closed down his browser and decided to stick to the plan.

Derek was often out of town for work, so James didn’t see him much.

They’d occasionally bump into each other when Derek was back in town and make some small talk, but Derek was often making negative comments about James’ bamboo dreams, so James liked to keep his distance. He’d joke about him spending so much time on something that might never pay off.

On the second year after planting his apple trees, Derek’s trees started to bear fruit. He boasted to Derek about how much money he was making from selling the fruit.

Derek: Man, I told you that you should get into apple trees. There’s so much money to be made. You’re missing out.

This made James want to look into the apple business again. Derek said he was making a lot of money, so maybe it was worth considering.

This time he didn’t let his vision board stop him from doing some research. He spent many days looking into it. He called some nurseries to get pricing, and strongly considered making a big purchase.

He called his business mentor Zach and told him of his potential plans.

Zach: Wait, I don’t understand, why do you want to get apple trees?

James: My neighbor does is and is making a lot of money. He told me he’s crushing it right now.

Zach: Ya but, you don’t even like apples. You’re probably the only person I know that literally hates apples.

James: I mean, I don’t eat them, but I could sell them.

Zach: But why do you want to sell them? I mean, your business is doing pretty well you don’t need the money. Why apple trees? Plus, what about the bamboo trees?

James: The bamboo trees might not even work. Plus, apples are hot right now bamboo trees aren’t.

Zach: I think you’re getting distracted. James, let me ask you a question. Why did you decide to plant the bamboo trees?

James: I’ve always wanted to have them for as long as I can remember.

Zach: Right. It had nothing to do with them being “hot”. You had a deeper vision. You’re letting the potential short term money on something you don’t even like distract you.

James: Ya know what, you’re right. Thanks Zach. I knew there was a reason I called you.

After he hung up the phone he decided to scrap all the apple tree research that was taking up the room on his desk, and stick to the plan.


He continued taking care of the bamboo trees, and patiently waited for his vision to come to fruition.

Every time he saw Derek he’d hear about what an opportunity he was missing out on.

Time continued on, and still no signs of progress in the backyard.

His anniversary with his wife was coming up and he wanted to do something nice for her. He planned a several week vacation in Europe for them. They took off on their trip together, and had such a great time while they were there he didn’t spend much time worrying about his business which operated pretty well without him, or the lack of progress in his backyard.

When he returned home, he was excited to see the kids, and to get back to the office and see how the team was doing. He pulled up the driveway and his kids excitedly ran out to the car to greet them. His parents, who’d been watching them while they were away, followed behind.

“Mommy, daddy, we have a surprise for you! Come quick!

They sprinted out to the back of their house as they tried to keep up after their long journey back.

He was shocked when they reached the backyard.

“Oh my god!”

The bamboo trees had come out of the ground. They were everywhere! He realized it had been over five years since he planted them, around the time they told him they should start to show. He couldn’t believe it.

“It worked!”

He even saw some next door at Derek’s house. It didn’t look like Derek was home though. His car was gone, and there were apples all over his lawn.


“That’s strange”, James thought. I hope he’s okay.

Each day the bamboo trees grew more and more. He had his boys stand in the same spot in the yard once a week, to show how fast they were growing. They loved it.

A neighbor down the street came by to see. “Wow neighbor! Man, you’re so lucky! I wish I had bamboo trees in my backyard. It’s like they popped up overnight. Lucky you man!”

A few weeks later Derek returned back home. James saw him pull up and headed over.

James: Derek, you’ve got to check it out, the bamboo trees are growing.

Derek: Really!?

Derek headed in back of his yard with James.

Derek: Holy crap, they are.

His yard didn’t quite look like James’. His were a lot smaller, and many of them were yellow.

James: What’s up with the apples Derek, they’re all over the place. You’ve got a lot of money rotting on the ground out here, where you been? Everything okay?

Derek: Ya, but I found a new opportunity, that’s why I’ve been gone for so long. I know of some guys making a ton of money. I’ll make even more than I was on the apples.

James’ wife called over to him because he had a phone call.

James: Oh, looks like I’ve gotta run. Let’s chat soon man, I want to hear about your new venture.

He said goodbye to Derek and headed back home.

As the months passed, the bamboo trees grew taller and taller. It was amazing. It was looking more and more like his vision board every day.

The next time he bumped into Derek, he wanted to find out how his new project was going.

James: What’s up Derek, how’s the new venture?

Derek: Didn’t really pan out man.

He was pretty short with him, he could tell he didn’t want to talk about it.

James: Sorry to hear man. At least you’ve got the apple business though.

Derek: Ahh, well the apple business isn’t so hot at the moment. The droughts from the last couple years stopped, and so many people are selling them now. So, prices dropped a lot, it’s not even worth it to deal with. You can barely make anything on them anymore. Besides, mine are smaller and less valuable than a lot of the others who are doing it. It’s a waste of time.

James: Oh, that sucks Derek, really sorry.

Derek looked out at his yard, then at James’.

Derek: Man, I should have just stuck with the bamboo trees. If I had, my yard would look like yours right now, instead of this mangled mess of half assed bamboos, half of them rotting, and dead apples all over the ground.

Derek’s yard was a mangled molehill compared to James’ massive mountain of a bamboo forest.


James had built the trail back to the pond that he’d always envisioned.

He finally took his vision board down, because his backyard looked even better than the portrait he had initially hoped for.

His persistence had paid off. All those years of watering, fertilizing, and making sure the bamboo trees had the best nutrients. It was all worth it.

He placed his original vision board in a poster tube package, along with a big photo of his family standing on their trail new the pond, their giant bamboo trees towering over them.

He sealed it up, and sent it off to Zach.

See, Zach had been mentoring James for years, and was the one who initially told him to put the vision board of his bamboo forest up in his office. He was glad Zach had been there to keep him on track when he got pulled away. He knew Zach would get a lot of satisfaction from seeing his vision become a reality.

How does James and his story relate to yours, or someone you know?

Probably more than you think.

Do you have a big vision that you want, that may take a while to pay off? It feels like it’ll take forever, and “what if it doesn’t work?”. Usually that’s enough to pull you away. You might take shortcuts, or you might get distracted with new opportunities that pull you away from your goal. You let naysayers persuade you to quit.

You hear about other people doing great at something, and you don’t realize that they’re loudly proclaiming their wins, but they stay quiet when it’s not working out well. The temporary noise from temporary successes of others distracts you into chasing the hot markets, rather than the good markets, and opportunities you actually want to be involved in.

Do you have a mentor like James did who can help keep you on the right track? Help you find good opportunities, and stay away from bad ones? Keep you focused on the prize when everyone else is falling victim to the shiny object syndrome?

If not, get one.

If you go after a big goal you truly want to achieve, and you stay committed to it, you’ll likely attain as much success as you envision. Maybe more.

None of it will come to fruition if you chase shiny objects that pull you away from that vision.

If you do stay committed to the plan, and it’s a good one that’s been approved by someone who’s been where you want to go, you’ll likely get what you want.

When that happens, people will see your achievements as an ‘overnight success’, as they won’t see the day in and day out commitment that went into it. Like the bamboo, results that seem to show up overnight just appear publicly in that way. People will see the end result and assume you were “lucky”. It helps them feel better, as it gives them a reason to justify why they have not seen the same success.

If they really took an honest look at themselves, or had a mentor who could help them do so, they’d realize they were too busy jumping from idea to idea, quitting way too soon, working on things they shouldn’t have been just because it was the latest ‘craze’.

To use the bamboo tree analogy, success comes from picking an optimal route for you, and despite setbacks and naysayers, just continuing to water and fertilize your initial idea.

There’s no payoff in a bunch of half done projects.


30 Responses to “James and the Giant Bamboo”

  1. Sam

    Brilliant Billy, one of the reasons I’m starting to say no to a lot of good ideas, they simply distract me too much.

  2. Clint

    Great article. My only question is, when does the sunk cost fallacy come into play? Certainly in some situations pivoting or outright quitting may be the most prudent path to take. Do you have any thoughts on how to navigate that decision process?

  3. Been there

    Good story, Billy, and true as far as it goes. But it’s also true that persistence and patience will not turn garbage into gold. You need to make sure that the opportunity you choose really IS going to bear fruit if you nurture it and give it time. And that IMHO is the really hard part — being sure that the opportunity is worthy of your work and investment. Any wisdom to offer on that?

  4. Pablo

    Love that kind of stories related to entrepreneurship and business! Thank you very much Billy!

  5. Will Bauer

    Nice Story. I can relate so much. Don’t know how many different domains and blogs I started only to change everything afterwards.

    Don’t know where my first idea would be know if I would have worked on it for 4 years. But at least I am sure that I found my passion and my business. This one will grow and be successful what ever it takes. 🙂

  6. Darius Burgan

    Awesome blog post, Billy! I think this story was very interesting, especially since the writing style is a lot different than your usual. I’d love to see a few more of these in-between your business and self-improvement posts!

  7. Arthur

    Awesome post Billy.

    The entire story I was like “what is going to happen? Which one will be better off in the end?” Your writing and storytelling skills are evolving rapidly from that writing sprint you made.

    May I make one suggestion, though? A post on the specifics of what makes a market “good.” It has been a kind of a common theme of your posts lately, but I personally couldn’t quite grasp the elements of a good market yet. It seems that every online venture is marked as “hot” market.

    I’ve read the post on EV and on the business that prints money at least three times this past week, but I feel I couldn’t figure it out yet.

    Also, if Derek made the plan to actually make money with apples and persist despite his being subpar wouldn’t actually make a somewhat happy ending for him?

  8. Jim

    The world needs more Zachs and more posts like this. Thanks Billy.

  9. Barley

    I am currently what you would call a “Derek”, working towards being a James.
    Great story!

  10. joell

    Thank you so much for the knowledge that you share!

  11. Alex

    Nice story and format. This is a concept that is written about often but doesn’t stick well without an emotional pull like a story.

    After digging into Ben Franklin’s autobiography recently I realized a big chunk of writing on entrepreneurship and personal development rarely leaves the realm of spitting facts. Seeing high-level lessons, like this one, in a story make them easier to tap into when they’re actually needed. In spite of that, I think this is a format that should only be used intermittently. The simplicity is great but loses some of your expertise and voice as a writer.

    Content-wise, I’m grateful for the timing of this post. Very relevant to some of the deep planning I’ve been doing across different areas of life and I’m now adding the vision board element to my goals after reading.

  12. Matthew

    Hey Billy, thank you for your work. I’m currently in a state of, “what do I do? should I try this course? should I try that?” and reading your last two articles gave me a good slap in a face.

    After running a successful (profitable and well-liked) restaurant for three years, I decided that I wanted to start an online business so I closed the restaurant. I spent some time travelling to find myself after being consumed by my business. Now I am looking for my bamboo tree to plant but that has been the hardest part. I’ve been reading books and blogs but it seems like so many resources out there are, “write a blog and sell an ebook then create a course on how to start a business”.

    ..sorry about the rambling. I will have to think deep and find my bamboo so I can do meaningful work and provide value.

    • Marius

      If you have run a successful restaurant, why not start a business that has to do with helping restaurants to become also successful? This could be in form of a “coach” who visits restaurant and put them back on track or blog, book, video course etc. If you have valuable information for people, how they can easily fix their restaurant business, there should be quite a huge market as I heard the food business is competitive.

  13. James Amazio

    Another great post fellow FL’er… Ironically; I am a James being an ex-James doing the Derek route, but I’m still James because my name is James lol.

    Anyways, love your writing man.. hoping to get into writing on my personal/business life by summer.

  14. Vivek

    Great story….

  15. John

    Billy, just read about Derek and James, very good and with a great deeper meaning, thank you

  16. Brad Dias

    These parables are great. Keep them coming.

    Gets you to really THINK about how this situation can apply to your life in many different ways, not just business. Could be in Fitness, Relationships, and far more.

  17. Nimai

    A great story and analogy Billy. I have also been a Derek. I’m trying to find something that interests me and a enjoy doing, for me I’ve had a couple of different careers

  18. Nimai

    A great story and analogy Billy. I have also been a Derek. Although, I’m trying to find something I can stick with that interests me. I’m in experimentation phase, trying to become more self aware and to identity my strengths. I will persue interests as they arise.

  19. Ian

    great story!i need to get a mentor!

  20. David

    Awesome story. Great point of view. Keep up the hard work. Thanks alot

  21. Teemu

    Magnificent story with all the lessons tailored in it. Keep these coming! Quick fixes will never work for long term!

  22. Jontae Govan

    Great post!! I absolutely loved it. I thought it was fairly simple and did a great job of getting your point across. I love the fact that it was told as a story (because it always helps me to remember the moral).

  23. Justin

    Yes, I do enjoy the story, and would like to see more posts of this nature. Not every post, mind you, but a parable mixed in here and there.
    There’s something about parables that are much more engaging than ‘normal’ articles. If that’s not just me, then they would make a great way to teach simpler, or fundamental lessons.

  24. Carl

    I would be happy to read more posts like this.

    Will certainly help towards keeping us focused.

    The items I got from it are:-

    Define your goal.
    Create a vision board to keep you focused.
    Think long term (persistence).
    Get a mentor.

  25. Derek Young

    Nice article Billy. 🙂 How’s South Africa?

  26. Ian

    Awesome illustration of this process. It is stuff like this that becomes so important as you start really getting your ass kicked starting out- especially if you don’t have anybody helping you out.

    I think the most valuable advice you can get is on HOW to look at things, and that is what FJ is to me.

    Thanks for another great resource.

  27. David Gonzalez

    I feel like we are talking over dinner or hanging at some event, listening to you tell a story.

    Well done sir.

  28. TJ

    Do you have any experience with tax liens and deeds, and are you available for mentoring if so?


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