Bull kelp or bamboo tree? The lesson I’m still in as I approach my 38th year

Dr Erin Bowe

June 8, 2021

Recognise any of these broken records?

I have to work hard in order to deserve time off

Or maybe you take time out, rest but then fall into:

I now have to manifest, create or launch something on account of having rested

Truthfully, I still sometimes struggle with both. It comes from having to work really hard to understand math as a child. Every math teacher I had as a child said some version of “you just need to focus and work harder and you’ll get it”. I also worked (and excelled) in hyper-masculine private practices that value productivity and profit over people.

I sometimes still catch myself equating my value with how hard I work.

I​ recently learned that bull kelp can grow up to 5 inches a day. Think about that compared to the bamboo tree analogy (basically no growth until 5 years later).

I start winter all ‘yay, it’s winter in my business, time to wind down and rest’ but then I want to force it to be spring.

I’ve wanted to finish editing my book on maternal health and social media so that I could be entering my 38th birthday having completed another book. It’s annoying me that I can’t get it done in the time I’d like. When I was finishing writing More Than a Healthy Baby last year, I took a weekend to burrow away and get it finished. No writer’s retreat, just my bedroom and some noise cancelling headphones. I still had something like 5 chapters to write, let alone edit, but somehow, I got it done. There were even minimal re-edits from either of my book’s editors.

I decided to try this strategy again this past weekend. I started at maybe 2PM on a Saturday, and really focused. I got up to make cups of tea, stretch and pee, but that was about it. Before I knew it, the time had flown and it was 5PM on Sunday. I was only as far as page 96, so still loads of work to do.

I was disappointed as I really did focus. I wrote down my intentions, I meditated, I didn’t procrastinate, and I did everything ‘right’. With still 11 chapters to go, I know I wasn’t going to finish but still found myself wondering if I could just churn out a little more?

I have a whole colour system for editing. Yellow highlighter for ‘doesn’t sound right yet’, blue for ‘rephrase to avoid direct plagiarism’ (like when I copy a chunk of text from a research article), and green for ‘needs a reference’.  My strategy for remembering where I’m up to in a document is to highlight it in pink.

This is where I’ve currently highlighted pink in the manuscript:

Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax – David Allen

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – we lead by resting. It’s OK to go slow even if everyone else seems to be speeding along in their business. Bamboo trees are for more glorious to look at than bull kelp anyway.


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