Why Is Patience So Important?
I am often asked what it takes to start a company and see it prosper and succeed. Of course, there’s a long list of factors: money, people, technology, good advice, and judgment, to name a few. One thing I tell every person considering an entrepreneurial venture is the importance of having a lot of patience.
In a world of instant information, feedback, and connection we are spoiled into believing that everything is “instant.” That combined with overnight small business success stories makes patience all that much more difficult.
I admit this advice comes from someone who is not patient. I want things to happen quickly and according to plan. But I have found that if I exercise patience, the end result is always better: the partnership more on-target, the contract richer, the hire a better fit.
I am not suggesting that you stop setting goals and timelines. Both are very important to not only motivate you and your colleagues, but also to measure progress and provide guideposts. But as you move through your entrepreneurial journey, pay close attention to the pressure you are applying. Is it consistent, purposeful pressure like that needed to create a diamond? Or are you using the brute force of a sledgehammer?
The business graveyard is filled with companies that didn’t properly exercise patience. Expectations were out of line and leaders did too much, too soon. WebVan, a grocery delivery service in the 90s, moved too quickly to expand, and took on infrastructure and overhead at lightning speed. The company ultimately collapsed under that weight. Netflix if you recall hastily announced the creation of a separate Qwikster DVD-by-mail service and lost 800,000 subscribers before it was even created.
I am no expert at exercising patience, but I understand that as the leader of my organization my attitude impacts everyone I interact with and they will in turn feed off of that energy in a positive, or negative way.
If you are sure of your mission and of your ultimate destination, lean forward with an understanding that it will take longer than you expected.
Having trouble mastering patience?
Well, to combat that, you could try standing in the longest line at the supermarket. Or, when driving on the freeway, get behind someone observing the speed limit—and stay there. Or, if someone yells at you because you are not paying attention, turn and give him or her a big compliment.
Patience is a matter of control. I certainly do not possess it, but I do admire those who do. And as someone who likes to be in control, as do most executives with whom I work, control may open the window to developing greater levels of patience.
It is a fact that we cannot control what happens to us but we can surely control how we respond to it.
Patience unfairly is perceived as a passive act. In reality, as we know from the Buddhist tradition, it is all about self-mastery, and that requires absolute control over one’s thoughts, words, and deeds. Instead of directing your desire to control others, focus instead on yourself.
I fully understand that as virtuous as patience may be, it has its limits. For example, how long should you put up with an employee who is going through the motions and not contributing? Or how long should you endure a boss who cannot make a decision, and risks running your project off the rails? Or how long should you remain in an organization that has values that do not complement your own?
Patient leaders are not pacifists per se; they are often activists by nature. They are more like former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who quipped, “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”
Such leaders want to make things happen. And they act for the good of the team. But along the way they have learned that too much action is really inaction. Never mistake activity for productivity. And so it behooves us to slow things down and control what we can control.
Remember: Patience is Power. It is really all about “timing”… Waiting on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way. Now go and start using this all important tool to redefine your authority, your reputation, and your ability to inspire others, create great wealth and shape your world.