Patience is a Virtue, for Losers

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Editor’s note: Contributor Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is the founder and CEO of WatchMojo.  Follow him @ashkan.

Patience is one of the seven virtues, the lesser-known cousins of the seven sins.  And indeed, “patience is a virtue” – or so goes the saying.  But another saying states that “fortune favors the bold.” So which one is it?

Well, here’s the thing.  Yes, life is a marathon, but whether you define success by recognition, respect, money, power or fame – success is subjective, relative and fluid and boils down to Ambition, Vision, Determination, Execution, Luck and Timing.

In other words, success doesn’t fall in your lap; never has, never will. Besides, life’s too short, so don’t sit back.

 “I haven’t got a lot of patience”, Jeffrey Katzenberg

It’s not that patience isn’t valued; it’s that no one else is actually all that patient.  Whether you are growing a business or chasing a girl or trying to lose weight or auditioning on American Idol, no one will sit around and wait for results.

They will be impatient. This doesn’t mean you should be impatient, it just means that in the words of George Jackson: “Patience has its limits.  Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.”

Success is Most Definitely a Target, Albeit a Moving One

Regardless of what drives you and how you define it, people care about the outcome of your efforts and not the journey; frankly, the experience you gain throughout your journey is really only of value to you.  But since we have limited needs but infinite wants, we tend to compete with everybody for the spoils.  As such, if you think that you will be rewarded for your patience, you’re a sucker, and will end up a loser.

This Ain’t The Super Bowl

It’s commonplace to use sports analogies in business, I do it all the time. But whereas in sports you compete with one or multiple individuals or teams, in business you ultimately compete against yourself: Apple really didn’t care that much about Research In Motion’s Blackberry.

Once you venture into a business, you need to put enough points on the board and then manage the clock (told you I liked sports analogies).  To do that you need to get ahead.

People who Preach Patience are Patronizing You

“We are telling the American people to have patience, courage, resolve and determination” Muammar Gaddafi.

Oftentimes those who urge you to remain patient are in fact patronizing you.  As football coach Steve Spurrier said: ”If people like you too much, it’s probably because they’re beating you”.

Be honest: how often has someone you looked up to told you that if you basically sat on your ambition and dreams they’d eventually open doors for you.

How often did they deliver?  Let me jog your memory: never.  If they did, it’s because you posed no threat to them.  You will be successful despite those people, not because of them.

Life is a Big Game of Musical Chairs

All of this Tony Robbins-esque talk is nice, but how does it help you:

If you’re working on a product, don’t wait for perfection.  “Perfection is the enemy of The Good”.  Even that messiah of perfection and attention to detail, Steve Jobs, reminded  everyone that “real artists ship”.  So did Mark Zuckerberg: Stay Focused, Keep Shipping.

If you see an opening for a job, don’t sit still.  No one will pull you aside and offer you the gig.  Go for it.  No one will think any lesser of you for going after the ball.  They’ll respect you, albeit reluctantly.

Don’t wait to close that round of funding before tackling the big opportunities you see; make it happen to the best of your abilities.

Now, A Word of Caution

1)      Balance is everything in life.  Too much impatience never helped anyone. I can list 100 quotes to that effect.

2)      Shortcuts get a bad rep, but they’re there for a reason. Those who fail to take advantage of them are in fact, ironically, lazy or unimaginative.

3)      Nothing replaces tact, dignity, respect and diplomacy.  It’s fine to press the pedal to the metal, but treat people the way you want to be treated.

4)      Wearing your ambition on your sleeve is a recipe to get cut off at the knees; hence the Russian quote “The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the scythe”.

5)      If you’re perceived as too brazen and ballsy then you won’t even know whose butt you should kiss since no one will give you the time of day to start off with.

6)      Reduced patience only means heightened risk.  You can score by moving down the field 10-yards at a time or throwing a Hail Mary. Clearly, one comes with more danger.

7)      Nothing can replace preparation and practice.

The Paradox of Patience

Of course, patience is in itself not static.  For example,

  • Once you have children, suddenly you become more patient, but ruthlessly, you have less time to spare for those who waste your time.
  • As you become more successful in life, you become more comfortable to let the clock run out.

When it’s over and done: if you want to end up in a better position than where you started, then burn the playbook they give you and write you own.

Photo credit: Nicolò Paternoster