To wrap up the series it seemed appropriate to allow some time to pass and build up a little anticipation – like generating the demand for the release of the latest mobile device. December is an ideal month for demonstrating the theme of this article – patience. This is the month filled with waiting and eager expectations. This includes the first snowfall of the season, the ideal conditions to begin winter sports, experiencing the first weather related delay or cancellation of school, finishing up exams for the semester and receiving final grades, starting the extended winter break, traveling to visit friends and family, participating in the traditions of the holidays, giving out and receiving bonuses or gifts, seeing the excitement on children’s or adult’s faces from the surprises of the season, waiting for the daylight hours to get longer, or looking forward to the coming new year.
Patience really just means don’t give up and recognize when the time has come to take action. It does not mean procrastinating or acting as a passive observer as opportunity passes by – time and again. We’ve all heard some variation of the proverb, “good things come to those who wait”. Out of context this saying implies that if you simply wait long enough that everything will come to you irrespective of what you might do to better your situation. We know this not to be true. Some effort must be made to combine patience with other virtues, such as courage to make mistakes and wisdom derived from experience.
“Patience is not passive, on the contrary, it is concentrated strength.” Bruce Lee
Actors must seek the proper moment to react and respond to the lines or action in a scene to create sincerity in their performance. Musicians must rest until their section approaches within a composition, and then play at a prescribed pace and rhythm (yes, even with jazz music). A hitter in baseball has to wait for the pitcher to deliver the ball, then decide within milliseconds if it’s the pitch they wanted and swing to connect at the ideal moment. A running back in football has to wait for the hand-off, allow for a hole in the line to open up or the blocks to set up, then rush through to gain any yardage.
Fishing often is associated with patience. Though some of the best anglers are not known to be terribly patient, particularly if fishing is their primary source of income. Even so, they are to the extent where they have experienced success before, otherwise they will try new combinations of lures and locations to make the most of time with a line in the water.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy
My brother and I weren’t necessarily the best fishermen, rather adequate. When we were in our middle to late childhood years we would fish off a dinghy from a mooring in a serene little harbor on the coast of New England. We would use hand-lines and sea worms to catch flounder, pollock, skates, and rock crabs with terrific success nearly every time. Success for us meant enough to serve dinner to our family of six.
Our technique might have been considered unorthodox, but it was effective. We’d hook a couple of sea worms through their mouth pincers and two more times through the body on a spreader rig, unwind the hand-line to the floor of the harbor and wind it back up about a foot or so. Then we’d each lay across a bench seat of the dinghy with our heads back on the bench and heels up on the gunwale and the line running between our bare toes. We would jig the line up and down casually with our feet while we rested and sunned ourselves.
When we felt a jerk on the line we’d get up and haul up whatever was on the other end. Often it would be the rock crabs trying to steal our bait. And if we brought the line up too fast, the crabs would let go as they neared the surface. But through patience and practice we determined that winding the line up at about a half a foot per second would encourage the crabs to hang on long enough so we could bring them into the boat and keep them from stealing more bait or eat them later if they were big enough. The flounder and other fish were appreciably heavier, so we pulled them up as fast as we could.
The secret to this success was patience and timing. We only used our technique in warmer months and we would wait for certain times of day. Specifically, we would bide our time for the rising tide – when the current would be flooding back into the harbor after low tide. Through the persistence of trial and error we found the right combination of bait, determined when to start fishing, how far to drop the line, and how fast to pull up the catch. The experience of previous failures required us to adjust our methods. And successes allowed us to be more patient with the process and incrementally improve it.
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas A. Edison
If you work or live in a culture of “failure is not an option” or “failure will not be tolerated” then you are in an environment that lacks patience, maturity, and will ultimately fail you. While “perfection” is a grand goal, it is an ideal that cannot be achieved and held. If instead the expectation is softened to something potentially attainable like “excellence” or “the best” then achievement is more realistic, however challenging. Yet even under these new “reduced” standards, patience and tolerance will be required from self and others.
Patience expects that you give events proper time to develop. Or to take the time to examine other perspectives that hadn’t been considered at first blush. Patience is the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting and preserving your energy for the right situation, while avoiding frustration that leads to poor decisions.
“Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” Napoleon Hill
For several years I had the recurring opportunity of commuting through Boston, one of the worst metros for traffic. Theoretically the commute should take only an hour. Due to the traffic there was never a time in the years of traveling through that corridor that it took only an hour – even at midnight, on a weekend, with clear weather, going downhill, and with a tailwind. It was a good and rare day when the commute was only 1.5 times longer than it was supposed to take. Though 2 to 2.5 times longer was more typical. And 3 to 4 hours could be expected if the timing of rush hour was misjudged or any type of weather event occurred like snow, fog, or rainbows.
There are several conditions which you cannot control when commuting, but you can anticipate and plan for them. The distance is predictable. The highway construction is planned. Rush hour is the same window at the start and end of every workday. The weather is forecasted. Patience is easiest when conditions are predictable. But situations vary. Weather can change. Accidents and vehicle breakdowns happen. These unpredictable factors lead to frustration, stress, impatience and, ultimately, to poor decisions.
As a novice commuter the first option considered for entertainment on these journeys was tuning into the radio for local sports, news stories, or music. But the content could get stale, irritating, or was simply not preferred. Flipping around and finding nothing more agreeable would cause further frustration. This would make the trips less pleasant – causing me to become fully conscious of the traffic, the lack of forward progression, and focus on the bad behavior of some other drivers.
To improve my patience I decided to eliminate the station flipping by streaming my favorite music playlists. However, after several times through the playlists, the songs became less enjoyable and might even start causing resentment due to their association with the worst traffic conditions. The approach also lacked the productive gains possible from my time on the road, since I was listening to songs I already knew and was not experiencing anything new.
Switching to audiobooks and podcasts on topics that were of interest to me brought about the desired result. It was surprising the effect that this decision had – the commute was something to look forward to and the fluctuation in time was not as troublesome and might even be desired if the content was intriguing enough. My patience with the traffic and other drivers was significantly improved – even when people cut me off, did not signal lane changes, or drifted out of their lane while using their cell phones.
There are 4 keys exhibited above which can be used to train yourself to become more patient:
1) Understand what it is that is causing you to feel impatient – not getting what or where you want as soon as you want it.
2) Recognize what else is feeding into the heightened emotional reaction – environment, physical discomfort, tiredness, stress, or other forms of duress.
3) Consciously re-imagine the circumstances of the situation – the universe is not trying to make life any more difficult for you than anyone else.
4) Proactively turn the negatives to your advantage – make positive use of the extended time available to you.
As mentioned in the previous articles in this series, you must be prepared as best you can to take advantage of and recognize when an opportunity arises and have the courage to act when it presents itself. That combination of vision, practice, confidence, and patience are the elements that generate good fortune – that is the secret behind the mystique of luck. By all means, accept whatever luck, good will, and blessings are available to you. But set yourself up to be in the proper place at the optimal moment with the correct tools and you’ll be assured success in whatever your endeavors may be!
“If you look really closely, most overnight success took a long time.” Steve Jobs
Would love to see your comments on this topic of “PATIENCE”