Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Impatience: There’s no Winning without Waiting

You can’t steer a parked car. If you want to accomplish something, you have to start moving. Inaction gives birth to nothing.

But that is not the whole story.

You also can’t steer a car speeding out of control. If we want to accomplish our goals, we need to start. But we also need patience.

Photo by Little Orange Crow (Creative Commons)

Photo by Little Orange Crow (Creative Commons)

Have you ever wanted something so bad you counted the days, hours, minutes? Have you felt like you would crack open if it didn’t arrive? I have.

While knowing what you want is a good thing, impatience can keep you from getting it. Here are three areas where we need patience in order to reach the finish line.

Patience in starting

Car makers often market their high performance vehicles based on the time it takes them to reach 60 mph from resting position. “Zero to sixty in just over 4 seconds”, the voice over states. But note something, it is zero to sixty not zero or sixty.

Some of us live like there are only two speeds in life—
zero, nothing, standstill, stalling, feet-dragging, inaction
sixty, full tilt, 110%, out-of-control, pedal to the medal, craziness.

For example, we have an idea to start a non-profit and by bed time of the first day we’ve already bought a domain name, drawn an organizational chart, and researched donation websites. We are all in.

The problem is we aren’t sure exactly what we are in. The idea has not had time to settle into our soul. We haven’t yet counted the cost and decided we are willing to pay it. And a few weeks in, when we realize how hard it is to start a non-profit, we will probably give up.

We jumped from zero to sixty without really knowing where we were going.

In our battle with Inaction we have to beware of Impatience. Starting doesn’t mean pressing the pedal to the floor. It means giving it some gas and responsibly building speed.

Part of starting is coming up with a plan. If you want to start a company, step one is not filling out forms at city hall. First, buy some business books, take a few small business owners out to lunch, do research. This is starting too.

Now there will be a point when you have to “get some skin in the game.” This is the point of no return. You make a down-payment on a property. You hire your first employee. You advertise the grand opening. But you have patiently built to this point so you are ready to handle the pressure that accompanies it.

My Dad is a basketball coach. He always tells his players, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Perhaps we could say, “Be patient, but don’t stall.”

Patience in continuing

If you are starting a new blog and your goal is to have 10,000 subscribers by the end of the first year, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. How will you respond when, in 12 months, your email list includes only your mom, best friend, and sister?

Setting a big goal is great. If I am going to sacrifice and dig in and labor I want it to be for something big. However, big goals take time.

William Wilberforce understood this. In 1781, he set his mind to abolishing the British slave trade. As a member of Parliament, he was uniquely positioned for the task. Still it required 26 years of tireless effort for him to succeed. He was patient. He set a big goal and then stuck with it until it was accomplished.

Why not set a goal that will take a while to reach? Do you really want to give your life to something you can accomplish in 12 months?

But to succeed we need what Nietzsche called “a long obedience in the same direction”. What we often offer is “a short burst in a random direction.”

Patience allows us to stay faithful to the work at hand when we are not seeing results. Are you willing to take the countless intermediate steps required to succeed?

Patience in finishing

We usually start a project or dream a vision or make a goal because of what we see in the future. We start because there is a finish line.

I have a friend who wants to be a full-time writer. Sometimes the dream energizes her. Sometimes it suffocates her. Dreams are like that.

She can wake up and think, “One day, I will be a full-time writer and today I will make one step in that direction.”
Or she can tell herself in the morning, “Today, I am not a full-time writer.”

Every day she wakes up between now and the finish-line. She can view it as failure or faithfulness.

This is how I felt writing a book. No matter how much I wrote that day, the book was still unfinished. The project sat heavy on my shoulders and I struggled to carry the weight.  The best days were those when I asked myself: what is one thing I can do today that will get me closer to the finish line?

Patience allows us to delay gratification and press forward.

Without patience, there is only the now and what I can get from it.
Without patience we are sucked into our microwave culture.
Without patience, we won’t have the grit to finish.
Without patience, we will get lost in the present and never find our way to the finish line.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Point your car in the right direction, give it a little gas, and don’t stop until you reach your destination. You will be glad you did.

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