No one enjoys being patient. You can hardly blame us, right? Given that the root word of patience comes from the Latin pati, which means suffering, it makes perfect sense. The question is whether you want to suffer now or later. I assert that if we can reframe how we think about being patient, it will serve as a significant step toward ameliorating the suffering altogether.
Faster is Slower
In Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization (a must-read for any CEO), he offers 11 laws in Chapter 4. Number 6 is “faster is slower.” While he explains this point by referencing the story of the tortoise and the hare, stating that while the tortoise is slower, he always wins the race. He also talks about the reality of business:
“For most American business people, the best rate of growth is fast, faster, and fastest. Yet, virtually all natural systems, from ecosystems to animals to organizations, have intrinsically optimal rates of growth. The optimal rate is far less than the fastest possible growth. When growth becomes excessive—as it does in cancer—the system itself will seek to compensate by slowing down; perhaps putting the organization’s survival at risk in the process.” Here, Senge talks about being receptive to the system beyond the task at hand. To do this, however, requires patience.
A simple illustration that always connected with me was when I would receive a gift that included the note: Assembly Required. My former way of doing things would involve tossing the directions aside, looking at all the parts, checking out the picture on the front of the box, and getting started. Without understanding the “system,” I would dive right in. I believed that by taking all that time to review the instructions, I was somehow slowing down the process of putting this wonderful gift together and getting it to function. I’d have leftover parts more often than not, which required me to take the item apart and put it back together again or force a piece into place because I didn’t follow the proper sequencing, only to break it. Sure, tossing the directions helped me get started faster, but I always completed the task more slowly and often with consequences.
What Nature Teaches Us
In my “Assembly Required” example, I ignored the instructions that were right in front of me. Francis Cholle, the author of Squircle and the Intuitive Compass, has taught me a great deal about looking beyond the data and outcome metrics and tapping into our intuition – a resource capable of solving complex challenges the rational mind cannot.
Cholle illustrates this dynamic by inviting a group to play The Squircle Game. Imagine for a moment, 12 people standing in a room with their eyes closed, reciting the alphabet as an ensemble. Sound easy? Consider this: Each participant can only say one letter at a time. If someone repeats a letter or two people say a letter simultaneously, they start over. At first, the participants try to strategize their way through the game. Suffice it to say that it doesn’t work. Without giving too much away, Francis then coaches them to be aware of their breathing and surroundings. Rather than think their way through the game, they learn how to feel their way through it by being receptive to everything around them. Only then is it possible for a group to get from A-Z.
It reminds me of spending time in the mountains of Colorado on a clear summer night, where there is no ambient light to spoil a clear view of the stars. The best part is that the longer you stare at the stars, the more that begin to emerge. You start seeing what you couldn’t see just a few minutes earlier because you have the patience to consume the entire experience.
Adopting a Beginner’s Mindset
A new friend of mine, John O’Brien, wrote an article recently about what it takes to be a successful member of a peer group. Adopting a beginner’s mindset is among them. Think about the last time you attended a presentation on a subject area you knew well. Suppose the opening five minutes left you assuming that you’ve “seen this movie before,” and as a result, you didn’t have the patience to suspend your assumptions and remain receptive to the message. In that case, you likely missed several nuggets of wisdom. As a listener, if you’re as patient as the person gazing into the Colorado night sky, you might learn something.
Attorney Gerry Spence once said, “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” The more open and receptive we are to the wonders of the world, the more likely we are to harness those wonders as our gifts to others. We are a part of nature, not apart from it. The sooner we recognize this, the easier it becomes to bring our whole self to our relationships and decision-making. It also transformed my belief about the value of reading the instructions and the awesome power of patience.
Written by Leo Bottary. Have you read?