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How I lost my patience with impatience

What are your weaknesses? When I was hunting for a job right after uni, I once was told that if a recruiter asks me this question, I should tell them I'm impatient. It's a smart answer because recruiters will consider this alleged weakness a strength in disguise.

It's easy to see why: Impatient people have drive and get things done. They demand a lot from others and, even more important, from themselves. Impatient people put in the extra effort to reach their goal more quickly. And isn't that exactly what companies are looking for?

Admittedly, I probably heeded this advice several times at the start of my professional life. And I wasn't even lying. I often got impatient if things didn't move. But I since realised that impatience isn't a strength in disguise. It's hindering us in many ways. In fact, patience - not impatience - is one of my most valuable assets. And I've seen many examples where impatience has led to flawed solutions, unsustainable levels of stress and a huge waste of resources.

I once was told the story of a CEO whom a leader in his company approached with a project they were seeking funding for. When asked by the CEO about the time frame, the leader estimated a certain number of months. The CEO greenlighted the project under the condition that it would be delivered in a third of the estimated time.

I don't know all the details of that situation and the motivation of this particular CEO to compress the timeframe down to a third. There may have been sensible reasons. But if an "I want it now" mentality runs rampant in a company, it comes with serious risks.

I've worked with people who were downright proud of their impatience. They believed their impatience to be a key driver of their success. They tricked themselves into believing they had created a shortcut to success by trying to get everything immediately. But impatience is not a skill.

Another interesting area to explore is the relationship between impatience and passion. For some people, if they pursue something with passion, they need things to happen fast. To them, patience may look like a lack of passion or indifference. How can you truly care about something and find it acceptable to wait for it? But while you can pursue your passion with all of your energy and resources, you can't force it. It may sound harsh, but the world doesn't revolve around your passion. That's why meeting your passion with patience makes you much more resourceful and, ultimately, increases your chance to succeed.

Yet another source of confusion is the relationship between patience and having a sense of urgency. Thoseare different things but get mixed up easily. For an impatient person, everything always seems urgent - simply due to their impatience. Urgency has become the default mode. Everyone who has worked for a person that follows this pattern knows it's not sustainable.

I believe patience and having a sense of urgency can co-exist in perfect harmony. I would even say the combination of the two has proven to be the most valuable to me. It's crucial to recognise when something needs to be dealt with urgently. Indifference or simply not caring isn't patience. But it's problematic whenurgency is caused solely by our own impatience. You can be a patient person with a keen sense of urgency.

If you have read this far, I'd like to encourage you to reflect on your views on patience, having a sense of urgency and pursuing your passions. If you haven't yet cracked the riddle of bringing together and aligning those three elements, don't panic. Maybe all it takes is a little patience.


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