They say patience is a virtue. Yet, in today’s fast-paced world, impatience may also be a virtue. Impatience has led to many innovations. Once upon a time, the U.S. Postal System was considered one of the most efficient in the world. First class mail could be sent across the country in just 2-3 days. But impatience led people to develop and adopt email as a much faster form of written communication. First class mail, now dubbed snail mail, was relegated to greeting cards and hard copies of official documents. This impatience to work faster has also led to other innovations such as the fax machine, document scanner and software that allow documents to be uploaded FTP sites. The entire industry of overnight package delivery is another child of impatience. And, with each step business takes to do things faster, society’s patience grows shorter and actually encourages even more impatience.
What about when it comes to people? If patience is a virtue, can impatience also be a virtue? Yes. Impatience is not only a force that drives advancement in science and business. It can even improve certain social situations. The trick is to recognize when a situation would benefit from either impatience or patience, and apply the correct force accordingly. The goal is not to allow human nature to simply select one or the other at will or at random.
The Profile of An Impatient Person
While we all have moments of impatience, there are some who are more impatient than others… and some who are dominated by impatience. What is the quintessentially impatient person like? This person rises early in the morning to get more done each day. Things never happen fast enough to suit him or her. Time moves too slowly for the impatient person’s taste. The future does not arrive soon enough. Impatient people try to pack more activity into the allotted time than can possibly be done. An impatient person does not allot enough time for the things that need to be done, often making him or her late for events and meetings. Because impatient people do not like to wait for things, they may do things before adequate preparations have been made. They get upset if things do not happen soon enough. In their communications, they may be brief, and sometimes even abrupt or hasty. When channeled in a positive way, the impatient person is audacious and bold, always looking to the future and trying to get a jump on it.
Impatience Has Value
Entrepreneurs generally have an internal sense of urgency… a natural impatience. Entrepreneurially, they approach every opportunity with impatience. Once they know where they want to go, they want to get there as soon as possible. To be a successful entrepreneur, a sense of impatience is an asset. In a world where the fast eat the slow, impatience is synonymous with ambition, motivation, and a drive for results. Steve Jobs epitomized this. He was famously impatient. Everyone who ever worked with him testified to his impatience with product development time and his constant need to push the envelope to make products faster. His sense of impatience is what helped Apple transform a slow-moving telecom industry that previously hadn’t had much innovation since the wireless phone.
Impatience has been a virtue for leaders as well. President Kennedy was impatient about putting a man on the moon. People said “it can’t be done, we have to wait, the science is too complex…” Kennedy replied “We choose to go to the moon in this decade … not because it is easy, but because it is hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone…”
Impatience is also a valuable quality for salespeople. There’s an old saying in sales that “you eat what you kill.” Those with a goal or a desire to succeed understand that there is a need to go out there and get it. There is no waiting for success to come calling. It must be pursued with impatience. Indeed, when it comes to chasing the dream, impatience is invaluable. There is great wisdom in the old adage “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” It can be useful to be impatient…. Restless…. Hungry.
However, aimless impatience without focus can be counterproductive. Without direction or a clear goal, impatience can be a lot like wheels furiously spinning without traction…. just a lot of wasted effort. It is important to have a clear sense of purpose before unleashing impatience. Once there is a clear goal, then it is can be beneficial to take immediate steps toward achieving it. While others get paralyzed contemplating the big picture, giving time for momentum and excitement to lag, successful people are eager and impatient to take the first step.
Impatience Is Not Always The Best Approach
Keep in mind that, even in business, impatience is not always a virtue. There are occasions where there is a need to think things through, do due diligence and avoid leaping too quickly into uncertain situations. Being impatient is not permission to be reckless. Savvy business people know there is a need to take smart, calculated risks. And impatience does not condone or give anyone permission to be testy or curt with others. There is no point in being angry about the weather or a flight delay or other things that are beyond most peoples’ control.
Indeed, while there are times for impatience, there also times when there is a need to be patient with people – employees and family alike — and especially their feelings. There are also many situations where there is a need to be patient and understanding. When teaching, it is probably best to be patient, even if there is a strong force of impatience pushing to break free. On the other hand, when trying to perform a task being held up by an unproductive employee or colleague, impatience may come in handy.
Again, the key is to recognize when a situation would benefit from impatience, and apply it accordingly. Choosing those moments well will mean the difference between moving swiftly and just spinning your wheels.
Quote of the Week
“The biggest quality in successful people I think is an impatience with negative thinking. … How many opportunities come along? If you wait for the right one, that’s wrong, because it may never be right, and what have you got to lose? Even if it’s a disaster, you’ve tried, you’ve learned something, you’ve had an adventure. And that doesn’t mean you can’t do it again.” Edward McCabe
© 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.