I remember a conversation with one of my mentors at the beginning of my career. I received some advice which I did not want to hear in my mid-twenties: “You have to be patient. You can’t force everything to happen immediately the way you want it to happen. Be patient, if you work hard and know what you want, things will fall into place eventually.” I was full of energy. I wanted to change the world – immediately, not when I would be “older and wiser”. I did not have the time to wait that long.
Patience. I am good at many things. But patience is definitely not one of them. I want things to happen fast. If I have a certain idea in mind, I have to carry it out immediately and it has to work how I want it to be and it has to happen fast. You can imagine how well this strategy turns out in real life. My issue is not that I cannot wait for things to happen. I guess it is rather a type of excitement. When something interesting comes to my mind, there is this tickling feeling in my stomach and I cannot stop thinking about it. And because I am so excited, I do not want to accept that there are hurdles to overcome or delays trying to mess with my project.
We live in a world where everything has to happen fast. We want our careers to progress as fast as we receive the news on our smartphones. Success has to be instant. As a business student we were all made to believe certain myths. One of them was the consulting myth: “I am going to work as a consultant for one of the big four companies and after two years, I will be hired as CEO by one of my clients.” Fast forward over a decade, none of those who entered consulting jobs became CEOs after two years. Some did take over leadership positions, but it took much longer than most would have expected. Good things take time. Of course, there were no shortcuts. But when you are young and excited, the last thing you want to hear is that it takes time, effort and a ton of mental strength to reach your goals.
Similarly, there is the myth of overnight success: Businesses which seem to come out of nowhere, suddenly making millions in revenue. But a closer look into many of these stories reveals the real amount of work, effort and time involved. Very often, it took years to build said “overnight success”. But this is not what we want to hear about. We do not want to read about long stretches of uncertainty, about sleepless nights contemplating if everything will be OK, if it will finally pay off. It is much more compelling to focus on the last stretch and to think that somebody snapped their fingers and within a few months they were not only operating a business but making millions in profit.
Sometimes it is really, really tough to be patient. If you pour your heart and soul into your business, you want to see it prosper soon. We do not want a standstill. But later on, we realise that these long and hard stretches happened for a reason. More than once, I looked back at what had felt like a standstill, only to realise that it actually was a very important phase where I had to overcome hurdles which made me much stronger in the long-run. Sometimes, I even learned how to anticipate future problems because I had to solve similar ones in the past.
We cannot force our lives into the molds we made up in our mind. We also are not able to force our business into an overnight success or our career into a certain path. I had to learn that this applies to our personal lives as well: the relationships (whether with friends or partners) which I forced too much, did not turn out that well most of the time. In general, the things I tried to force where never the ones which were supposed to happen. And when I forced them into becoming reality, they turned out really badly. Similarly, the things which came naturally and without any pressure were the ones which were meant to happen.
Whatever challenges you are currently facing, whatever project requires all your strength and effort, whatever relationships you are working on – think about patience as something positive. Just switch gears and take it a bit slower. Things will fall into place.