Friday, December 19, 2008

Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength

Coach Mo Cheeks had a thoughtful answer when he was asked about the recent rash of firings in the NBA:

"It's the urgency to win, to try and get the gratification early. That's what this business is, just trying to win. [Owners] want to get their team where they want it to be and they feel like they're not going in that direction."

The great John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, was a believer in patience (and hard work). In his words:

"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."

A family friend sent me a book a few years ago by David Keller called "Oasis of Wisdom." In the middle of the book, there's a chapter on patience. Here's an excerpt from that chapter:

Twenty-first century cultures have become increasingly impatient. Fast food, fast credit, even faster traffic and quick and efficient solutions to conflict... are hallmarks of our era.

It is difficult to be a leader in today's society. The pressure for results are intense. With communications and events taking place with greater speed, the public demands quicker responses and solutions.

Leaders in all sectors of life have little time to ponder decisions. Leaders are often considered... weak if they take time to weigh options or balance their public responsibilities... with reflection.

This modern impatience places a higher value on the moment and short-term results than on longer-term vision and development.

What are we becoming and who are we becoming in our "results rule" frenzy?

When I was back visiting the University of San Diego recently, I saw a quote posted on the door of a professor (or graduate assistant) that read:

"The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen."

Unfortunately, as Keller points out in the excerpt above, today patience is regarded not as a strength, but as a weakness. Today, people equate patience with inaction.

But patience doesn't mean sitting around doing nothing.

As novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton put it: "Patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is active; it is concentrated strength."

Similarly, there's a great saying that goes: "Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow - that is patience."

As Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, and the Celtics will tell you, "Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet."

"Experience has taught me this: We undo ourselves by impatience. Misfortunes have their life and their limits." -- Michel de Montaigne