Patience is a skill I’ve struggled with my whole life. Many years ago my then boss brought to my attention that in order to get ahead in my career I would have to face my shortcomings with patience head on and make some significant changes to the way I went about things at work and at home. This is where I learned the valuable saying, ‘seek to understand before being understood’.
Improve my patience? This definitely wasn’t going to be easy.
The more time I spent building awareness around why I struggled with patience the more I began to realize that my issues with patience were rooted in a way of thinking which I had developed over a life time. My thought process was an unyielding focus on things always being perfect and when they were anything but perfect my issues with patience would soon coming roaring center stage.
Naturally, I applied this thought process to myself constantly along with the people I worked with and who worked for me. As in life, there are always moments of challenge, let down and dealing with the unknown so my thought process on a utopian way of life where nothing ever goes wrong, everything is perfect and everyone performs to expectation and beyond, was quite absurd. My lack of patience played a key role in this thought process because I wasn’t comfortable living in the ‘gray’ and dealing with ambiguity, my thought process was always black and white. When you lack the skill of patience you seek immediate resolve, regardless if that’s the right answer or not for the given moment. Many times it isn’t.
As time went on I came to realize that one of the
best ways to improve patience was to simply do nothing. When I would be faced with a challenge, a tough conversation, a moment of “what the hell were you thinking”, rather than act I would simply do nothing and observe. I credit this lesson to an incredibly powerful book on the subject of patience called 4 Seconds by Peter Bregman. As you may have guessed from the title of the book, four seconds is all it takes according to Bregman to quell the need for immediate responses while giving yourself a chance to breathe and think things through. Four seconds doesn’t seem like a lot of time but when you put it into practice it’s amazing how effective it can be. In fact, this book was so impactful I consider it one of my top 10 reads!
Recently I had a personal experience which served as a keen reminder on how patience is vital to a balanced lifestyle; in fact it can also lead to you making more money.
Our family made a decision to sell a car with the idea of getting a bigger one to accommodate the volume of stuff we tote around thanks to our little daughter. I’m continually amazed at how much crap one little kid can have, which is probably my fault, but that’s another article in itself.
So we’re upgrading vehicles for the sake of making our lives easier. I’ve sold many cars in the past so this certainly wasn’t my first rodeo however I would soon find out that the experience and results would be very new to me.
As my wife and I made the decision to sell our car the easy solution was to just go trade the car in at the dealership where we were going to buy the new car. As we were meeting with the dealership coming close to finalizing the deal all of a sudden I thought to myself, “wait, why sell the car now just because we can, we don’t need to sell it immediately and perhaps waiting (welcome to the stage our friend ‘patience’) will bring about a better option that pays us more of what the car is worth”. Well, let’s be honest here, my wife said that and I was sitting there saying, “why didn’t I think of that”.
Here’s how things went down…
Our car’s private party and Kelley Blue Book (KBB) value was about $24,500. While KBB is a useful tool it isn’t always accurate but does provide a good benchmark. As we spent more time searching our options here’s what we came across:
- Dealership Trade-In: $19,600 ($4,900 below value)
- CarMax: $21,000 ($3,500 below value)
- Beepi (online version of CarMax, just better): $23,500 ($1,000 below value)
After we carefully reviewed our options it was apparent that going with Beepi was the easy decision. We were impressed with their customer service, straightforward approach on how they value cars and business model, with the best part being they came to us. We never left our home and the car sold for a price that we were happy with.
We’re all confronted with opportunities to practice patience on a daily basis. From this experience I’ve learned that when I'm considering to make a decision which could be hasty or impatient I now think of this experience selling our car and think to myself how much money could I be leaving on the table by acting now?
Do you struggle with patience sometimes?
If so, test it out. Go through this week and take four seconds before you respond or make up your mind on something. What you may find out is that the four seconds you take to think something through could result in you making more money down the road, or just simply being happier with the outcome of whatever it is you’re faced with.
“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.” ― Aristotle
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.