We like to think of Patience as a virtue. It is, for the most part because it follows the comfortable path of erring on the side of caution. When you slow down, you decrease your chances of missing something important.
Patience is self-control. Patience is tenacity.
But when does Patience become a liability? Just as we view people who are patient as calm, circumspect, rational, deliberate and even wise, we view the impatient as wreckless, fickle, distracted, maybe angry or intemperate. The question then becomes, is there a place and time for being wreckless, indiscreet and negligent?
I think the answer is unequivocally – “Yes!”. Unfortunately, we can only weigh the wisdom of such action on the effect it has had through retrospection – everything else is a toss-up. If things don’t turn out well, we say ‘he was wreckless and foolish’, but if things do turn out well, we say ‘what wonderful insight and bravery!’.
But specifically to Patience and, even moreso, to Impatience, there is sometimes a cost to be exacted for waiting too long, thinking overmuch, and missing the window of opportunity that the fates have afforded an individual while basking in the rich warm glow of self-congratulating restraint. The cost of failure in this case is equal in it’s intensity to ‘fools rushing in’.
The glories of impatience are regaled in history that might be embellished or fictional, but I will write them out, all the same.
The first, I gathered from the historical fiction of Patrick O’Brien, of “Master and Commander”-fame, in which Capt. Jack Aubrey retells the fabled story of Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson who, when facing the much superior French fleet off the coast of Trafalgar, was asked by his first mate what tactics should they employ to which he answered, ‘To hell with tactics! Go straight at ’em!’.
“To hell with tactics! Go straight at ’em!”
The second is from a phrase, a broken metaphor; “Don’t throw stones at every dog that barks!”.
Last, another military tale concerning the Battle of the Bulge in World War II where, as it goes, the German commander having surrounded the Allies completely, radios to elicit their surrender. The American commander replied with only one word, “Nuts!”. Flummoxed by the meaning of this response, the Germans hesitated until the Allies were able to be reinforced and subsequently lost their advantage completely.
So we see, direct action, wreckless and ferocious, can win the day. Getting mired in the details of all the little things that must be done can prevent anything from being done at all. And abandoning your advantages in a moment of distracted confusion can be costly.
But how does one decide in a given situation? ‘Shall I wait until fortune finds me?’ or ‘Shall I sit silently by, waiting for the promises of others to be fulfilled in their due courses?’.
That is the question, isn’t it? To this I will only point to Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Critic”
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Follow your heart and the strength of your convictions. Recognize fear and ask yourself if it truly repudiates the attempt you are being offered to take. Remember the creed of ultra-running, “Relentless forward progress’. Recognize the inner-critic and wear the willingness to fail, bleed, and eveb to be broken, with pride – it is yours to dare.. and it is yours to dare greatly!