Guarded patience

By: thebarrowboy

Ethics 101 was my favorite class in my first semester in college. It was also the most annoying class. Why? Because unlike the readings in my other classes which could be merely skimmed over, I learned that you cannot skim over a philosophy reading and expect to be prepared for class. I found myself in deep thought after every few sentences of my reading and I found myself walking to class with a lot more questions than answers.

A lot of building a successful enterprise is about finding answers to questions–and quickly. I like to call this brute-forcing. Have a problem with your sales strategy? You can brute-force your way to having it reviewed by advisers and get near instant feedback that you can put to use.

But what about figuring out where you are going to be in six months as a company? If you are running a public company, that should be largely predictable. But if you’re a year old business, a lot may be up in the air. In that case, the initial question will raise an endless stream of questions. Ultimately, you end up with more questions than answers and you feel like you’ve just taken on a philosophical question that has no signs of an answer.

The ability to handle these questions ends up defining your company. You can easily let the lack of answers or the lack of clarity bog you down and paralyze your team. You can also try to brute-force your way to an answer via a marathon session…and get even more annoyed when you don’t find the answer. Or you can show a little bit of what I call guarded patience and let the answer come to you.

What’s guarded patience and how is it different from just being patient? When you are simply patient about something, you risk becoming complacent. Guarded patience means to maintain awareness of what you do have answers to, use those answers to push forward until you arrive at some big revelation that answers your original question.

When you’re brute-forcing, you’re on a mission to find the solution. When you use guarded patience, you’re letting the solution find you. You do this by applying a lot less pressure on yourself to find the answer. At the same time, you’re wide awake so when the answer does come to you, you’re not going to miss it.

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