Be quick, don't hurry. Coach John Wooden
I have learned over many years that the achievement of important personal and professional goals take much longer than I think or want. Part of being young or stubborn is impatience–being in too big a rush to see the outcome. Golfers know that you can not peek to see where your ball is going until well after you have struck the ball. By peeking, you reduce your concentration on making the most of your time, attention and energy to do what has to be done to get the outcome you want.
Please do not confuse patience with complacency or a lack of urgency. Effective patience is where you have clear goals–the vision of your destination– an inner sense of passion drive you to that vision, an openness to experiment and have fast failures to learn how to achieve the vision, adopt the best practices of others, and take pride and enjoyment in the progress and process. All of this takes time and patience.
More than a few times I have gravitated to early stage ideas and visions that captured my imagination. There was always the visionary who so clearly and passionately painted a picture of the ultimate goal. We know that only a few ideas take off instantly. And even those seemingly over night viral successes have long struggles that preceded their debuts and meteoric rises. The Twitters, Facebooks, iPhones have to be contrasted with the landfills of ideas that never made it or had 15 seconds of fame. Anyway, I have taken some pleasure out of watching how ideas that have hordes of early critics eventually find their place in the sun. Either by the shifting needs and circumstances or by sheer persistence and incremental progress over many years. 2 examples:
- Online education: I was fortunate to have been recruited by visionary founder Alan Arkatov to lead an online education company called OnlineLearning.net, now part of Walden University, one of the largest online universities in the world. Anyway, back in 1996, online education was decried as "diploma mills" as a cheap imitation of an education institution. As an early pioneering company, we took the slings and arrows of these higher ed hecklers. Fast forward, 3 years ago online courses for students ON college campuses surpassed face to face classes. Look at this report in the NY Times and the Dept of Education's comprehensive study:
- Students who took all or part of their class online performed better….
- Instruction combining online and face-to-face elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction…
- Virtual/digital textbooks: In late 2006 I was recruited by Neeru Khosla, one of the most passionate and visionary people I have ever met, to join a team at CK12.org. CK12 is a non-profit org that endeavors to create virtual/digital standards based no-cost customizable textbooks for the K12 classroom. The ways books are published and selected is so archaic, not to mention costly. Pluto is downgraded as a planet and it would take up to 7 years to update the textbook given the system in place! And the naysayers about virtual books, even at no-cost, were there to block the doors. Now that the budget crisis is forcing schools to defer expenses and make impossible choices, the allure of virtual books is dramatically increasing. This will be good for the school coffers but even better for the students and teachers. So no-cost books are becoming quite popular! Check out this article NY Times that describes the promise and need for this service.
My roles in these organizations were at the margins, but I got a view of the power of patient and passionate persistence. Early on, It would be easy to give up or give in.
Just like running a race, the early aches and pains can be a deterrent to keep on, but every long distant runner knows the strength that comes from fighting through it all. I have drafted off of the energy and vision of these marathon runners. I admire the Alan and Neerus of the world, for they and many others have inspired me with a model of passion and patience that drives and energizes me.
In our lives we must remain persistent, passionate and patient. But, we are not getting younger! Engaging your talent, time, and soul in things you care about and things you see as important is crucial. This is where your urgency has to kick in. Finding your place. Finding a vision for yourself and for the world around you that will sustain and nurture you. I meet hundreds of people who think another university degree, taking a workshop, or finding a great mentor will unlock the doors. They might, they might not. Most of these people think they are being patient, but often they are procrastinating their confrontation with what they want. And if too much time goes by, it will be too late. The regret matrix is a deep and dark pool of quicksand that does not let go. And the greatest tragedy is we lose your ideas, genius, and contribution.
Coach Wooden's quote at the top of this blog guides me everyday. I am moving quickly and urgently, but patiently. And that has shown me that visions for new products, services and for oneself can be realized.
Thanks for reading. John