Mothers have a way of making truthful statements that bug the heck out of their kids. My mom was no exception. When I was growing up, one of her favorite things to tell me was “patience is a virtue.” Even writing the words today almost make me growl with disgust and slam the door. That’s the teenager inside of me, of course.
I have fought a life-long battle with patience. I know that this story is not unique – very few people like to wait. But I’m writing about this now because I have enduring a trial that is requiring patience that I never thought I could muster – the patience needed to start a company.
I had heard rumors of this before. My old boss Barry, a serial entrepreneur who was the CEO of Connexus Media, the start-up company that I worked for that was sold to Ziff Davis in 2004, has told me stories of his need for patience when we started Connexus. He used to drive to work in the mornings, and instead of turning into the parking lot, he would force himself to stay on the road and go to a diner, or golfing, or to run errands, or to do anything other than going into work. He did this because he knew that he could do nothing to move things along any quicker, and he feared that being in the office would only hurt progress instead of helping it.
I have been working on Pure Incubation for almost a year. In that time, we’ve built a bunch of sites. But until this week, I had yet to launch any of the Web applications that we have been working on building for the past year. These delays rarely had to do with anything that I was working on personally. In most instances, I was just waiting for other people – application developers, designers, researchers – and they needed time to finish the work that they were doing. I should also mention that they weren’t taking a long time – they were taking a reasonable amount of time. I just had a hard time waiting when I was so eager to get going.
Over the course of the past year, I have developed a series of strategies to help myself be more patient. These are just band aids. Honestly, most of them are just distraction techniques – they aren’t solving the root of the patience problem. But these strategies have really helped me stay steadier in the midst of waiting. And my hope (and fear, if I’m being honest) is that waiting will one day teach me patience for good.
Here are some of my strategies:
Get a hobby. This summer, I started taking tennis lessons. The lessons were two times per week, 10:30am-noon. This chunk of time out of the middle of the day didn’t really take away from the amount of time that I worked – I just put in the hours later into the night – but getting away from the office helped to readjust my attitude. I was able to remind myself that if things were moving faster I wouldn’t have been able to take tennis lessons in the middle of the day. And since I enjoyed the experience, it made the waiting more tolerable, as well. Not to mention that it helped my tennis game.
Start a blog. Quick disclaimer: I didn’t start this blog to help myself be more patient. But this blog has helped with the waiting, and has also turned into a powerful tool for my business. Taking the time to think of posts and write them out has been instructive, and having the time to dedicate to my blog reminds me again that moving slowly isn’t such a bad thing. My blogging productivity seems to wane and wax depending on how busy I am, but developing the discipline of blogging has been a way to stave off impatience – while benefiting my business at the same time.
Do consulting. If you pick the right projects – the kind that teach you something new while paying you to learn – consulting will help you be more patient about the rest of your business. Consulting will give you more work to do (filling some of the hours of waiting), and will also fill the bank account with some cash. For me, part of the difficulty with waiting was the delay in making money, so having something to do that also gave me some much-needed capital was a double win. Even though consulting can be difficult at times, it has helped me have more patience in waiting for my core business to become profitable.
Travel. It’s difficult to take a week away from the office when your business is busy and things are moving quickly. So taking the opportunity to travel – even if it’s a trip in which you’re working from wherever it is that you travel to – and get a change of scenery and have some fun.
Remember that you’re part of a team. Because I work alone, and have part-time people, consultants and contractors working with me, it’s easy to begin to feel like I’m the only one that cares – which leads to a great deal of impatience. When this happens, I have to remind myself that I’m not alone, that my team is in this with me. I usually give one of them a call (preferably a team member that is supportive and will understand the up’s and down’s I’m going through). This not only helps me reconnect with my team, but it also reminds me that the people I’m waiting for are human, too. This helps increase my patience as I wait for them to get their work done.
Connect with friends, and talk over your issues with them. This is my favorite solution to impatience. I am lucky enough to have some great friends who are always willing to listen and talk through any issues that I’m having – including issues related to starting a company. And last week, when I was at my lowest, feeling the most frustrated, I got this awesome email from my friend (thanks, Moe!):
“I was feeling the need to tell you not to give up five minutes before a miracle. Once on the Today Show this woman lost her huge diamond ring in the hospital trash (she had been in the ER). A nice worker went through huge piles of garbage looking for it. It took forever, but he found it. When they asked him about it taking so long to find he said “you don’t give up five minutes before a miracle.” Cara mentioned that you’re at a very stressful time with your website. You’ll get the website up and running and it’s going to be awesome! Maybe some problems will even lead to better ideas.” (Here is a link to the story, and here is a link to the video. As a side note, at the end of the video the older woman says “they’re really nice” about her family, and reminds me of my grandma, who always used to say the same thing.)
At the end of the day, entrepreneurs need to remain dedicated to their vision and plans through all the ups and downs and changes that take place. And having a little bit of patience – OK, a lot of patience – is really important in reaching the final goal.