In his timeless classic, The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene tells of a story that extols the virtue of patience in the pursuit of any goal. It is a story of a famous 17 century painter, Chou Yung who travelled to a town that lay across the river from his own town.

He was bringing some important books and papers with him and had commissioned a young boy to help him carry them. As the ferry neared the other side of the river, Yung asked the boatman if they would have time to get to the town before its gates closed, since it was a mile away and the night was approaching.

The boatman glanced at the boy, and at the bundle of loosely tied papers and books – “Yes,” he replied, “if you do not walk too fast.”

As they started out, however, the sun was setting. Afraid of being locked out of the town at night, prey to local bandits, Chou, and the boy walked faster and faster, finally breaking into a run.

Suddenly the string around the papers broke and the documents scattered on the ground.

It took them many minutes to put the packet together again, and by the time they had reached the city gates, it was too late.

In business and in life generally, most miseries that plague the majority are directly caused by impatience and a desire to ‘make it faster or on time.’

When your business decisions are based on fear of losing out, greed to accumulate more or undercut your competitors, or a desire to expand more and make money quickly, you create a myriad of problems that require fixing on the way. The resulting challenges make it take longer to achieve your ultimate goal than if you had taken your time and done everything meticulously.

Business success that is sustainable in most cases is evolutionary and not revolutionary. It is not an overnight success but something that is built carefully over time. This is the growth that allows the owners and managers of the business to understand and be understood by the market and put systems in place to support growth when it comes.

Allowing a business to grow without a sound business model and systems in place is like rushing to build a house without proper foundation. Regardless of how magnificent the house without a sound foundation looks, it will last as long as there is no storm.

Patience is the foremost virtue of entrepreneurial success, only second to courage. Impatience is self-sabotage. It makes one desperate to succeed and in the process, they make blunders that slow down the whole journey.

To succeed in business, you need patience when it comes to making key decisions like expanding your business, especially on loans, hiring employees, developing and releasing a product in the market, as well as negotiating deals.

The notion that opportunities will vanish if not grabbed quickly is an illusion that has led many to failure.


This article was first published on The Business Daily on September 11, 2018.

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