The Startup Series, Part 1: When You Don't Have the Patience to Develop Patience


Every week, my Marketing team and I do a cheesy but wonderful exercise we affectionately call Pow Wow-How-Chow (actually, I’m not sure if the rest of the team thinks of it affectionately, but I somehow convinced them to do it). I can’t remember exactly when I learned this exercise, but I’m pretty sure it was the brainchild of my dear friend, Erin Farley. In college, Erin and I were part of a team that facilitated small groups and leadership development on campus at UCI. Sometimes it was a challenge to get the conversation flowing with new groups, so we had to get creative. The rule of #PWHC (no one hash tags it yet, but I’m hoping to make it a thing) is that you have to share the following with your group:

  • Pow: The most challenging thing you've experienced in the past week.
  • Wow: The most fun or encouraging thing you've experienced in the past week.
  • How: What you've been learning over the past week.
  • Chow: The best thing you've eaten in the past week.

The great thing about #PWHC is that it helps you connect with your teammates on a deeper level than you might in normal small talk. Also, it rhymes.

We end up talking about everything – our to-do list for the week, new ideas we want to test, accomplishments to celebrate, and the best place to get Thai food. But my favorite part of those meetings is the How. I’ve always loved to learn, so I just drink in all the information that’s shared – the new level of self-awareness, the interesting new email technique, or the insightful book recommendation. It’s kind of the best. 

We’ve learned a lot of lessons in the past year, and I think many of them are transferable to life outside of the startup world. I realized that I should probably start documenting them somewhere, and this seemed like as good a place as any to do it. So, I introduce to you The Startup Series: a stream of posts in which I’ll talk about things my team and I learn together – and how they might be applicable to relationships, career paths, spirituality, and who knows what else. Throughout the process, I would love to hear from you guys about what you’re learning as well. Today I’ll touch on the first topic, patience, briefly. Other ideas I’ve been thinking about include: 

  • Learning how to say no and make time for what matters
  • Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses
  • Figuring out how to discuss sensitive topics
  • Why you should eat breakfast (hint: if you don’t, your stomach will growl loudly and obnoxiously during your morning meetings)

So. Let’s get to it. Over the past several months, one of the things I’ve consistently been learning is how to be patient. To be honest, when someone tells me to be patient, my first response is to get seriously annoyed. I’m generally the type of person who likes to keep things moving. My pet peeves include people who walk slowly in front of me, getting put on hold during phone calls, and being told by amazon that my package won’t arrive for a week (this happened yesterday and I’m still a little mad about it). I live life at a fast pace, and any time things get even a little monotonous, I start to panic. But if there’s anything that working at an early-stage tech company teaches you, it’s that good things take time – and that the time itself, if invested properly, is always worth it.

Patience, at its core, is the ability to tolerate delay or struggle without complaining or becoming irritated.

It’s the ability to be diligent and faithful, even when you’re not seeing immediate tangible results.

The tricky thing about patience is that it has to be developed - and that in itself takes patience. While some personality types might be more naturally longsuffering, no one wants to go through a lot of hard work or pain without seeing some fruit. It’s natural for us to get frustrated when things don’t go as planned, and when we give in to the frustration, it can cause us not to do the very thing that could help us.

 Which is to just keep going.

This might sound like an overly simplified solution – and perhaps it is. But one thing I’ve found is that when I push past the frustration, the anger, and the exhaustion so that I can keep trying – I always find a renewed level of energy and focus. The key, I think, to developing a diligent and faithful spirit over the long haul, is to resolve that whatever happens, you’re not going to give up. You might need to take a break here and there, and you might need to ask for help sometimes (or in my case, almost every day). And that’s more than okay. But if you’ve decided deep down that you’re not going to abandon what you're working towards, you’ll find that each time you hit a snag, you learn a little more and you feel a little less discouraged. You start to realize that you’re developing a muscle – one that becomes stronger every time it’s exercised, and one that will become incredibly valuable for the ups and downs of life.

There’s obviously so much more to explore here. What do you do when you feel like you can’t keep going? What do you when people around you don’t share the same commitment to developing patience? What if you legitimately feel like you need to change direction? I’ll be processing these questions, and hope to have some thoughts written down soon. In the meantime, let’s resolve together that we’re just not going to give up. Even when we’re tired.

We can figure out the rest down the road – but for now, I think that’s enough.