Why Patience Matters More Than Hustling
The more I work, the more I live, the more I create projects from scratch and do anything worthwhile — the more I see that having a long-term perspective is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
You can’t create anything big or substantial in a day. You can physically put in the work, but you won’t get the results you want.
Say, you want to write a book. Yes, you physically can write 20,000 or even 30,000 words on a given day. That’s half of the book. You can even come back tomorrow and write 30,000 more — and there you go — a book in 2 days.
Does that mean Stephen Kings and other writers who come up with a new book every few months (or years) are lazy losers?
Say, you want to build a business. Yes, you can physically work for 18 hours today, and maybe the same amount of hours tomorrow. But after a few days, your motivation will wane, things will get difficult and you will quit because you won’t see fast results.
Does that mean you’re a loser and nothing works? Does that mean you were doing something wrong?
No, and no and no and no.
Things that are worth it take time.
A novel takes months to write not because it’s physically impossible to write it in 2 days (it is), but because a good novel requires compounding creativity. That’s what happens when you have ideas stacked on ideas — over the long term.
A business doesn’t depend only on your input, there are other people involved, suppliers, the market, the customers. You can work 24 hours per day and not sleep at all — but there are certain things that just take time.
Yet, people who are afraid of the long haul take the easy way out by trying to overwork.
You can’t overwork tasks that need time.
The key skill — and it was proven by multiple researchers across the world — of long-term, sustainable success is the ability to delay gratification. The famous Stanford marshmallow experiment proves just that.
They took kids to test their ability for self-control with marshmallows. But the work didn’t end there — the research continued for over 40 years, following these kids into adulthood and even retirement. What they found was that those kids who could delay gratification the most became more successful than people who wanted everything now.
When you delay gratification, you build towards a goal. When you want things now, you rid yourself of the future in favor of instant gratification. This is a choice you make every day, in various forms.
Publish the article now and feel productive, or let it sit still and publish when it’s done editing? Stay in a job I hate because it pays the bills, or take a step back (and a cut in income) to finally pursue what I love?
Actors have something they call “mailbox money”. It’s the cash checks they receive 5 years from now in the mail, even though they’ve done the work now.
By paying yourself in the future, you’re buying something more valuable than instant pleasure. The tranquility of mind.
Elizabeth Gilbert said in an interview with Tim Ferriss that she mentally communicates with herself through time. Whenever she decides to delay gratification — such as, edit the article now, so you won’t have to deal with it in the future — she imagines how the future Liz would be happy.
Delaying gratification is a gift to your future self.
If you’re not terminally ill, the only way to live is to be optimistic and long-term oriented.
Yes, it might seem that people have it easier than you — they cash out quickly and have fun, while you sit there, building towards something that might never profit — but if you want to do anything substantial, that’s the tradeoff. That’s the risk and the discomfort you have to go through.
Remember that it’s much harder — but more valuable — to work 2 hours each day, over 7 days than it is to binge-work for 14 hours on one given day. It might seem that if the input is mathematically equal, the output will be the same. But it’s not.
When you break through the discomfort of working patiently, you build something of higher quality.