Slow Down, GenY: Why You Should Practice Patience in Your Career

Apr 09, 2015 - Joe Matar
Everyone has an opinion about GenY. We’re wildly ambitious, entitled, debt-ridden, and optimistic — and that’s just on Mondays. Regardless of how people talk to us or about us, one thing is indisputable: the conversation about careers and how to make them great isn’t the same without us. But there’s something missing from all this chatter. Somewhere in this onslaught of advice, we’ve overlooked an old yet timeless principle. It’s not sexy, there’s no app for it, and Oprah definitely can’t give it away on her Christmas special. But its irreplaceable. Athletes nurture and cultivate it over the course of their careers, and entrepreneurs are forced to embrace it, or admit defeat almost immediately. Patience could make 2015 your best year ever. But how do you practice patience? Here’s how. (Click here to tweet this guide.)

The big myth about patience

Somehow, stillness has been equated with not making progress. That’s a lie. You never know exactly where you are until you slow down long enough to take stock of where you are, and what that means. I have friends who say they hate their jobs, but that’s often a symptom of a much larger issue: we’re unsure of how the work we do is shaping us into the people we want to be. Patience is not complacency. Patience creates space to evaluate. Patience reframes situations. Patience has a bias for progress instead of perfection. Patience sees the war, not just the battle. It’s gratitude for the journey, manifested as a persistent focus on growth, no matter how slow it may seem. Complacency is completely different: consistent meddling in mediocrity with no interest in moving forward. It confuses failure with finality, and paralyzes dreams in favor of practicality. Developing patience has less to do with GenY status and almost everything to do with choices. I decide what I value and dedicate energy to, and those decisions guide the effort I put forward. Unfortunately, we treat patience like a roadblock instead of a gift that brings us clarity. That’s a zero-sum game. We want to move forward, but don’t have the perspective to see what’s holding us back. Patience isn’t a generational issue as much as a personal decision. I know patient Millennials and very impatient Baby Boomers. The difference often lies in perspective and how we use it to engage with new opportunities around us. The question we need to start wrestling with is simple: Who do I want to be, and how is what I’m doing helping me get there? The problem might not be where you are, but who you are becoming because of it.

Why it’s not easy to be patient

There are so many things I want to execute and deliver on personally and professionally. You've probably got some things you want to do, too. But neither of us will achieve any of them if I’m not disciplined enough to master the everyday. Only then can we build the stamina to change our tomorrow. It’s not the huge shifts that create the biggest impact. The small wins that get added, multiplied, and compounded to create a consistent track record. The everyday progress is where breakthroughs begin. That’s how we build patience that transforms us into the professionals and people we desire to be. And that’s what the most successful athletes and entrepreneurs have figured out. For the athlete, it’s not about simply making the shot to win the game; it’s about the long nights and early mornings perfecting the mechanics and form to make that game-winning shot a reflex, and not a freak occurrence. The entrepreneur uses patience as a balancing stick; they know they will have more failures than wins, but those failures are incredible teachers if they learn to persist despite them. Every failed product, rejected pitch and buggy beta is a blessing. It’s not a zero-sum game. They either win or they learn, and patience helps with both. You happen to be both an athlete and an entrepreneur. You’re competing in this new world of work, which makes you an athlete. You’re also the owner and chief operating officer of You, Inc.,  which makes you an entrepreneur, too. It’s time to act like it. The problems you're facing aren’t threats — they’re just  challenges that you need to run through, jump over, or break down. You’ll need patience to help you make it past those obstacles and move toward lasting success. Jonathan Jackson is a writer, digital strategist, and storyteller based in NYC. When he's not at LinkedIn or helping black millennials push their dreams, you can find him on Twitter talking about content, life, and other things.