Why Being “Patiently Impatient” (Literally) Pays Off

This morning I had a 2 hour call with the lead developer at one of my companies, which is currently in pre-launch.

He also happens to be a great guy and has “founder DNA”, like me. He’s built a few companies in the past and doesn’t just focus on engineering. He knows how important marketing, hiring, etc are to building a great company. Needless to say, we get along really well.

On our call (which went for 2 hours), we were riffing about how we’re both impatient with the progress of the product we’re building (he’s the lead engineer, I’m the CEO).

After we caught up on our development progress, the conversation quickly shifted to why we both feel impatient quite regularly and why that’s kinda strange. After all, our product is coming along nicely. It’s looking great and the hardest parts of the product are already finished.

When we started to talk about why we’re both impatient, I realized there are two ends of the “patience” scale.

You can be impatient all the time, yelling and screaming and being in constant frustration that things aren’t moving as fast as you expected them to. That was me from 2001 to 2009. And I didn’t like myself one bit. But it was the only approach I knew.

Or, you can be too patient, constantly reminding yourself that “good things take time”, not worrying about deadlines or creating a sense of urgency.

What I’ve come to learn is that you want to sit somewhere in the middle, leaning slightly towards being more impatient than patient. That gives you a healthy sense or urgency without the side of anger or frustration when things don’t go well (which will be often).

If you’re always too impatient, building your company will be a hell of a hard ride. Nothing will ever be done on time or to your standard. You’ll micro-manage your team, set unrealistic deadlines, scream at people who miss those deadlines and generally live in a constant state of stress. If you’re like I was, your weight will escalate and you’ll look to an unhealthy vice like drinking to keep you sane.

If you’re always too patient, a year will go by and you’ll have almost nothing to show for it. You’ll feel a constant state of calm, but you could miss the opportunity in front of you and you could frustrate employees who like to move faster than you do.

So what’s the solution?

Well, on today’s call we agreed to be “patiently impatient”. That basically means we’re going to work with a constant sense or urgency, but we’re not going to slap things together or take drastic shortcuts. We’re going to focus on the big chunks of work and come back at the end to polish the edges. We’re going to optimize for progress not perfection.

We both really liked the analogy of a race car driver. They drive faster than most people feel comfortable with, but not so fast that the wheels come off and they smash into the wall. So that’s what we’ll refer to on future calls when no doubt, one of us feels like we’re not making progress fast enough.

If you’re patiently impatient for long enough, not only will you hit your goals, but you’ll build a fast-growing company as well. So being patient literally pays.

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About Mitchell Harper

Mitch is a 7x company founder, advisor and investor. He is best known as the co-founder of BigCommerce. His companies have generated over $200,000,000 in total revenue and he is currently building an online education company and a SaaS company.

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