I have over the last few months begun writing a book under the working title of Life’s Lessons Learnt. The idea is to bring together those things that I have learnt during my life in business and presenting them in a shareable form that might perhaps prove useful and valuable for others.
An early chapter is entitled Patience. One definition described this as, ‘the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious’. This is what perhaps many people would see patience as being…something to put up with, enduring or tolerating. I wouldn’t put Patience in my life’s lessons if I saw it that way. I do see Patience as a virtue and would agree with the definition that it is; a quiet, steady, perseverance; even-tempered, care, diligence. I have in my career regularly found myself in stressful, time sensitive, big decision situations…not quite life a death, I’ve never served in the military, blue light services, the health service or been an airline pilot, but certainly where getting the decision right or wrong had significant consequences, commercial and human consequences. Almost a quarter of a century in betting and gaming certainly presented plenty of situations where instant decisions were required. In some cases with multi-million pound consequences.
What served me well was patience. Taking a moment to think. In some cases taking as much time as possible to think. I learned that if you can, sleeping on a decision can provide overnight insights that allow a better decision in the cold light of day. A few minutes taken to have a cup of tea, in some of my colleagues cases to smoke a cigarette provided just the right amount of time to reflect on what was needed in that moment. Now when I work with a variety of leaders, I will often ask them to take a moment, step back, pause, take a breath and reflect on what they might want to do.
What’s going on in those moments? Well for me it has been gathering my thoughts, exploring options, perhaps asking some questions, getting input from others and also just giving my brain the time to process.
John Perry Psychotherapist of Southampton University provides a simple and hugely insightful statement; “stress makes you dumb” . The wrong kind of stressful situation literally reduces your cognitive ability. So taking a deep breath, removing yourself from the stressful stimuli is a useful strategy to help you think. This is sometimes described as breaking your state.
Those patient moments for me have allowed me to arrive at good decisions, yes some bad ones too, often it has allowed a challenging situation to resolve itself, the circumstances to change or more information to emerge.
We do live in a world of immediate and urgent demands, the always on, digital reach, 24/7/365 that challenges our patience. I have learnt, despite this, to value and practice patience. Slow things down, take a breath, listen, reflect, ask questions, be consciously patient and yes remember what granny told us, everything comes to those who wait.
What makes this perhaps all the more important today, is that the UK Government has published its so-called ‘Road Map’ out of Lockdown. Almost a year on from the outbreak of the COVID Pandemic the end maybe in sight. Vaccination is rolling out apace, our social distancing and safe practices, the continued dedication of our health services have made the difference in suppressing this wretched infection and our quiet, steady, perseverance; even- tempered, care, diligence and patience is being rewarded. Our continuing patience will in my mind be well rewarded. You never know what you’ve got until it’s gone …what have we lost in the last year that we took for granted, who have we lost who we perhaps took for granted. Patience will be well rewarded when we get back what we have lost over the last year.
Take a deep breath, perhaps have a cup of tea, ask yourself a few questions, talk to some people you value and then take the next step. Thank you for your patience!