Impatiently, I looked down at my watch: 8:42 pm.
I was having dinner with my wife and sister, Kathy and Janet.
I finished my entree.
I looked at Kathy’s plate. She had finished, too.
My sister was still eating, ever so slowly. I looked at her plate, and she was only halfway through her entree.
This was our third night of dining together. I was enjoying the time together, but this slow eating thing was getting to me.
I became impatient. I found myself not engaging with Janet. Not asking her questions. Secretly I was hoping Kathy would do the same. I wanted Janet to just hurry up and finish eating. Already!
But that didn’t happen.
Kathy would ask Janet a question while Janet was scooping some of the fish and vegetables on to her fork. She would pick up the fork and begin moving it toward her mouth. Then she would stop, hold the fork off the plate, and begin answering the question Kathy had asked.
I was sitting across from Janet wanting to say, “Eat. Come on, eat! Don’t stop. Keep going!” Instead, I chose to do something equally obnoxious. I looked down at my phone and saw it was 8:42. I decided to time how long it took Janet to finish her meal after we finished ours.
How stupid is this?
What was I thinking? Was I going to make some point? In the past, I would have said something, but not this time. I was getting better. At least, I thought I was.
My patience wore thin. In fact, where was my patience? I was looking at my phone and counting the seconds. I must be nuts.
I was reading the biography of Elon Musk. He demonstrated a lot of impatience in his life.
One time he decided to rewrite one of his programmer’s code. He didn’t discuss it with the guy. He just stayed late and rewrote it. The programmer showed up the next day and saw Elon had rewritten his code.
He asked, “Why did you do this?”
Elon said, “Because your code was crap, and it needed rewriting.”
The programmer asked, “Why didn’t you ask me to do it?”
Elon said, “Because you are an idiot, and I don’t have time for you!”
He confessed after telling this story, “I could have handled this better. We never really got along after that. I lost a good team member.”
Of course, I read this and said to myself, “Hell, yeah! The work needed to be done, and he got it done.” But I, like Elon, also know one profound truth: You’ll never build anything bigger than you if you keep making it about you.
The heart of impatience.
It’s about me. It’s not my sister’s problem or the programmer’s problem. It is my problem.
When I am impatient, all growth stops. I step in to make the situation the way I want it to be. It never plays out. I shut it down. I define the process and the outcome. Then I demand everything go the way I want. I stop participation, and people don’t grow.
I don’t grow.
While I was looking at the time passing on my phone, Kathy and Janet were having a wonderful time. Not me. I was counting minutes and watching how long it took for each forkful to be loaded and then eaten. Who’s missing out here? Me!
Thank God I didn’t say anything. The next day, at dinner, my sister said, “Thank you for last night. The restaurant, the service, the beautiful view of the water, and having such a relaxed and loving conversation, that was so special.”
I told a friend this story.
He said, “God made you that way. You are an entrepreneur. Yes. You are impatient. But look at all you get done. When you became a disciple of Christ, he didn’t take away your impatience; he just showed you when and how to use it.”
“Really?” I said. “So when and how am I supposed to use this impatient spirit?”
“Listen to God. It’s not about you. Sometimes you are not right,” he said.