Who likes to wait, really? I don’t know of many people go get up in the morning because today’s the day they get to go sit in a doctor’s office or stand around the DMV. The other day my wife and son had to spend two hours of their day waiting at a health clinic to get something signed off, and I don’t remember either of them saying to me afterwards, “Boy, that sure was fun!”
No one likes being in that limbo period of uncertainty; not in the routine inconveniences of life we all have to deal with, but also in the bigger issues that come from time to time: where we’ll go to school, whether or not we’ll get that job, whether or not this relationship will last, what the diagnosis is going to be…..
I think about what Dr. Seuss described as “The Waiting Place,” this purgatory of vagueness where “Everyone is just waiting.” Many heroes of mythology have a time in their story where they are waiting for their time as a hero to begin, as part of their journey. Which, of course, there is a difference between those who choose to wait, and those who have to.
Recently in a conversation about needing to make changes and being anxious about the future, a comment was made that there are good reasons to “being still in the tension,” allowing ourselves to sit in the midst of the uncertainty and anxiety of waiting, to simply be, instead of trying so hard to make the tension go away so that we can get back to being comfortable, or hurrying the process along because we are wanting the next big thing to happen.
Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, describes turning a 5,000 pound flywheel. And so you push this flywheel—again, and again, and again. After how-ever-many turns it finally breaks through with tremendous success and speed. And someone asks you which turn it was that finally produced the success….and you have no idea.
The flywheel image captures the overall feel of what it was like inside the companies as they went from good to great. No matter how dramatic the end result, the good-to-great transformations never happened in one fell swoop. There was no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no wrenching revolution. Good to great comes about by a cumulative process—step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel—that adds up to sustained and spectacular results.
That is great imagery in terms of how great things take time and persistence, that eventually things start spinning better and faster, and we have to learn to be patient and consistent.
On the other hand, some wait because they have no choice, because others in power refuse to give up that power, or that comfort. Many people would say they are tired of waiting for equality, for fairness, for justice, for understanding, for having the means of living the kind of life they see so many others able to enjoy.
When do we wait with calm persistence, and when do we affect change because people should wait no longer?
Waiting can at times bring clarity, but it can also bring depression and subjugation. There is a time for waiting, and there is a time for action. How will we show the difference….?