21st Century Alchemy: Patience in circumstances

21st Century Alchemy is a weekly Q&A column for career-minded professionals, entrepreneurs and small businesses written by David Parkins, a business (re)development specialist, company culture strategist, career coach, and IMCSA speaker (ep3.dk)

Water, just like nature, will always find a way
April 5th, 2016 7:00 am| by David Parkins

I’m not a patient person. I hate waiting to get things at a store or out of life. I hate waiting for people, especially friends and family. I admit that I am not always on time, but this doesn’t change my dislike of waiting – of being forced by circumstances or others to endure.

A long-suffering condition
I could say I’m getting better as I get older, but I’d be lying. I used to think that as I got older, I’d be more patient. But for the most part, this hasn’t been the case. In my opinion, George Granville was spot on when he said: “Patience is the virtue of an ass!”

Nevertheless, I’m not so stubborn or unteachable to ignore the necessity of patience. Thomas Carlyle was right when he said “endurance is patience concentrated”, and nothing will sustain someone to the end – the end of life, the end of the day, or even the end of a trial – as well as patience. However, regardless of how I’m taught patience, it’s never an easy A. I don’t enjoy the class or the hard work and tests needed to get better.

When hope isn’t a virtue
I used to think that the key to patience in any situation was hope, an expectation and desire for a certain something to happen. But that’s not right. You can hope all you want and still be impatient while you’re waiting for something to happen. If I’m at Tivoli, I want to ride Dæmonen. I stand in line, expecting the thrill of being strapped to a rocket on wheels. And even though I hope, I’m impatient as I wait.

But patience isn’t resignation either. It’s not a feeling that this is something I’ve got to do, so I’ll just suffer through it. Perhaps there is a level of melancholic acceptance with some of the more mundane events in our lives, but the big things, the ones that we’ve worked hard towards for some or most of our lives, weren’t achieved through resignation. In those situations, concentrated patience (endurance) has little to do with hope and nothing to do with resignation.

The durability of water
I often ask: “Which is stronger, water or rock?” and the answer is: “Water. It just takes a lot more of it and a lot more time.” This is patience in circumstances. It’s relentless, resolute, untiring, unfailing, indefatigable and indomitable persistence. It’s the stream, creek, or river flowing relentlessly, eventually wearing down every barrier, wall, or obstacle in its path – not with brute force (though sometimes this happens) but with never ending determination.

“I want mine” is the battle cry of the truly patient person when faced with all sorts of barriers that prevent them from getting what they want. It’s a rock-solid belief that no person, no situation, and no obstacle will get in the way, either in the moment or in life. We need to be like water when faced with impassible obstacles that block us from getting what we want. Patience in such circumstances is an unrelenting and inexhaustible attitude that nothing, absolutely nothing, is unattainable – even at the post office.

Questions & Answers

Interview Question:
Where do you see yourself in three to five years?

Why they’re asking – The interviewer doesn’t expect you to know exactly what you’ll be doing, but new staff and staff development are expensive, so they need to know that you’re worth it. This question is about your long-term plan, and they want see that you’ve done your homework, developed a plan and are working hard to achieve it. So show how this position specifically aligns with your career development strategy.

How do you answer – Don’t talk about uncertainties or hope. Specifically focus on what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and illustrate it with a very concrete (five senses) example that stresses your drive, diligence and determination. Show the value you’ll bring and your interest in their work and industry. That’s their vision and direction, so you’d better be walking the same way. Give an answer that’s directional, not positional and growth-orientated, not goal-orientated. Great talking points are: responsibilities; expected team-focused achievements and skills development rather than specific roles; titles; and income.

Workplace Question
I’m an international recruit who recently started at a Danish company. A more senior employee, a Dane, is always sarcastic towards me in public. It doesn’t matter if we’re at lunch or in a team meeting, I’m the target of his ‘jokes’. And even though he always finishes with “Just kidding”, or “I’m not being serious”, it bothers me so much that I’ve started avoiding him.

Last April, Queen Margrethe held a press conference a few days prior to her 75th birthday. A journalist addressed her with the informal ‘du’ to which the queen interrupted, with a smile: “Undskyld, nu skal jeg ikke være meget sippet, men jeg tror ikke, vi har gået i skole sammen; så jeg tror ikke, vi er dus” (Excuse me, now I don’t want to be too prudish, but I do not believe we have gone to school together; so I don’t believe we are on familiar terms).

In Denmark, when it comes to professional comradery, sarcasm is expected and ordinarily a compliment. It may be inappropriate, even slightly hurtful, but when a Dane is sarcastic, it usually indicates a level of respect and informal relationship. Perhaps he thinks you can handle it, considers you a friend or respects you enough to roast you, but his sarcastic slap (hopefully) isn’t meant to be offensive. If you think he needs to tone it down (or stop), tell him privately. But if you want to play along, the next time it happens, say with a smile: “Jeg tror ikke, vi er dus” and watch all the Danes burst out laughing.