Patience Makes You Faster

Before Facebook, there was Wer-Kennt-Wen, at least in Germany. “Who knows whom?” That was the question at the heart of the social network. My entire high school was on it.

As 15-year-olds, however, we were mainly obsessed with customizing our profiles for maximum self-expression. Instead of joining groups to participate in them, we created new ones with funny names that would then show up on our pages. Imagine a long list of “Describe yourself in slogans.” I’ll never forget some of the hilarious one-liners.

Here’s one I instantly added: “Rather carry it all at once and risk dropping everything, instead of making multiple trips.” That was me. That’s still me, by the way. But actually, most of the time, making several runs would be a lot faster.

Since I don’t have the initial patience to walk back and forth multiple times, I jeopardize my entire grocery-stack on one slow-motion shuffle. I have to walk at a snail’s pace, and even then, success is all but guaranteed. Chances are, I’ll be scraping cheese slices off the floor sooner or later — and that further delays my fridge being refilled. Meanwhile, had I made two brisk runs with fewer items, I’d already be done.

That’s the thing about patience: It never feels like it in the moment, but it actually makes you faster. Like the Navy SEALs say, “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”

I can start slogging out a post at 10 AM and still only be done halfway at 12 PM, or I can sit and wait until 11, and as soon as a quick idea strikes, I type it down in five minutes flat. You can mow your lawn in a hurry, realize the grass is still too long, and have to make a second run, or you can push your lawnmower across the green only once but properly. You can race through a set of bicep curls without feeling anything, or you can slow your roll and savor the muscle-building burn.

And if you’re Facebook, you can worry about every competitor the minute they appear, rush a half-finished version of your network to a new country, and likely shoo away millions of users, or you can wait four more years, polish your experience, and capture 100 million German-speakers in one fell swoop — which is exactly what they did, putting Wer-Kennt-Wen out of business by 2014.

Life is not a go-kart race. You might feel you’re in eighth place, but unlike on TV, you can never tell. A slow today might make for an earlier arrival tomorrow. Have patience.