Not Even Wrong – On Patience 1


Sometimes the road is long. Traveling takes patience.

February 2015
Saigon, The Saigon Parkroyal

Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way.
― Fulton J. Sheen

Must I at length the Sword of Justice draw?
Oh curst Effects of necessary Law!
How ill my Fear they by my Mercy scan,
Beware the Fury of a Patient Man.
– John Dryden


adjective pa·tient \ˈpā-shənt\

: able to remain calm and not become annoyed when waiting for a long time or when dealing with problems or difficult people
: done in a careful way over a long period of time without hurrying

Full Definition of PATIENT

1:  bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2:  manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3:  not hasty or impetuous
4:  steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity

I’m sitting in the bar at the Saigon Parkroyal enjoying a Tiger Beer. It’s been a long day of travel.

In one end of the lobby, a crew is busy packing up a wedding. There’s something inherently sad about the scene, as the breathtakingly beautiful bride sits alone on an empty stage, a stage that just moments ago was filled with light and laughter. Vietnamese weddings end rather abruptly – they’re know for that – and if I were ever to visualize the word “anti-climax” – this would be my mental mood board. She looks happy though. Yet tired.

At the other end of the lobby, a group of upper middle aged Germans are making some noise, bursting into that kind of raucous laughter that only a risqué remark of some sort can produce. If the sound of that laughter had a smell, it would be a mixture of Old Spice, Nivea After Sun and a discreet hint of acetic acid. You can tell by the atmosphere that a hotel room key party is only one more round of Jägermeisters away.

I’m sitting in the middle of these two vistas, and I cannot help thinking that the two scenes are snapshots from two different phases in the life cycle of marriage. We all know that making a relationship work is hard work, and that it takes a whole lot of patience.

And patience is at the core of work when it works. Consider continuous improvement. It takes patience. Not only in itself, but also because it requires learning and change. We know that the most powerful and sustainable way to promote learning is to let people figure things out for themselves, understanding that we learn when we fail and reflect on our failures and our own lessons learned. This leads us to the concept of Wu-Wei or “just don’t do something, stand there”. That is a gruesome yet rewarding exercise in patience.

And take a quick look at the eight principles of Lean Software Development. It makes you realize that if there’s one ingredient that’s absolutely necessary for any of it to work, it’s patience.

1. Take the long view
This often means saying no to something good now, in order to get something even better later.
2. Eliminate Mura, Muri, Muda
This is at the core of the continuous improvement. It takes a lot of patience. And it never ends.
3. Build Quality in
This too means moving slower now, in order to go faster (and better) later.
4. Create Knowledge
Caring about things like knowledge and learning means accepting the iterative “learning as we move along” mindset.
5. Defer commitment
Means not rushing into decisions and instead playing the waiting game, making decisions when more information exists, instead of less. At the right moment.
6. Respect people
Means, among other things, listening to people. Inviting them to have a say. This takes more time than the autocratic command and control approach that some might be used to.
7. Deliver fast
Is actually the only principle that doesn’t require patience. 🙂
8. Optimize the whole
Is simply harder, and makes things move a tad slower at first.

And this concludes the exploration of the concepts Simplicity, Patience and Compassion.

Earlier post on Not even Wrong

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