At the age of 53, I can attest with experience that many of the mistakes I have made in my life could be directly traceable to impatience. While far from perfect, I would say between family and health, my life has been good thus far, so my mistakes have fortunately not derailed me too much. I guess the key is to learn from the mistakes and try to minimize future ones. Using a golf analogy, life is a game of managing your mistakes. As long as you can find the ball, you can always knock it back into play. You just have to manage expectations. And, a good sense of humor helps.
When I have been impatient, the mistakes have occurred at a higher propensity. Please don’t accept this as a truism that each time I have been impatient a mistake occurred. I would be dead otherwise. Yet, when I look backwards from the mistake, there seems to be a high correlation with my acting impatiently or witnessing someone who did and the mistake or near mistake.
The easiest example is a car accident and is one reason I am writing this today. My eldest son’s car was totaled earlier this week in an accident due to someone else’s impatience. He is fine as is the other driver, but the other driver decided to run a red light rather than slowing down and hit the front of my son’s car. He had the turn signal and proceeded into the intersection, yet the other driver kept coming. A sidebar lesson for him. me and others is to always pause after a light turns and look for those impatient drivers. Fortunately, he is alive to execute this strategy in the future.
As I look at the accidents I have been in, whether caused by me or another driver, I can say it was due to impatience. People acting in haste to do something without thinking through the consequences is a bad combination with a 3,500 pound vehicle in motion. This does not count the close calls which could be traceable to impatience. So, what I have learned? Following distance cures most traffic problems, pausing before pulling out in front of someone avoids difficulties and the light will change again soon, so rushing through serves little purpose. I have witnessed people pulling out in front of a car where if they waited, there was no traffic three cars behind the other driver. So, the merging driver could have been totally safe if they waited five seconds, but risked their life by being impatient.
Other good examples can be traced to electronic communication which permit the rapid response to something you don’t like at first. I use the words “at first” since some messages are not that bad, but the responding writer is reacting to the messenger more so than the message. When Blackberries first came on the scene, I told one colleague that he needed to throw his in the ocean. “Why?” he asked. The reason is he would react to the messenger and set off a fire storm of messages that would escalate an issue that was not an issue to begin with. He just had some poor dealings with the messenger in the past.
As further evidence of the power of electronic media is people who do something that they thought was a good idea at the time. We have a former Congressman, an otherwise reasonably sane public servant, who resigned because he thought sending a picture of his “junk” to a female was a good idea. I cannot think of any time or reason why sending that kind of picture could ever be seen as a good idea. I am not saying this is the case, but we need to amend the rule about mixing testosterone, alcohol and explosives to replace “explosives” with “electronic media.” Bad decisions by males under the influence can be explosive when using electronic media. I am sure if the Congressman had been more patient, he would have come to the conclusion that this was not the smartest of ideas.
The lesson to be learned here is do not send anything negative or that might embarrass you via the electronic media. Reread any email, text, Twitter or Facebook post before hitting “enter” or “send.” A question you may ask yourself is “how would this look?” if it went viral or was published in online or print news. Relating to the faster means of communication of Twitter, texting and Facebook, also ask yourself is it important that someone knows what you do at every moment of the day? I personally am not that interested to know the every minute details of people I love, so I sure don’t need to read about the mundane actions of people I don’t.
A related lesson ties the first two sets of examples together – nothing is that important to text when you are behind the wheel of a 3,500 pound vehicle. If you do text and drive, let me say it plainly – “you are being a dumb ass and your being such is putting you and others at risk.” Do not think you can do both without risk. I recall a “Myth Buster” episode where they proved you drove worse when on a mobile phone than when driving drunk.
The final example also involves communication, but are of the verbal kind. It is hard to unsay what has been said. So, please think or at least pause before you speak. We are all guilty of this. We have said something that may have sounded good at the time, but did not come across well. I have quoted this saying before – “you have two ears and one mouth, so use them in that proportion.” The best advice I can give is you do not have to share your opinion or be right at every time. Silence is golden. One of my great pleasures as a parent is to hear my children say or do the right thing that my wife or I have shared or demonstrated before. They now are owning the behavior. Some people would be tempted to say, “I told you that,” but the best course is to be quiet and silently thank God or some higher being that the messages or lessons are heeded.
Patience is a virtue. Do not be in such a hurry that you make mistakes. And, the world does not need to know your every thought or action, so by being patient and keeping it to yourself, you may be doing yourself and the world a favor. By taking the time to observe more of what is happening around you, you will learn more and be better for it. You only have one life, so don’t rush through it.