Wait and listen: the two hardest things you will ever learn to do

There is a time for everything. There is a time for setting fires (according to Sun Tzu) and a time for buying shoes.

One of the hardest parts of living is the waiting. And I don’t mean “sit on your butt and do nothing while bored” waiting. I mean, head down, pencils up, grinding, painful waiting for all your hard work to pay off while you’re still working–that kind of waiting.

I see people who run out, guns blazing, putting a lot of effort into something, only to burn out and turn back too soon. You have to lie low. Pick your battles. Portion your strength. Put down your roots, get a sustainable support system going. Then, when your target is within sight, you apply steady pressure, and you don’t let up until you’ve achieved your aim, or the situation becomes futile. (There is no shame in failing.)

Listening is harder.

We find ourselves the most fascinating creatures in the world. This is good because we spend 24 hours with ourselves. If we loathed and hated that person, how quickly would that lead us to ruin? Suicide? Homicide even? Successful people love themselves. But you need to love others, and not just the idea of others. You need to take the time to get to know them, to value their words and their life stories. You need to see past yourself to the other people who you share your existence with. What’s more, you need to not just “see them” or acknowledge their existence. You need to know them.

If all you do is think about yourself and your wants and needs, you will never learn how other people handle difficult situations or successes. In short, you won’t learn anything new about being human. You will live in a masturbatory world with yourself at the center.

Western society encourages us to think of ourselves first. The quiet, diligent, smart individual is not promoted where their loud, less intelligent  braggart of a coworker will be made CEO. People only see what you show them. When you acknowledge that you control how other people perceive you, you’ve gained a valuable insight. If you start to tweak how other people perceive you for maximum effectiveness, you’ve gained a valuable power. But to do that, you need to know what other people want–or don’t want–to see. And this means that you have to pay attention as much to others as you do to yourself.

Pay attention. Wait. Listen. Be patient. I know it’s hard. You only have so much time on this planet, and the clock’s ticking is constant. But patiently laying plans, considering others and conserving your efforts to maximize their results will help you lead a more fulfilling, less futile life.

  • Ash.Rain

    Very good message, and one that I would do well to take part in.

  • http://bookspread.net Bookspread

    Dear Machiavelli, I am pleased to finally make your acquaintance after 5 centuries of patiently waiting. :)

  • http://rachelnabors.com Rachel the Great

    You flatter me so!