Impatience: The Pitfall Of Every Ambitious Person


One of my mentors is an art dealer. He specializes in art from the middle ages. Last time we met, he showed me a part of his personal collection. Impressed by the size of the collection, I asked how long it took to accumulate everything.

He said “45 years,” and then he laughed when I looked surprised. He continued:

“This is not something you can buy in one go. It’s not like going to the IKEA. Accumulating anything worthwhile in life takes time. First, because you don’t have the money to buy everything at once. Second, not everything is always available. You must wait for the right opportunity.”

And waiting is one of the hardest things in life. But if you take a close look around you, you see many examples of people who waited for the right opportunity.

Take all the investors who bought stocks and real estate during the financial crisis that started in 2008. That recession lasted several years. Recently, I spoke to someone who invested a big chunk of his assets in the stock market between 2009 and 2011.

He saved most of his money in the years that led to the crisis. Not because he predicted the global financial crisis that was sparked by subprime mortgages, but because he simply didn’t know what to do. So he spent his time learning about investing.

He also didn’t follow the market. Instead, he saved his money — and wasn’t tempted to invest it just because “the economy is great.”

But that’s not what most people do in prosperous times. When we see that the economy is growing, we think it’s the right time to invest and spend.

We feel optimistic and we trust the market. So what do we do? We look for “good” investments. All of us turn into part-time investors.

What’s even better, we make poor decisions without reading a single book on investing or without getting advice from knowledgeable people. It’s pretty much become standard human behavior in the 21st century.

Benjamin Graham, author of The Intelligent Investor, and mentor to Warren Buffett, wrote this in 1949:

“The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.”

In other words: The long-term investor always wins because of one reason.


It’s not only crucial for building wealth. When you want to learn skills and do good work, impatience is one of your biggest enemies.

Leonardo da Vinci, who’s considered as one of the greatest artists in history, understood the danger of impatience.

In Mastery by Robert Greene, I read that Leonardo’s motto was ostinato rigore, which translates as “stubborn rigor” or “tenacious application.”

Every time he worked on a project, he reminded himself that he would approach his work with the same vigor and tenacity that he always showed. Leonardo never overlooked the details of his work. That takes patience.

Find pleasure in pain

So how do you apply patience to your life? One thing I’ve found useful is to adopt the same mindset as Leonardo.

If your work is not hard, you’re not doing great work.

That’s a perfect way to measure your own work on a daily basis. And journaling is an essential tool for that. There’s nothing else I can think of that is so effective in providing you with daily feedback.

Having a mentor comes very close. However, the problem is that you often can’t speak to your mentor every day. But your journal is always there.

When you’re trying to achieve your goals, improve yourself, and live a better life, there are moments you want to speed things up.

The book you’re writing, the presentation you’re making, the business you’re building, things can’t happen fast enough. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things to happen fast. In fact, that’s one of the main reasons people and companies innovate.

But we have to realize there’s a difference between a desire to achieve things and impatience. The former helps you, the latter harms you, especially your creativity.

Like Robert Greene writes in Mastery:

“The greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience, the almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash.”

Big splashes don’t happen. Overnight success doesn’t exist. We have to remind ourselves of that whenever we’re impatient. It happens to every ambitious person.

People who never do anything with their lives don’t suffer from this. Only the people who work hard and try to make an impact do.

Look at it this way. You’ve spent enough time getting where you are — don’t screw it up by wanting to go too fast. Spend more time on your work. Take pride in it. That’s the only way we can do truly great work.



Read Next


    1. Your articles are always informative even for one aged 83yrs, which goes to prove you can keep learning into your old age.

  1. Sometimes admitting impatience is your imperfection can be difficult. Thank you, Darius, for reminding me. If only you knew……

  2. I can’t agree with you more. Impatience I think is a natural human trigger, but the ones that can look past it and don’t listen to the chatter around them and wait for the right moment will win. It’s confidence in who you are, learning from your own and other peoples’ mistakes, and the ability to not be a lemming.

    This is VERY similar idea in backcountry skiing. Majority of deaths happen right after a snowstorm but at the same time this is also the most dangerous time to be out there. Being patient and waiting until the snowpack solidifies is key to coming home safe. Great article!

  3. Thanks for the “Heads Up”. As for patience and belief in oneself, the sculpting of David, by a very young Michelangelo is a great example.

  4. Getting enough Folate in the right form (homocystex works but is expensive) really helps me with patience, also extends life. It’s a no-brainer. Microdosing lithium helps a lot too and is also good for you. From what I have written you can probably tell patience has been a problem for me.

  5. In the Bible God said ( if one believes as I do) let Patience have her perfect work so that you may be perfect and entire wanting nothing,

  6. “Leonardo never overlooked the details of his work. He went on until a project was actually finished, and not earlier.”

    Maybe not the best example, since Leonardo was famous for leaving projects unfinished.

  7. Nice article. Oddly enough this has been on my mind constantly the past two days due to a new venture I’m trying not to rush, and randomly came across this article. Needless to say this resonated with me.

  8. “Good things come to those who wait (have patience)” is often true! Creativity in particular cannot be rushed or forced. “Go with the flow” is the best way to express creativity; however, our deadline-driven work culture is often at odds with the patience that is often necessary to build long-term successful projects. Often, people present products to the market before they are fully completed. In particular, technology products are infamous for starting the trend to beta test everything, which is a good idea but they roll out their product usually way too soon before glitches are fixed, causing customer dissatisfaction. There is often too much of a rush to get a product to market, rather than focus on spending more time creating the very best product or service experience possible. Even fiction authors are following the trend to “write on demand” by producing one book a month in order to make enough sales and meet reader demand. Is that type of hurried writing and publishing truly of benefit to our society? Thoughtful literature takes a much longer time to write. It is a craft just as painting is a craft that takes time to develop skill. This type of “rush to market” focus in our work culture needs to be re-evaluated. It is creating a stressful mindset which is not healthy.

    I worked for several online education ventures from 2000-2014 who initially spent the necessary time to build a product fully – which was an enjoyable process – but over time as online educational products became more in demand, the amount of time to produce was reduced and the pressure to deliver a product quickly became a priority over ensuring that a quality product was produced. There must be a balance between allowing enough time for creativity and innovation to be explored and enough time for the product to be adequately developed before putting it out to market. Fortunately, I am now seeing more business and tech people practicing the concept of mindfulness in relation to work. The more people can slow down and be more deliberately mindful about the work they are doing, the easier it will be for all of us to engage in the natural flow of the creation process and enjoy our work more!

  9. “Leonardo never overlooked the details of his work. He went on until a project was actually finished, and not earlier.” err… not according to the biography that I read which made it clear how often Leonardo left work in various states of production. If memory serves one his early commissions was a fresco that the monks were still waiting for him to finish over 10 years later.

    I don’t argue with your main point though, that impatience while it can lend an urgency, can be problematic if it leads us lean too heavily on assumptions that are poorly understood or past their prime.

    1. You’re nitpicking here mate. Plus, you’re proving my point. He was so patient that he hardly finished his work. That’s common knowledge. Now, you can say that’s the downside of patience. That we are so patient we become procrastinators. But in my experience that almost never happens. We suffer from impatience, not patience. That’s the problem.

  10. On your impatience point and using the Leonardo example, I slightly disagree. I actually don’t think our brains allow us to be ambitious and patient at the same time. Leonardo didn’t know he was going to be Leonardo until after he had achieved mastery. Had a fortune-teller told him at age 20 that he would become the greatest artist of all time, he would’ve dropped everything right then and there and raced to become that. Most people who do things over 20, 30, 40, 50 years can only be that patient because they don’t have expectations of themselves – if they end up average, they’re okay with it, and if they end up as masters, then great. But I would argue that it is practically impossible to want grandeur and mastery and yet consciously be willing to wait 40+ years for it to come. We are wired to want immediate gratification, and as much as we may be able to delay that gratification, we can’t consciously delay it for 40+ years.

    1. “Had a fortune-teller told him at age 20 that he would become the greatest artist of all time, he would’ve dropped everything right then and there and raced to become that.” How on earth can you possibly know this? That’s a huge assumption mate. It’s pure speculation.

  11. Been struggling with this right now. Nice to read something that gets me back on level footing!
    I’m digging your work, man! Very practical stuff, especially for young dudes coming up.

  12. Its crazy, i stumbled on this article by accident (your first article i read so far, ill read more for sure)
    but it literary came in perfect timing, like literary,
    like everything you said, from books you mentioned i’ve and concepts i’ve been experiencing within last week

Share Your Thoughts