We live in a fast-moving, instant gratification world. Everyone expects success to happen overnight, and we exacerbate the illusion of quick wins by wildly celebrating them – e.g. Slack.
But success is elusive and difficult to achieve. And sometimes, it takes a long time to happen. Unfortunately, we’re so anxious for success that patience isn’t part of the business formula. As a result, entrepreneurs and investors give up too early when it appears success isn’t going to happen soon or it’s not going to happen period.
But there’s a risk in prematurely surrendering a dream, especially when it’s a matter of a good product that hasn’t been discovered or not marketed or sold properly.
The need to exhibit patience struck me when reading a feature story in the New York Times about the Toronto Blue Jays’ Chris Colabello, who spent seven years playing baseball in independent leagues. For the uninitiated, independent leagues sit on the fringe of the baseball world. It’s not a place where future major league players ply their trade.
Colabello, however, refused to give up on his dream. He played year after year, participated in a series of major league try-outs, and lived with his parents. In 2012, he finally caught a break when the Minnesota Twins signed him to a minor league deal. Colabello played well enough to break into the major leagues in 2013. After getting claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays, Colabello had a breakthrough year in 2015.
Think about it: Colabello spent a decade focused on his dream before he enjoyed big-time success. Most people would have given up. Most people would have pursued a “regular” job and played baseball as a hobby. Not Colabello who believed he had the skills and talent but needed a break.
For startups, Colabello’s journey is not only a lesson in perseverance but a belief that his product (his baseball skills) had yet to be discovered. Until that happened, he would continue to carry on. It’s an important lesson for startups scrambling to find product-market fit or any kind of traction.
Too many startups believe they need to make an immediate impact. Rather than establish a business, they look for quick success because it’s sexy. They have a short-term vision, rather than thinking and acting long-term. They think business is a sprint, rather than a marathon. And I believe many investors have the same philosophy.
Maybe patience needs to be highlighted as a key ingredient in starting and building a business. Perhaps we need to showcase examples of startups that simply needed time to establish themselves before they enjoyed success. By putting the spotlight on these stories, important and pragmatic lessons would be delivered about the realities of startups and doing business.
This slow-as-she-goes approach may not be terribly palatable at a time when overnight success is expected. But it’s a more realistic approach to business, and the path taken by most businesses.
For anyone who needs some inspiration and appreciation for the value of patience, Chris Colabello’s story provides some great insight.
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