When one thinks of patience, major league sports fans do not come to mind, especially when their team is losing. Imagine now what it was like to be a Detroit Tigers fan in 2010, witnessing pitcher Armando Galarraga being robbed of his perfect game—one of the most sacrosanct feats in all of sports—thanks to a bad call by umpire Jim Joyce. However, it wasn’t the missed call, dubbed the worst call of the ump’s decades-long career, that people still remember most; it’s how both men chose to respond to the media frenzy.
After Joyce reviewed the replay, he knew he had botched the call, publicly admitting, “I just cost that kid a perfect game.” Galarraga appreciated the gesture when Joyce asked to see him in the locker room immediately after the game. “You don’t see an umpire after the game come out and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you I’m sorry,’” Galarraga said. “He felt re- ally bad.”
This is not to say Gallarraga didn’t blow up in the ump’s face when the bad call was made, but afterward it didn’t take long for Galarraga to forgive Joyce. “I say many times, no- body’s perfect,” Galarraga said. Certainly an ironic statement from a pitcher who had pitched perfectly that day.
An inspiring simple sports metaphor this is not. Major League Baseball is huge business. With each player acting as his own franchise and corporation, players are only as good as their last seasons. Could such a blatantly bad call, and one that Joyce openly took the heat for, have affected Galarraga’s stock? The answer really doesn’t matter. The fact is: People who do business together, whether on a field or in a board- room, expect they are getting the best and most accurate work from one another. In this case, Galarraga got less than he deserved and expected, but still had it in him to chalk it up to just being human.
In business nobody is perfect and nothing is perfect. In fact, entrepreneur guru Neil Patel says, “If you wait to start your business until the time is right, the situation is perfect, and the stars are aligned, you will never begin. And then once you do start, nothing goes as planned. Most businesses lurch into life with a rough start and little to no semblance of perfection.”
This is precisely why one of the main currencies of kindness is paid with patience—lots and lots of it. From dealing with angry customers to forgiving bad calls made by umpires to having the will to continue even after another year in the red, patience is not just a virtue, it is vital to success.
We exude patience, or our lack of it, through our interactions with others, in our body language, our tone of voice, how angry we get, whether we listen well, our tolerance for mistakes, and in the mere determination we muster day in and day out to keep fighting the good fight. Patience is what keeps a sturdy bridge between people; impatience sends connectivity and the bonds we most desire in life toppling down.
It is in the workplace, perhaps more than anyplace else, where our patience is tested with colleagues, subordinates, superiors, and ourselves. The words we speak out of impatience can cause so much harm to human beings and our capacity to do good work. In his book, Patience: A Guide to Peaceful Living, Allan Lokos writes, “The workplace is one area where a person trying to diminish the harmful effects of anger and backbiting chatter can find things tough and chewy, meaning too many mouths spewing too much malice.”
Our lives are lived in relationship with others, which is why many spiritual practices place importance on the way in which we speak to one another. “Probably nothing could improve the quality of our relationships…[than a] greater awareness of the words we speak,” writes Lokos. “This is how we develop skillful speech, a revered quality among wise beings.”
But come on; when someone’s opinions, values, work ethics, or personality, are different from our own, we feel impatient, threatened even, and we tend to lose our cool rather than gain composure. Lokos argues that impatience has a close relationship with anger, which is even more of a reason success in business relies on the practice of patience. It develops the skill of listening with an open mind and heart, and respond in kind. There is much at stake as we strive to meet our business goals, but there is no greater predictor of failure than succumbing to the fear, anger, and lack of control that are at the heart of the loss of our patience.