The Difference Between Patience and Persistence.

I remember watching my little brother go fishing once. He was in fourth or fifth grade at the time. You have to understand that my little brother is highly allergic to fish. The kid’s face puffs up if he so much as walks past a Benihana.

But he sat on the banks of that river for three, maybe four hours with a fishing reel. Cast one out, reel it back in. Cast one out, reel it back in. He wasn’t going anywhere until he caught something.

Now, I don’t know what he thought he was going to do when he actually caught something, since he couldn’t actually touch the fish. But he’d deal with that when that time came. First he’d reel something big in, then he’d figure out how to get it onto land.

That’s how my family goes about doing the work. We finish what we start — even in situations where the finish line seems quasi-unreachable. We hang around longer than anyone would reasonably expect us to.

Some people call this trait patience, but that’s not quite it. Patience needs to be paired with something else to be worthwhile. By itself, patience is just the ability to tolerate the passing of time.

Patience is for people who don’t have the balls to get what they want.

What you really want is to pair patience with persistence. Persistence is the ability to push and push and push and push. It’s the ability to be stubborn in the best possible sense of the word. It’s the ability to be tenacious in pursuit of dreams.

I had that in mind when I heard this clip from This American Life’s Ira Glass. He says, and I’m paraphrasing here: When you start working on something, you will not be able to do the work like you want to. You have to spend a very long time building things that suck before you build anything good.

Getting good at something requires patience — yes, you have to understand that things probably will go slow, and be able to tolerate that — but you also have to have persistence — that voice that says that just because I’m telling you it might go slow doesn’t mean it has to.

The difference between patience and persistence is the difference between doing and dreaming. It’s the difference between those who get to the finish line and those who quit before the work really begins.

Be patient. Be persistent.

Do the work.

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