Give It Time

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By John C. Maxwell

Merging onto a crowded expressway can unnerve even the calmest driver. Despite the stress, most of us just check our mirror and cautiously forge ahead, hoping that the hole we’re shooting for remains open until our vehicle has safely entered the highway. We obey the yield sign on the on the ramp, but we keep moving.

Every once in a while motorists will make it all the way to the end of the ramp and just stop. Other drivers line up behind them, honking and gesturing, but the poor drivers are too intimidated by all the 18-wheelers and SUVs whizzing past to make their move. Instead of slowing down until they find the right spot to merge, they just give up.

Have you ever been tempted to do that in other areas of life? Have you ever gotten so discouraged by the pressures, responsibilities, or lack of progress associated with a certain project or role that you just want to throw in the towel? Wanting to surrender and actually giving up are two totally different things. Sometimes, when you’re thinking about quitting, a fresh perspective on time can help renew your spirits and energize you for the long haul.

Here are five thoughts that might encourage you the next time you find yourself coming to a standstill in your work as a leader.

1. Wrong perception causes many people to quit.

The moment one person says, “I give up,” someone else is looking at the very same situation and saying, “This is my great opportunity.” One person’s yelling “uncle” and getting out of the ring, and the other is saying, “This is the chance of a lifetime.” What’s the difference between the two? It’s all a matter of perception.

2. If you start for the wrong reason, you’ll stop for the wrong reason.

When people tell me they want to stop doing something, I always want to know why they started it in the first place. Instead of listening to a list of five reasons why they should quit their profession, for example, I take them back to the beginning. Why did they get into accounting (or construction or sales or whatever) at all? Did they love numbers, or did they just become CPA’s because that’s what their parents expected? If you have the right reason for starting something, you’ll have the tenacity to give it a little more time.

3. Perseverance and patience are a result of seeing the big picture.

Let me explain it this way. A stonecutter, hammer, and chisel in hand, pounds on a hunk of granite. For a long time, there’s no obvious change in the stone, but he keeps tapping the chisel. And then, on the 101st tap, a hairline crack appears. Does the 101st blow make the fracture? Of course not. It’s the constant hammering on the chisel that causes the rock to split. The stonecutter knows what will happen if he keeps pounding. He perseveres because he sees the big picture.

In work and life, many people give up when they don’t get immediate results. They hit the chisel about three times, and then they quit because they don’t think anything is happening, but they’re wrong. When you’re doing the right thing daily, something is happening even when you can’t see it. Don’t lose sight of the big picture.

4. Great accomplishments take a great time.

The sculptor who carved Mount Rushmore was once asked if he did a perfect job of sculpting the faces of the four presidents. “No,” he replied. “The nose of George Washington is about an inch too long, but it’s okay. In a thousand years, erosion will make it just right.” Talk about a good perspective on time. He understood that great achievements don’t happen overnight. Sometimes, you have to wait a long time to see the results of your hard work.

5. Some things only work out if given enough time.

I once read an article in Golf magazine about the late Sam Snead. A person who had played golf with Snead recalled that when the legendary golfer made a triple bogey (three over par) on the first hole, it didn’t seem to bother him. As he was walking off the green, Snead looked at his partner and said, “That’s why they have eighteen holes of golf.” In other words, it will all work out in the end. Some things just take time.

It’s easy to put too much stock in a single event. It’s not one meeting, one lecture, or one presentation that makes us into great leaders; it’s the process. It’s the time we spend day in and day out—working diligently even when we’re not seeing any results—that makes the difference.

So next time you’re tempted to give up, remember this. Leaders develop daily, not in a day. Give it time.