power in words and pictures

Whistle and Work While you Wait

Whistle and Work While you Wait

“Things may come to those who wait, but only things left by those who hustle.” ~Abraham LIncoln

Cars not moving at a green light

A drink to be prepared at the coffee shop

The dog to do his business when you walk him

People talking in public on their cell phone to hang up

Friends who aren’t punctual to show up

Job offers to arrive

Pregnancy to come to an end with a new baby being born

A computer program to load

Waiting.  We do it every day.  In fact, we spend 45-60 minutes of every day waiting:  10 seconds for the car in front of us to look up and see that their light is green, 3 minutes for a coffee order to be ready, 2 minutes for the person we are meeting to show up, 2 minutes for someone to finish in the bathroom so we can have a turn, 4 minutes in the checkout line, and you can see that pretty soon we have spent a lot of our day waiting.  Most people reading this live in a society that dislikes having to wait for anything, but if you are simply complaining that you are wasting time waiting, you might find that you are one of those President Lincoln says will only end up with the things left by those who hustle.  You’ll be getting the leftovers of someone else’s sumptuous banquet.

If you’ve ever been to an awards banquet, you know that the people receiving the awards are usually people who weren’t waiting for life to happen.  Actually, they might have been waiting for life to take the turns they wanted, but they didn’t just wait, they got busy doing, hustling, working, and they accomplished great things in the process.  The man who wrote the award-winning story, the woman who took the award-winning photo, the boy who was the award-winning dancer, the girl who was the award-winning runner, the dog who was the award-winning dog all worked to be at the banquet, enjoying the feast and the fruits of their labor.

Waiting to become the leading toy maker in America, Ruth and Elliott Handler made wooden picture frames in their garage.  With the scraps of the frames, they made dollhouses.  The dollhouses were more popular than the frames, and before long the Mattel Toy Company was born.  

Waiting to become the founder of a multi-billion dollar department store empire, a young 16 year-old boy came from Sweden to the United States with hopes of living the ‘American Dream.’ For two years he worked in mines and logging camps until word of gold being found in Alaska lured him away.  It took fourteen years from the time John Nordstrom arrived in America until he was able to open a shoe store which eventually grew into the giant of department stores we know today as Nordstrom.

Waiting, as Tom Petty sings, is the hardest part, isn’t it?  The cookies have to bake just a little longer, but the intoxicating smell begs us to pull them out early. The paper has taken so long to write and you just can’t wait to finish it, so you hurry through the last paragraph, weakening one of the most important parts. You just want your child to roll over or to crawl or to walk or to talk, and you overlook a lot of precious little moments waiting for the big moments.  You want to be old enough to drive, to vote, to drink, but if you are so focused on what you are waiting for, you risk missing out on what you should be working on in the meantime.

My friend Buddy Pate used to coach basketball, my favorite sport.  When we were talking recently about life, this subject came up and his response has stayed with me.  “Everything comes to those who wait, but only if they work while they wait. You cannot sit around waiting for something to happen.  You must continue  to work hard and eventually good things will happen. ” Paired with Lincoln’s words, Buddy’s words remind me that I might be waiting on a lot of things to happen in my life, but if I, and you, just sit around waiting it could be a really long wait–as in forever–to reach my goal.  

“Everything comes to those who wait, but only if they work while they wait.” ~Buddy Pate

In an era when more and more people want to be awarded a prize or money for doing little or nothing, we find that there is value in the hustle, in the work,  that is more than the external reward others see.  When we are doing something, anything, to better ourselves (no matter how humbling it might be) we receive an intrinsic (self-motivating) reward.  Is there anything that feels better than looking at the floors you’ve just taken from dirty and worn to a restored beauty, through stripping, sanding, and refinishing? There might be things that feel better, but you get my point.

The floors won’t get refinished on their own. Microsoft and Apple didn’t explode while the founders sat around simply talking about what they hoped to do one day. Whole Foods didn’t go from a small natural foods grocery to the success it is today because the owners complained that they didn’t have enough space to store their fruits and veggies. Our joys, our dreams, our ambitions won’t suddenly become a reality if we don’t work to bring those things into our lives.

Working hard doesn’t have to be unpleasant, the Seven Dwarfs taught me to whistle while I work, and it helps a lot! We might find that after all of our whistling and working, the reward is completely unexpected from what we had planned.  We might discover that when we hustle, we don’t have to settle for someone’s leftovers. I hope we see each other at the banquet!

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