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3 Ways to Practice Patience at Work

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3 Ways to Practice Patience at Work

I sometimes think that Zen students and entrepreneurs are the most patient, and at the same time the least patient, people. Zen students spend long hours, days, and years, sitting, facing a wall, expecting nothing. Entrepreneurs spend a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money planning and working without knowing the results of their efforts. While Zen students and entrepreneurs exhibit great patience they are equally impatient when it comes to accepting anything less than perfection.

Basho, a Zen poet, wrote:

Fleas, lice

The horse pissing

Near my pillow

This poem describes the rawness of Basho’s life and his ability to describe things just the way they are. My poem for today could be something like:

Email not working

Employees out sick

Little accomplished

Our lives at work are filled with difficulty. People are late for meetings. Our ideas are not met with enthusiasm. Computers crash, restart, and crash again. Other people don’t meet our expectations. Our overnight package is lost. Relationships become impossible. Cash shortages are threatening, and businesses fail. Patience requires that we fully and directly face our difficulties, that we embrace and learn from situations and from our feelings about them. Owning and transforming our pain and disappointment can be a tremendous challenge, as well as a tremendous gift.

Patience is what connects the entrepreneurial spirit required in business with facing the truth of what is actually required in Zen practice. It takes patience to face the truth of where we are in our work lives. The truth may include the pain of not meeting expectations, a variety of messy and challenging situations facing us each day, as well the possibilities of transformation and great accomplishment.

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Marc Lesser

Marc Lesser is CEO of ZBA Associates LLC, a company providing executive coaching, leadership development consulting, and keynote speaking services to businesses and non-profits. He is a developer and instructor of Google’s Search Inside Yourself program. Marc is a Zen teacher with an MBA degree and a former resident of the San Francisco Zen Center for 10 years. He is the author of Less: Accomplishing More By Doing Less and Z.B.A. Zen of Business Administration.


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10:32PM PDT on Jul 8, 2013


3:08AM PDT on Jun 29, 2013

Thanks for a different perspective.

6:28PM PDT on Oct 10, 2012

One of my best friends taught me her version of the 24 hour rule. She taught me to wait 24 hours before reacting to someone who is very close to you after he/she has said something to upset you, and also to wait 24 hours before you write something to someone you are very close to, and read it again the next day after writing it. This has helped me to choose to act reasonably often times when I might have reacted hastily.

8:11AM PDT on Mar 19, 2012


10:00AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

Starting with a deep breath can enable patience.

5:42AM PST on Dec 1, 2011

Patience is something that I'm still working at. But, if I'm not actually writing to a deadline, sometimes I secretly love it when the internet goes down - and I realise all the other things I can do instead. I get so much done when I'm not having to be my computer's handmaiden!

12:19AM PDT on Jun 28, 2011

This statement is something I always try to remain concious of: "Most of our impatience comes from our wanting things to be different from what they are."
On the other hand, I believe there is not much wrong in expecting a certain standard of service. Last week an employee gave three of us different incorrect information when we asked a certain question. We asked another person to delve deeper, as in the past I had been discriminated by this organisation. Following this, this customer service clerk claimed she had misunderstood all 3 requests. I heaved a sigh of relief to learn that she was not discriminating against me - as her boss had done - but that perhaps the staff who were employed by the boss all had to have one common characteristic..... poor customer service !

11:01PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

"And oftentimes excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse."

— King John, Act IV, sc. ii

10:54PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

I have one question: more than one of the great (famous) buddhist masters have been recorded as temperamental and what point in their meditation career did they exhibit such personality traits?

Are we truly being true to our innermost nature by suppressing our natural adrenalin responses, or are we obsequiously subscribing to dominant societal norms? - by being "good children", "good students", "good workers" - seen and not heard.

True detachment is not indifference, it is "holy indifference" which may well include detachment from ones own exasperation with inequable situations.

7:05PM PDT on Jun 27, 2011

Great info. Thanks.

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