An Outdoor View: The value of patience

“Have patience. All things are difficult before they become easy.”

— Saadi

It occurred to me the other day that we’re losing our patience.

If you’re wondering, I’m using the editorial “we.” I’m fine, thank you, but I’m worried about everyone else.

This is no small thing. Patience is a key ingredient in the well-rounded human. By that, I mean it’s necessary to have patience to be good at fishing, and to truly enjoy this activity that’s such a vital part of the living the good life.

Patience — my definition — is the act of waiting with the expectation of something good happening, or of something bad not happening. Put another way, patience is the act of calmly waiting — and, yes, sometimes putting up with a load of crap — before saying, “Enough.”

I learned to be patient early-on. As a young boy, I once fished in a mud puddle for hours with a piece of string and a bent pin before saying, “Enough.” While patiently sitting there, I learned a valuable lesson: In order to catch fish, the water must contain fish.

My mother helped teach me patience. Her attitude was summed up by a small sign above the kitchen sink: “This too shall pass.” I recall it whenever fishing is slow, or when hypothermia is setting in.

The rewards for acting impetuously are almost always smaller than the rewards for waiting, for showing forbearance and perseverance. As Ben Franklin put it, “He that can have patience can have what he will.” Some of my favorite memories are of fish I’ve caught after hours of waiting for a bite.

However, thanks to modern technology, the times, they are a-changin’. Nowadays, we don’t want to wait for anything. When we order something on-line, we don’t want to wait a week for it. We’ll pay extra for the 2-day shipping. If a video takes longer than a few seconds to load, we’re gone. We’ve become addicted to instant gratification. We no longer have time to be patient. When we want something, we want it now.

There’s a price to pay for this unintended consequence of living in the digital age. Studies have shown that a negative effect of receiving constant doses of instant gratification is that we become less and less patient.

Television commercials constantly remind us of all the wonderful stuff that can be ours right now. “Call today! We’ll even arrange financing!” If there’s any way to satisfy our lust for a house, a car or a boat without waiting and saving for it, we’ll do it, even if it ends up costing us twice as much. One reason we have to work so hard and for so many years is that we have all that interest on loans and credit cards to pay.

My dad, born just over 100 years ago, used to call interest on loans the “fool’s tax.” Having lived through the Great Depression, he hated the idea of paying interest to some banker. Some of that rubbed off on me, I think. To me, the capacity to endure some waiting says far more about character than a person’s ability to score a big loan.

Among the traits I admire most in people are restraint, calmness, persistence, composure, indulgence, understanding and forbearance, all of which are synonyms for “patience.” Patient people make good cooks, friends, lovers, spouses, employees and bosses. They value the big rewards of waiting more than the small rewards of acting quickly, without care or thought. As you might expect, patient people are not only good at fishing, but they have the capability to enjoy it to the max.

Do little kids still fish in mud puddles?

I wonder. After kids have experienced electronic excitement, they seem to be bored by most everything else. That said, if you happen to see kids fishing in a mud puddle, just smile and leave them to their dreams. They’re learning that there can be as much pleasure in the waiting as in the doing.

Les Palmer can be reached at

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