My eye was caught by this headline in a recent Wall Street Journal magazine supplement: “The Unimprovable: Awards for Six Things that Time Can’t Touch.”
The article concerned six products that have remained popular over many generations—the Rolex Oyster Case watch, denim fabric, and a Knoll chair among them.
The point was that certain designs have stood the test of time remarkably well, especially in the age of electronics where things are considered outdated in two to three years. Kudos to the designers and craftsmen behind these innovative products.
But I couldn’t help but think that the article wasn’t addressing what is truly timeless.
Seeking lasting qualities
We all tend to focus on the physical object itself (or its design) or on the monetary success of a venture and not on the qualities of the people that created that success, nor on the qualities learned by those people in the process.
Only rarely, after all, does success come easily. So here’s a different list of “Six Things That Time Can’t Touch”:
1. Patience. In our current world, the media, the public, boards, analysts, pundits, et al expect quick results and get restless when they aren’t forthcoming.
Patience involves self control, especially in trying circumstances, and at present the lack of it is far more evident than its presence.
Yet having patience allows one to deal with the pressure of demands and to not be thwarted by setbacks, delays, and distractions.
Patience is not a common quality, but it’s a very powerful one. Most of the great developments in history have come about only after long and tedious effort, and after overcoming stumbles and roadblocks—all of which requires patience.
2. Courage. This quality is often associated with life-threatening or similarly dramatic events.
Yet it takes a stout heart to stick with an idea—or to hold the line on a matter of ethics—when one is confronted by naysayers, and by those who feel you are out of touch with reality or similar forms of dismissal.
3. Calmness. Closely related to patience is the ability of some people to not be rattled by unexpected developments, including not overreacting when things go right (see humility, below).
We live in a world of overstimulation, which makes it more difficult than it already is to maintain calmness.
Nevertheless it is possible to create a mental oasis within oneself no matter what is going on around one. Far from easy.
Yet rarely do good things come from a rattled, muddled, or confused mind.
4. The will to go on. We hear or read of many inspiring stories of people persevering against frightful odds. Often such people say that only sheer will kept them going.
Everyone has a will. But few of us come close to using it to full potential. Instead we let shortcomings such as fear, worry, and laziness get the upper hand.
In the depths of disappointments and failures, draw on that will to keep on trying. There is a time to move on—but not because we gave up.
5. Adaptability. The ability to adjust to changing circumstances is a very useful attribute in business.
Things rarely go completely according to plan, so having the quality of adaptability is a true asset.
Its opposite—obstinacy, unwillingness to change, and even failure to recognize the need to change—dooms many enterprises and projects.
6. Humility. Some of the biggest whoppers of judgment occur when one is flush with success and full of oneself.
Humility—that rare quality of being modest in success—will not only enable us to avoid such missteps, but will make us more effective leaders or team members.
People will work tirelessly for someone who has humility, less so for the boaster.
Time-tested business advantages
The value of these qualities, and others like them, is truly timeless.
One gains them, or a degree of them, mostly from life’s difficulties.
Yet they contribute greatly to life’s successes.
Ironically, even when a person is seen as a failure by others (and sometimes by himself), that cannot be true if he or she has gained any of the six qualities above.
What other qualities do you find helpful in business today? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.