It is a characteristic of wisdom…

“It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”
—Henry David Thoreau

I am not typically a quick thinker. My mental process is more methodical. It seems to me that age and experience lead everyone in that direction, so maybe I just have a head start. (It would be nice to think I might be early in something.)

One particular occasion when that slow pace paid off unexpectedly was during an interview for work at TSR nearly twenty years ago. The process went something like this:

  1. A friend employed there called to say the company had positions to fill, and I should get my résumé in immediately.
  2. I did so.
  3. A year passed with no word.
  4. A TSR VP e-mailed to say that he’d reviewed my résumé and wanted to schedule an interview, because they had positions to fill immediately.
  5. I did the interview.
  6. Another year passed with no word.
  7. The VP asked me to come up for a second interview because they needed to hire immediately.
  8. I arrived. He offered me a job.
    • I explained that in the interim I had started grad school and needed six weeks to finish.
    • He said they couldn’t wait six weeks.
    • I asked if they could move a bit on the salary.
    • He said no.
    • I asked about excluding my poetry from their “We own everything you write” stance.
    • He said no.
    • I turned down the job.
    • He blinked, apparently stunned.
  9. Another year passed.
  10. Another friend called to say that he had been appointed department manager and could get me the salary I’d asked. I’d need to do one more interview.
  11. I arrived, and the same VP offered me a job at more than I’d asked.
  12. I blinked, considering how to best say yes.
  13. Apparently reading my silence as reluctance, he raised the offer 15 percent.
  14. I said done.

In this case, not only did patience pay off in the end (working at TSR was one of the best times in my life), but slow thinking landed a much better salary than I could have hoped for. This sort of measured action is the very opposite of the desperation Thoreau mentions (which is why the quotation caught my eye today). No one wants to hire a desperate employee, or date someone desperate for love. Slow but steady really does win out in the end. At least it did for me.

Photo by obbino

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