When urgency meets patience -- in life, work, and transitions

Written by:

Katie Mehnert

When a problem is urgent and the stakes are incredibly high, the last thing you might want to do is encourage “patience.” Yet patience is a necessity in life, in preparing for a marathon, and in the greatest challenge humanity faces: tackling climate change. 

I thought about this recently while on a trip to Silicon Valley to celebrate the launch of Lean In Girls. With the number of days leading up to the TCS New York City Marathon down to double digits, I wasn’t going to let a business trip get in the way of my training regimen. So I got up early to run. It was about 50 degrees cooler than at home in Houston, a welcome relief. Still, I began to feel overwhelmed. There's so much more that I need to do to prepare, and to be the best participant I can be in our Women & Allies in Energy marathon team. I have a ways to go to reach my goals for the big day. 

And as an entrepreneur, I am still learning patience too.  I am obsessed with growth but patience and urgency must be balanced.

I could start to question whether I’ll make it, and feel despondent. But as Stanford Health reports, part of the key to marathon preparation is training your mind and body to be patient. That means committing and sticking to a plan, but also accepting that there are times when you’ll deviate and have to do some extra work to catch up to where you want to be. And that's OK.

As I’ve long said, running a marathon is a metaphor for the energy transition. It’s not a sprint. Building a clean energy future, what I call Energy 2.0, is a long, daunting path ahead. 

Given the impacts of climate change, the idea of being patient can seem absurd. But here too, research shows that patience makes a big difference. “Patient societies are more likely to adopt public policies to mitigate climate change,” a study found. 

To be clear, patience does not mean putting off efforts or taking them slowly. The study defines patience as “future orientation.” And Merriam-Webster says being patient includes “bearing pains or trials” along the way. 

Patience in addressing climate change isn’t only important for societies; it’s a crucial attribute for each of us in our own efforts. Researchers at the IZA Institute of Labor Economics found that “patience, altruism, and positive reciprocity positively predict individual willingness to fight global warming.”

Tracking progress -- and setbacks

Fortunately, technology provides metrics for us to gauge how much progress we’re making toward our goals. (And metrics are huge.  The question though are what are the right ones?)

In practice runs, I not only measure distance and time, but I also measure VO2 Max, my maximum oxygen consumption. In working for a better climate, the metrics that scientists gather allow us all to track what’s getting better or worse, refocusing our efforts.

Frustration is inevitable, especially when there are some who want to roll back progress. But it’s important not to lose sight of the successes in this race. In fact, the lead researcher for Our World in Data has called for an end to “climate doomerism” and said there are reasons for optimism.

Our marathon team’s mantra is “running toward net zero” -- a place I continue to believe that humanity, and the energy sector specifically, can get to if we do the work. 


It takes allies

To achieve big goals, we need to help each other, offering encouragement and resources.  As a business owner, I'm lucky to have allies in clients and in my advisors.  

But allies also include investors, who display an understanding of another form of patience: “patient capital.” As multi-billion dollar investment company BGF puts it, patient capital involves long-term investments in which “sustainable growth is prioritized alongside financial returns.” McKinsey notes that patient venture capital can bring together private and philanthropic investments, helping to step up the fight against climate change. 

Every company, investor, and fund that works with ALLY Energy is demonstrating a commitment to what it takes to build a better future. And I cannot forget to thank TCS for their support for our team.  You fuel us (and me).  Thank you.

Together, we’ll get to the finish line. 

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