Pausanias rolled over in his bed. The day was warm and thick. The sea air floated into his bed, stocking his desire to slumber just a little bit longer.
He had spent much of the last night on the wall. Watching as the Greeks tried again and again to breach the city. But despite their efforts he could tell they’d lost their spirit. They looked tired and haggard. And although the soldiers fought with honor, it was clear their lumbering forms were just going through the motions. It had been ten years after all, ten years of playing the same drama day upon night upon day.
The Greeks would surge, and the Trojans would hold. The Greeks would scream and the Trojans would launch flaming arrows and hot oil. They hurled all manner of destructive woe from the wall, which stood at such a height that it made the Greeks look like children demanding to enter their parents’ bed.
Pausanias rolled out of bed, scratched himself, splashed some tepid water on his face and then slid into his armor. The cold metal and leather felt good against his sticky skin. He put on his helmet and went to the wall.
As he climbed the final steps, he expected to see his men preparing for another night of battle as usual. But something was different. Instead of preparing for battle they were gawking over the edge as if a naked woman were doing cartwheels amongst the siege lines below.
“REPORT” he said at the top of his voice. The men turned in shock. His second in command was the first to speak. “They’re leaving sir!”
Pausanias, didn’t know what he meant. “Who’s leaving? The Second Brigade? The archers? are they trying to redeploy along our southern flank again?”
“No sir, all of them, all the Greek bastards are leaving.” Pausanias was more confused than ever. So he did the only thing that made sense.
He walked over to the wall and peered out at the sea. His second in command was right. Looking towards the sea Pausanias watched as lines of Greeks disappeared into the bellies of their mighty ships. Leaving a thick layer of detritus strewn on the beach.
Pausanias didn’t know what to do. He began to smile. He thought of the last time he had been in the sea. How as a young boy his father had lowered him in the cool salt water to wash away the hot sand from his naked body. A smile began to creep across his face.
And that’s when he saw it. As tall as twenty men stacked on top of each other. A mighty, wooden horse standing at the foot of the gate.
For a moment suspicion creeped across his mind. But he didn’t want to think of suspicion or cunning. He didn’t want to think about the siege continuing for another ten years. He didn’t want to keep washing with the same smelly water drawn from dirty wells. He didn’t want to keep eating sour grapes and fruit snuck into the city through the secret tunnels. He wanted this damn war to be over.
He turned and walked down the steps. He knew what he must do. He must convince the general to take this tribute. He must assure the leaders that the War was over. He must open the gates to drag this horse into the city. Because then it would be over. It would be over and he’d be able to walk to the sea and swim in it’s cool waters once again.
We all know what happened to the city of Troy, how a giant horse offered as a gift was the Trojans’ undoing. No doubt when they discovered their mistake their great day of victory turned into the worst day imaginable. Much worse than any bad day most of us could ever experience.
Their war lost, their city sacked, and their women ravaged by horny Greek soldiers.
When we tell this story we often think it’s a story about pride and belief. We think it’s a story about how the Greeks used the Trojans’ own hubris against them in order to win a war. But for me the story is simply about impatience.
The Trojans weren’t stupid or prideful. A prideful army would have marched out against the Greeks and a stupid one would never be able to survive a ten year siege. The Trojans were simply impatient.
They wanted the war to be over. They wanted to be onto the next thing. So when they saw the Greeks leaving, they believed them without much thought. Not because they thought the Greeks inferior, but because they just wanted it to be over with. They wanted to believe things could change in an instant.
The Price of Impatience
Whenever you try to improve your business, yourself, or your relationships, progress seems slow. You want it to be different NOW as if simply deciding and getting to work will create immediate change.
So you look for shortcuts. You look for mentors who will give you the golden secret of success. You search for the client that will spread your glory to the world. You look for that one opportunity that will validate your project, your company, and yourself.
But shortcuts don’t exist. Sometimes people get lucky but only after the right positioning, and it’s nearly impossible to recreate.
I talk to so many coaches, CEO’s, and entrepreneurs who tell me all about the big thing that’s going to change their business. I hear them confess the one thing that’s holding them back. I listen as they explain how this flaw keeps them from showing up in their relationships or taking care of themselves.
These are all Trojan horses. These are all tricks you play on yourself to let your doubt, resistance, and fears creep in.
You’re willing to accept a horse instead of facing the reality that change takes time, that shifting your beliefs takes effort and that improving your relationships takes consistent vulnerability.
You can be impatient, but it will only take longer. The thing you must do is leave the horse outside. Wait a little bit longer. And make sure the Greeks are gone.
Sure you want the war with yourself to be over. You want to declare victory. But the reward isn’t found in the victory, it’s found at the walls of the siege.
It’s not about the prize; it’s about the practice.
So when you feel like you’re stuck, when you feel like you don’t know what to do next, when it feels like you’re running in place, be patient and do the work. Change comes staying at your post longer than you think you need to.