We all know what sets successful people apart from the rest: they believe passionately in their dreams, work hard and energetically, and don’t give up in the face of difficulties. But there is another quality that we tend to forget about – patience. No matter how much drive we have in us, if we lack patience, we sooner or later burn out. This is a column by poet Rachel Munford.

I have been impatient for as long as I can remember. When I had to wait longer than a couple of weeks for a reply from the university or a potential employer, it made me angry. If messages were not answered immediately, I became hysterical. And, of course, I devoured TV series in one sitting, instead of savouring and watching an episode a day.

And while it’s not entirely my fault (I have the attention span of a hyperactive poodle), my impatience got in the way of my life. “Come on, it’s not working, I’ll try something else!” – time and again I said, starting new projects and then immediately abandoning them. None of them were really hopeless, just not as fast as I would have liked.

But when you’re a freelancer, you just have to be patient. Clients don’t drop things to answer your email when they barely get it. You can wait weeks to hear back from the editor you pitched an idea to. You can work hard on a task and never wait for feedback (certainly not within the agreed upon time frame). Yes, it kills you, but there’s nothing you can do about it.

Some say: you need drive to see something through to the end, to do something significant. You need to work 24/7, give your best, be the “best version of yourself,” and the result won’t take long to come. Others share insider secrets that will supposedly help them to achieve success and get rich quickly.

Many people burn out after realising that their hard work doesn’t pay off immediately, that sweat and tears don’t pay off immediately

But the truth is, you can’t do it quickly. For example, you can’t write an 80,000-word story in one day (unless you’re the fastest typist on the planet) and certainly not publish and sell it in 24 hours. Nothing in the world is instantaneous. It doesn’t care how badly you want something, you’ll only get it when the time is right.

Maybe our habit of instant gratification is to blame, but many people burn out when they realise that their hard work doesn’t pay off immediately, that sweat and tears don’t pay off immediately. You feel like you responded to a job posting forever ago, but it’s really only been a fortnight. In large corporations, reviewing candidates’ CVs is not a quick process and recruiters have to follow a certain protocol.

The ability to wait is a trait of successful people that few people remember. We all know that Walt Disney was kicked out of a newspaper because of his “remarkable inability to draw,” Oprah Winfrey was fired twice, and Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard before Microsoft and started a business that failed. To us, these people are examples of how to recover from failure and keep moving forward. They believed in their dreams and did not give up.

You can wake up rich and famous one morning – but how many nights you have to spend waiting for that moment to happen

But it took time. Success takes time. People we think of as examples of persistence and perseverance can teach us a lesson in patience. They understood that they would eventually end up where they wanted to be, but the journey would take time. They had to wait and work hard to achieve their long-term goal.

Yes, you could wake up one morning rich and famous – but how many nights would you have to spend waiting for that moment! (And days of hard work.) It takes patience to keep reminding yourself that you’re on the right track and one day you’ll be there. Yes, you’re not there yet, but it’s temporary.

I’m still learning to be patient, but now I’m at least confident that I can be that way one day, sooner rather than later.