by Darrin Schenck

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by Darrin Schenck

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There was a famous study done in the early 1970’s that “tested” young kids and their ability to delay gratification, and how that would be a predictor in their lives moving forward. The study is not without its detractors, and of course there is some evidence that could be misleading, just like every other experiment probably ever done. The crux of the study was to have one child sit in a room by themselves, and be instructed that they can eat this one marshmallow now, or if they could wait just 15 minutes, they would get another one and then they could eat both (or save one and eat one).
The study was trying to prove that even at an early age, some kids had the willpower and discipline to overcome their own desires and wait for a better outcome (two marshmallows) and some could not and they would eat the marshmallow before the 15 minutes was up. This group of kids were followed for many years after this initial experiment, and there seemed to be a direct correlation to the group of kids who waited to eat the marshmallow doing better overall in life. This was calculated by SAT scores,[2] educational attainment,[3] body mass index (BMI),[4] and other life measures according to the study.
Even though this was a small study conducted a long time ago, it stands to reason that this is a great predictor of success and happiness in life. As simple as this test is, in the grand scheme of life if you are reactionary, impatient, prone to immediate gratification and other instant pleasures, you are going to make different choices than someone who is more patient, willing to wait for a pay-off, etc. I see examples of this all the time; many people are much more likely to “eat the marshmallow now” and then move on to the next thing that is an instant gratification mechanism. So called “Retail Therapy” is a great example of this. The high lasts as long as people ask about your new purse or that new car, and once the novelty of that item wears off, they seek out another attention-grabbing item to start the cycle over again. It is an ego driven vortex of wanting attention of others.
If you apply this to relationships, it is easy to see how this would be highly detrimental in a partner’s behavior. They are likely to bail out when things get tough, cheat, or take the easy way out. I have worked for people like this, and it is not necessarily evident immediately, but will always show itself over time if you pay attention. The decision-making process of someone who lives for instant gratification is going to lead to trouble sooner or later. It’s not if, but when, this will bite them in the ass.
Whether you play sports, are starting a business, or any other endeavor, success will take time. There will be a multitude of large and small failures along the way. In some ways, you have no choice BUT to be patient, otherwise you will not have a shot at making it. Everyone has a different definition of success, but any definition will be eluded if you can’t stick it out for the long haul and delay the gratification. You need to wait to eat the marshmallow…
Nothing good comes quickly and easily; if it does it was:
  • Blind Luck (and highly difficult to replicate)
  • Not as good as you made it out to be in your head
  • Bound to be under-appreciated
Most entrepreneurs have a plan and a spreadsheet to start with, and then things go a direction never anticipated. That spreadsheet is predicting when they get to eat the marshmallow. Sorry to break it to you, but you don’t get to eat the marshmallow three months after starting a business venture. Learning to play an instrument doesn’t get you on stage in front of a huge crowd in six months. You don’t get to eat the marshmallow yet. If you take up a sport with the intent of rising to the top, you have a long road ahead of you. You will not be consuming any marshmallows soon; you need to be in it for the long haul.
You must understand that by earning things, working hard for something and then achieving it, you will appreciate it much more. Whether it is a fifteen minute wait to eat two marshmallows, or starting a business and eventually getting profitable, you need to develop patience to have success. You cannot allow yourself to give in to impulse and instant gratification. Your life will be much harder if you do.
 
I wish you luck in your endeavors.

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