I WANT PATIENCE, AND I WANT IT NOW!: I think that many people underestimate the importance of patience. In my population genetics class today we discussed some equations (the arithmatic for which my professor worked out in painful detail) that describe how beneficial alleles gradually take over within a population of animals. The rate that the frequency of the beneficial allele increases depends on a few factors, one of which is exactly how beneficial the allele is for the organism in question; the more beneficial it is, the more quickly the allele spreads. The interesting result however, which many students apparently couldn't grasp, is that no matter how slight a benefit the allele grants to its bearers and how slowly it is passed on, given enough time a beneficial allele will spread to 100% of the population. It's just a matter of time. If having blue eyes makes a person 0.000000001% more likely to find a mate, eventually everyone will have blue eyes.
This should be intuitive for anyone who has taken calculus. The limit of ((x^2)/x) as x goes to infinity is infinity. The limit of ((x^1.000000001)/x) as x goes to infinity is also infinity. So what? Well, let's take an example without the math. It took me an hour to get to work from school this afternoon (gotta love the 405). That's a long time, and although my patience is at its weakest when dealing with traffic I was never afraid that I wouldn't eventually get to work. Why? Because I was headed in the right direction, and my average speed was greater than zero. I would have to get to work eventually, it was just a matter of time.
There are a lot of things I am waiting for, some of which I can be rather impatient about at times. I'm tired of working on my PhD; I've put a lot of time into it, but it's hard to be motivated because even if I put four hours a night in it's hard to see progress. The thing I have to remember is that as long as I'm pointed in the right direction, and my speed is greater than zero, eventually I'll finish. That's the key to patience I think: plodding along. As long as some infinitesimal advance can be made every day, I'll reach my goal eventually.
No matter what Zeno says.