I’ve written more than a few posts on the many frustrations that are an integral part of the inventive process – and, as a result, I have likely have lost some followers to my blog.
Today, I want to take a different tack and address delayed gratification: it’s role within the human brain and also it’s role in business success.Successful inventors are intimately familiar with delayed gratification: nothing in the invention process happens quickly. A great deal of time and effort frequently yields no obvious benefits in the short term, but may provide great rewards in the long term. That has been my experience.
Delayed Gratification and the Human Brain
Numerous studies have been conducted regarding delayed gratification and the human brain including this one from the Neuroligica blog. It seems that few children are able to the temptation of receiving a small reward now – rather than delaying till later to receive a promised larger reward. The ability to accept delayed gratification is often called executive function. Over time as children mature into adulthood and their brains mature, more are able to exhibit executive function.
Another study points to communication between the hippocampus and the nucleus accumbens portions of the brain as being directly connected with executive function – delayed gratification.
There is a growing body of research that seems to indicate those least able to delay gratification as children are more likely to fall victim to a variety of later maladies including ADHD, poorer academic outcomes, less successful marriages, etc. Of course, the cause and effect link for all of this is certainly not scientifically proven. But the general trend seems to be that those with better executive function are more likely to succeed in life, health, and business.
Delayed Gratification and Inventing
Hundreds of books and articles have been written that purport to pinpoint the key ingredients of business success. While the tenets described in each book vary, persistence is featured in virtually all such books as important to success. If you think about it, persistence is the embodiment of delayed gratification: you try once, it doesn’t work; you try twice, it doesn’t work; on the thirtieth try, it works and you are rewarded – the Edison principle.
Here is one more article on delayed gratification studies that is interesting.
Many great business people are anointed as visionaries. I would claim every successful inventor is a visionary. Leaders such as Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk and many others are considered visionaries. A key ingredient underlying the DNA of every ‘visionary’ is the ability to diligently pursue a plan or course of action, over an extended period of time – for which the rewards are not forthcoming or obvious – until suddenly success is at hand. In other words, all visionaries exhibit a strong discipline and ability to accept delayed gratification.
I know this from personal experience, it took me over 13 years of effort with my invention before I was able to get it to DRTV. Now my invention, the Wonder Wallet , sells in over 15,000 retail stores across the US and Canada. I am able to live off the royalties from my invention. I’m kind of a fan of delayed gratification now.