If you’re alive, which, if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you are, then chances are you’ve given up at something. You’re a quitter, and I mean it as a compliment.
Don’t get mad. I get it. The act of giving up is looked down upon in our society, and if you’re offended by my name calling, I apologize. We’ve been taught since birth that losers give up. Weak people quit. Strong people, on the other hand, persevere until they get what they want out of life. But in all honesty, what a load of B.S.
Strong people quit all the time. Le’Bron James was an all-state football player before he quit to focus on basketball. Giving up seems to be working out for him. Evan Williams, the eventual co-founder of Twitter, first founded a podcast platform called Odea, only to quit after Apple announced that iTunes would support podcasts. A failure at the time, it looks like giving up worked out for him, too.
Then again, there are also stories of men and women like Walt Disney, who went bankrupt six times in the pursuit of his singular vision. He persevered, and was able to create a company worth over $35 billion today. Ariana Huffington, a prolific writer and reporter, was rejected 36 times before her first book was published, a book that led her to start The Huffington Post. She didn’t give up either, and her life is certainly better for it.
So, it begs the question, when is it smart to persevere, and when is it smart to quit?
Seth Godin wrote in his book, The Dip, that you should “quit the wrong stuff, stick with the good stuff, and have the guts to do one or the other.” But what’s the wrong stuff, and what’s the good stuff? And more importantly, how do we muster the strength to choose one over the other?
The key is the vision of our ideal futures. In a perfect world, what does your life look like? We know that life is anything but perfect, but if you accomplished all your goals and received all your accolades, how would it feel? This, similar to our pillar, is our destination.
But life’s destination is a feeling more than a “thing.” It’s the maximization of your potential and the pursuit of your ultimate passion. Therefore, the thing you do to try and maximize your potential and pursue your passion isn’t your destination, but rather a vehicle that will get you there. This means that whatever it is you’re doing right now, the thing you’re worried about quitting or not, isn’t your end goal.
Which also means that you shouldn’t worry too much about quitting or sticking. Instead, worry about the direction you’re headed. Is what you’re doing right now moving you towards your destination and ultimate goal or not? Do you even know what your ultimate goal is? Defining your overarching goal is the first step in deciding whether giving up is a good strategy, because you’ll know if you’re headed the right way.
For Evan Williams, quitting Odea made perfect sense because his passion wasn’t to start a podcasting platform. Rather, it was to become a successful and impactful entrepreneur. And with Apple entering the space he operated, it became probable that his company would be crushed, and that the thing he was doing wasn’t going to get him to his goal - successful entrepreneurship. In that case, giving up was a great idea.
But then again, take Ariana Huffington. Her goal, and no, I haven’t spoken to her, but my perception of her goal was to become a successful and influential writer. For her, persevering through those publisher rejections made sense because she knew that getting published was the key to her ultimate goals.
So, when you’re thinking about giving up or sticking with it, understand that quitting doesn’t mean you’re quitting your dream. Instead, if you give up, what you’re doing is choosing a different direction that has the same destination. And if you stick with it, you’re saying that the thing you’re doing is taking you where you desire to go.
Now, this isn’t to say that if you’re spinning your wheels momentarily then you should quit. Giving up should never be seen as an excuse or an easy way out. If you’re like me - and if you’re reading this, you probably are - then your goals are lofty. It’s going to take a while to get there, which makes it as important as ever to clearly define your destination, so you can consistently check that the thing you’re doing is getting you there.
Because often times the thing you’re doing, at the very least, is giving you life-skills that will eventually result in the achievement of your goal. So even if it doesn’t seem like you’re headed in the right direction, it still could be a necessary step in your journey. You have to be perceptive. As Godin points out, “a woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner."
Therefore, it’s as important as ever to understand your destination and understand your current trajectory. Even if it’s necessary to persevere in your current “thing" for 10 years, if your ideal life is worth it, then it’s worth sticking with it. If your destination isn’t worth it, or your thing won’t get you there, then it’s time to take a step back and reassess.
But whatever you do, don’t use giving up as an excuse. It’s not. When used correctly, it’s an intuitive strategy that will help you get to where you want to go. So give up! Or don’t. You decide. Just make sure that no matter your decision, it moves you towards your ideal life.
Hi guys and gals, thanks for reading! If you found this article valuable don’t hesitate to share it around. The more people who read it the more impactful it becomes. If you share, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to give you a shout out!