When To Give Up
It was summer 2009 I think. I sat in a hotel lobby with a business advisor of mine.
The economy was already heading down the tubes, my business was suffering and I had some decisions to make.
We discussed the business finances, new business prospects and so on, and it was clear that things weren't going well. Something needed to change.
Although I could see the massive problem that I had created, it was less obvious to me how to resolve things.
“Maybe you should consider closing the doors”, John said.
He knew from working with me that this was my baby, there was very little chance I'd let it die voluntarily. The truth was it was dying anyway.
It was obvious to him, I could either swallow my pride and close the doors or I could keep going and suffer more in the process.
“Absolutely no fucking way – that's not happening”, I said firmly. “I've put too much into this”.
When I think of it now, my decision to continue was crazy. I knew the reality of things but I didn't see the solution.
The irony was the business was insolvent and I couldn't even afford to have this guy advise me.
Never Give Up
We hold high this apparent virtue in western society with regard to success and achievement. It's especially so with men, and goes something like this;
Never give up your dreams. Winners never quit, quitters never win. Finish what you started, see it through to the end no matter what.
To give up is often regarded as a show of weakness, a sign you're not really cut out for it.
To continue despite the conditions and consequences is honorable.
It's prominent in the startup culture where successful millionaire Millennials are touted as modern day heroes. The measure of success is clear.
Reach that benchmark and all your dreams will come true.
This material idea of success seems to be ingrained in our psyche, making it very difficult for us to accept when something is not working.
It can be a spiral downwards, like the gambler continuing to bet on the hope that the next horse will win.
The issue here with this idea is that we often confuse material gain and worldly success with happiness and fulfilment.
We've an egotistical idea of self, built up around what we are doing. The ego's title and status are important and very strong and won't relinquish them very easily.
For many, to admit defeat is a fate worse than death.
Cut Your Losses
On the flip side, we also have this belief that it's sensible to cut our losses.
We have an idea of what success is and when this thing we've been pursuing appears not to be working out in the time we expect, we pull the pin on it.
Maybe there's just not the market for this thing we're making.
Maybe we don't possess the necessary skills right now to make it work.
In any event, we have the sense we are falling short and to keep going is a waste of time, energy and money.
But there is a danger here too.
Not bringing enough patience, self-belief, persistence, determination and will to succeed to the table will result in us getting out too early.
I believe that patience is one of the most important aspects of self, required in reaching our goals.
When we plant something we've got to offer it the right environment where it can grow and be prepared to wait for the day when it turns into something great.
But it's a fine line. One that's almost impossible to see until it's too late. Invariably we need to cross the line in both directions to know where it is.
It is my view that no amount of books or expert opinion can show us how to find the line. In order to understand the nature of it, we've got to simply figure it out.
Give Up Or Keep Going: Which Is It?
Was that 2009 decision a fuck up?
Yes, it was. In fact, there were a whole series of monumental fuck ups during that time. But I wouldn't change any of it because it taught me so many valuable lessons.
You see there's advantage is making a balls of things. However, continuing to perform the same behaviours hoping for a different outcome is crazy.
If something is not working out for you then at some point it has to end. The only question is who gets to end it.
That doesn't mean we should give up completely. On the contrary, we should always be seeking to realise our dreams and fulfil our purpose.
Purpose is something we are compelled to follow. It's like our reason for being here, a passion that we can't ignore.
Goals are like markers or signposts that tell us we're in line with that purpose. They are like reflections back from the world affirming our actions.
As an artist, you should always follow this purpose. There is just no substitute.
So in that regard, I would certainly suggest that you don't give up. But at the same time you've got to be prepared to leave it all behind.
In a 2003 paper titled The Importance of Goal Disengagement by Carsten Wrosch, a psychologist at the University of Montreal argues that giving up on goals is a natural and important part of successful living.
Anecdotally I'm inclined to agree with that.
Articles From Last Week
This week past continued with more articles on the blog with a bit more bite to them.
I've been taking a scientific look at some of the things that help you and I become more creative in pursuit of goals.
On Tuesday I took a look at the apparent myth that exists around creativity and mental illness.
On Thursday I wrote about habits and offered some insight from one of the most influential figures in modern Psychology, William James.
Storymaker articles continued on Medium too.
Check out this weeks content;
That's it from me for now, see you next week