I know… this goes against the coach’s favorite saying: Winners Never Quit. But, the fact is, the hardest thing to do is to realize our current path is wrong, it won’t bear fruit, and that we should close shop and move on. For some reason, we find it really hard to stop an ongoing project and pursue a new course. Why? There are a lot of reasons…
First, we need to admit that we failed. The fear of failure, at its core, is connected to the fear of death. In our primordial past, failure meant starvation, immediate danger and ultimately death. Second, we fear that we’ll “lose face” publicly when we admit we failed. It’s extremely tough to stand before the people who supported us (as well as the people who stood against us), and acknowledge failure.
Most failures are identified too late because we haven’t set our objectives properly or haven’t planned sufficiently. Often what we see as a casual bump in the road would have been correctly diagnosed as a showstopper with proper planning. This leads us to invest more time, money, and effort into a losing endeavor. This will exponentially exacerbate our unwillingness to move on to a more productive path.
You need to learn when to quit
I think the famous phrase should be re-written as Winner never quit when they know they are on the right path; it’s a bit less catchy, I admit. We need to be alert when we’re working toward a goal, we need to identify when we deviate off the path, and most importantly develop a Go / No-Go mechanism when we encounter new challenges.
When it’s the right thing to do, quitting and refocusing your energies leads to a happier and healthier lifestyle. The most frustrating experiences for me always related to failures where I invested blood, sweat, and tears. Looking back at those failures, I now see countless events that should have signaled to me to stop. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, so here are some tips you can use to Quit Like a Winner:
# Failing to Reach Your Goal Time After Time
Some may argue that when you fail to reach your goal, you need to strive harder. However, unless you’re trying to cure cancer or invent everlasting energy where failure today is the norm, repeated failures should trigger a blinking red light. There is a certain stage in which you need to investigate the root cause for said failure. The causes may be many, e.g., shift in your priorities, limited resources, and insurmountable external challenges.
# Pyramid Base Gets Pushed Away
Some of you may have heard of Maslow’s Pyramid of Human Needs. The base of the pyramid reflects our basic needs, such as food, sleep, and health. The theory states that if we can’t satiate the foundation then the top is bound to fail. When you are not eating, getting sick often, or even losing sleep either due to work or worry, a red light should be blinking in your cockpit. This is not a sign to quit right away, but it’s time to seriously examine the situation. And to those cynics, I am not talking about one “all-nighter”, but rather a situation where you can’t remember the last time you slept more than 4 hours a night.
# Someone Else is Doing it Better
Our tendency to run after our dreams sometimes blinds us to the fact that other people are already doing it and doing it efficiently. When someone already invested time in something that remarkably resembles your project; if you started, it might be time to quit. I am not talking about a market whose demand is not being met. However, if you are looking to invent the light bulb, it may not be sensible to do so since it already exists, and your solution offers no added benefit. I know this example is an extreme one, but hopefully it will convey the point: the light bulb is already here, focus your time and efforts on something more productive.
Knowing when to quit is key, but I’ll leave you with a few tips that have helped me avoid these traps: Research, Plan, and Review.
- Research your project before starting. It will help you identify other players, their value proposition, and most important your added value.
- One of my favorite quotes: People never plan to fail, they simply fail to plan. So much truth in that. Plan all your project phases. Visualize each phase, it’s amazing how much can be accomplished with your imagination during this phase.
- Review your progress periodically. You must match actual progress against the plan. Are you encountering any unforeseen issues? One, Two, hundreds?
Be smart and Quit Like a Winner, and as Mark Twain said: “success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts”.