Letter #44: 5 things to remember before you throw in the towel for good
Life presents us with forks in the road. Do we keep going or do we give in?
Ask anyone who’s done anything meaningful in life and they’ll tell you that wanting to quit is part of the game. Those of us who haven’t experienced that level of success yet sit at their feet cross-legged, half in awe of their success and half wondering if it’ll ever be our turn.
I’ve wanted to throw in the towel many times. Some days more than others. When progress doesn’t come fast enough, when I’m in a bad mood, when I didn’t get enough sleep. I’ll give you every excuse under the sun.
But over the last few years, I’ve noticed something different about the manner in which I’m giving up. While I’m still being hit pretty hard by the failure, I’m seeing myself bounce back rather quickly. I don’t want to say that I’m getting used to the failure, but I’m not letting the bad side get to me as much.
Even though I’m a realist, I would still say that I’m more of an optimist. I know hope can be a dangerous drug, something that people cling on to in desperation. I’ve seen people deluded by hope not seeing the truth of what’s in front of them. It ruins families, friendships and so much more.
That’s hope done wrong. That’s when the 80/20 split is wrong. That’s 80% hope and 20% (or less) work ethic. When it’s the other way around and you’re busting your ass every day, that 20% luck gets you across the line. It’s being at the right place at the right time, saying the right thing and riding the subsequent wave.
As much as you would like to think that effort is everything, it’s not. This luck — this hope — can make the difference. You just have to work long enough and hard enough to see it through.
Before you throw in the towel for good, here are five questions to answer. If even one of these inspires you to keep going, I will have done my job.
1. How many lows have you experienced before this one? What makes this one any different?
Maybe you’re currently in a bad slump. You’ve lost several times in a row, nothing’s going right. People in your life and leaving left, right and center.
This isn’t your first slump — and it won’t be your last. Maybe this is your lowest point, only you can say whether it is.
People too often think of failure as a set back, a backwards step, if you like. But any meaningful action that leads to some sort of result is a step forwards.
It can be hard to see sometimes, but the result you might not have wanted might actually have opened some opportunities for you that you couldn’t see before.
You just have to willing to see them.
2. How long have you been at this for?
If you have been just going for a few weeks, just get out. You need to harden up, put your head down and don’t look up until the work’s done.
If you’ve been at this for a few years and you still aren’t seeing the progress, good on you! I wouldn’t be too worried just yet.
progress isn’t linear. It’s more of an exponential curve, one that starts off slow and shoots up at the end after a considerable amount of time.
How long is “considerable”? Who knows. If you keep at it, you’ll find out.
3. Who have you connected with to support you?
No one succeeds on their own. We all want to think that we’re a product of our own hard work, but very few people truly are.
We might look up to start up founders who made it big and had billion dollar exits. They had advisors, VCs, partners and workers who all believed in their vision.
We might look up to writers who wrote a best selling novel and had it turned into a movie and chain of merchandise. They had a marketing and publicity team to make it a huge success.
You need to find people — and you need to bring the belief with you. If you don’t have that, then you need to read the next question.
4. What is your reason why?
A lot of people do things for no reason. They might give a reason, but it’s not the “real” reason.
They might say they want to help people, but they’re really blindsided by the paycheck at the end, or the fame that comes with the success.
Look for a REAL reason why. Something that goes beyond superficial things like money and fame. Something that gets you out of bed and sets your mind on fire.
If you don’t know your reason why, it’s worth thinking about it. Don’t get back to work until you do. And don’t worry, during this time, you’re not giving up. You’re taking a brief hiatus to come back better and more resolved than ever.
5. Who are you letting down?
I’ve left the best til last. What you’re doing is going to help someone in a big way. It’s going to make an impact that changes their world.
You need to know who you’re letting down. Know who it is yet? Good. Picture them in your mind.
Now, do this for me. Tell them that you are giving up on your book. Your music. Your art. Your business.
Imagine their face as you’re doing this. What do you see? Confusion? Heart-break? Disappointment? Anger? Sadness?
For some people this person is themselves. They just look into a mirror and say these things. No matter. Who’s saying you can’t be your own accountability partner?
So don’t throw in the towel — not just yet. Ask yourself these five questions. Really contemplate on them and let me know how you go.
Please give a warm welcome to:
Remember, you’re only a true failure if you quit — for good.
Til next week,