Perhaps you should give up

I’m someone who devours their fair share of entrepreneurial content. I like books, podcasts, quotes on Instagram, the whole lot. I love success and failure stories and learning from people who have gone before me in business.

But there’s one thing that has always pissed me off about almost every successful person and every quote about success. It’s a drastic overemphasis on the role of hard work and persistence.

I have always found it quite offensive that almost every successful person simply thinks that all you have to do is work hard and persist until something happens. For one thing, most of us are already working hard. But what’s worse is it could be the worst advice for you. Working harder and persisting could be the opposite of what you should be doing.

What I found, after I had some success in business is that business success is not about hard work at all. Entrepreneurs are not athletes. Successes in business often come down to a tiny moment in time where a decision is made for some reason that drastically impacts the trajectory of the business. And from that point forward, momentum kicks in and success comes far easier. The irony is that quite often that decision is to stop working hard. To stop persisting. To give up.

We are taught to never give up and to work hard, but the truth is, giving up is one of the most difficult and essential skills of any entrepreneur, and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

When I was running my agency for 7 years earning minimum wage, I worked my arse off. I never took a holiday, worked 12 hour days most days, never ever switched off, I had hosting customers calling me at 5am on my weekends regularly! I’d never worked harder, but the business was a dud. I was working hard and persisting with a shit business.

I made the extremely difficult decision to give up after 7 years and start something else from scratch.

That led me to start a software business where I poured every last cent I had, and lost all of it. 12 months later, again I had to make the excruciatingly difficult decision to completely give up on that too.

That led me to start WP Curve, which turned into a million dollar business and exit to GoDaddy a few years later.

Running WP Curve was never about hard work. I worked part time on the business and I earned 5X as much as I’d ever earned as a wage. It grew 10% a month for 2 years with very little effort. That’s what happens with good businesses. They grow. And momentum does the ‘hard work’ for you.

But you will never experience it, if you don’t give up on ideas that don’t have any momentum or any potential for it.

I’ve given up on so many ideas as an entrepreneur, it’s painful to think about. I must have started 30 or 40 projects / businesses in the last 11 years as an entrepreneur. Almost all of them were shut down one way or another. Ones I’d spent years working on and tens of thousands of dollars on. And I did it again and again, until I found myself in the fortunate position of having 3 businesses that were good.

If I kept working hard and persisting I never would have found those 3 businesses. I had to give up on bad ideas, to open up the possibility of discovering good ideas.

Much like the pain of giving up on a relationship, is the only way to get you to the reward of a better relationship. Working hard and persisting trying to fix unfixable things is not productive. When you are working on the wrong things, working harder and persisting is bad advice.

Giving up on ideas is still the hardest thing I have to do. Every time I get the timing wrong, I lose money, I become an emotional mess thinking about all the effort and work I’ve put into something only to give up on it. And it’s not just me. I see people all the time in my mastermind group and free Facebook group, working on ideas that I think and I’m sure they probably think deep down are just not working. There comes a time with ideas that aren’t working, when giving up is the best option.

And let’s not sugar coat it or romanticize it. Giving up is failing and failing fucking hurts.

For me, the projects that failed, have enabled me to focus on the projects that succeeded. And in almost all cases I decide when they fail and that’s why it’s so hard. But giving up and failing has enabled me to build 1 six figure business, one 7 figure business and another business that is well on the way to 7 figures all in the last 3 years.

And it honestly has not been that hard. When momentum kicks in, things explode and it’s always been a few very small decisions that has led to momentum kicking in, as opposed to years of ‘hard work’ and persistence.

If you are working on something now that has no momentum, perhaps you should give up.

Photo from Unsplash.

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