At the Rise for Success in Business and in Life event that Olympian Jessica Phoenix and myself hosted last week in Uxbridge Ontario, there was a point in the presentation where we were discussing adversity and I asked, “When should you give up?” It was like I had mentioned Voldemort, the Dark Lord who must not be named, in front of an audience of equestrians who are wired to push through blood, sweat and tears.
Athletes are trained to think positively, so there were strong objections to the use of the term. Giving up is simply not in their vocabulary. They prefer to use more positive words like ‘redirect’ or ‘reroute’ to describe the act of making an alternative decision when option A isn’t working.
Personally, I respect that mindset but don’t share the aversion to saying “I give up” when it’s not the right decision. I also think that by using a term like ‘redirect’, which jumps straight into option B, you are skipping an important step. First, you have to let go of option A. It’s semantics, but if you’re driving and see the road is leading straight into a cliff, you need to slam on the brakes before turning the wheel and redirecting.
Sometimes you need to press pause and not jump on the next thing right away. There’s nothing worse than going from failure to failure because you didn’t think things through. So don’t be afraid to “give up” what is not working and take a moment to reexamine where you are, where you want to go and how to get there.
Of course, I don’t mean giving up before you’ve given yourself a chance to succeed. You’ll face many difficulties in life – success is never handed to you on a silver platter. If you don’t toughen up and fight through adversity you’ll never, ever make it. But you also need to give yourself the option of quitting if continuing on means losing something greater, for example your entire business, your family, your health. The cost might be too high in some cases and you just can’t do it. That doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It just means that it’s not worth it.
Giving up can be the decision that ultimately leads you to success.
If you’re always too busy to invest in yourself and your business, giving up some responsibilities can lead you to develop more lucrative projects.
If you’re in a toxic relationship in your personal or business life, giving it up can lead you to find one that truly fulfills you.
If you want to be an entrepreneur but stay in a job too long, you might never pursue your real passion.
Giving up doesn’t mean being too weak to continue. It means being smart enough to realize all the hard work in the world isn’t going to get you to your destination if you’re on the wrong path. The quicker you realize it, the better.
Giving up too soon is a mistake. But being too proud, too stubborn or not self-aware enough to make a tough decision that could get you closer to your ultimate goal is foolish.