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Knowing When To Quit: Are Your Eyes Open?
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Michael Van Osch of ThinkTankMen.com.
This is the companion piece to my last post, Reframing That Nasty Four-Letter F-Word. There I wrote about not confusing failing with failure and to use failing as learning to stay in the game and be better. But of course, there is another side to that issue – and that is learning when to quit something, when to throw in the towel and move on.
Especially relevant today where jobs and markets that existed just two years ago are now gone forever, knowing when to fold your cards is just as important as knowing when to “go all in” for the long haul. If you’re out of work and looking for your old job back in an industry that has crumbled, or a business-owner who has tried for two years but hasn’t been able to sell any products, does it really make sense to continue with the same plan? It may, but most of us would say it’s time to cut bait and move on since there is definitely a problem. Unfortunately, many business owners (and job searchers) continue waiting for things like the economy to change back to what they are used to, and bring them what they want.
What is happening in these situations?
When what you’re doing isn’t working or the environment changes around you, it can become all too easy to put blinders on and subjectively ignore the new information that may now be obvious. I firmly believe in Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “Never, never, never give up”, but at times we can be so committed to a vision for how we want our lives to be, that we simply wait for it to happen even though the facts have changed. For example, if you’re in the mortgage business and are waiting for the boom times of five years ago to return, then you’ll surely go broke in the meantime. I call this “business planning by crossing your fingers”, and it rarely pays off. This is a great example of not learning from your failings.
Not seeing the facts as they are, or seeing them but refusing to accept them, can be due to a few things:
Fear of change
Wishful thinking / unicorns & rainbows
Stubbornness / holding on too tightly
Inflated sense of control / perhaps sheer stupidity
Either way, waiting and waiting for things to change back to what they were means that you’re choosing to ignore reality and not take action. Not taking action equals being dead in the water.
Yes, you may have huge sunk costs and long hours put into your business. Yes, you may want it to work more than anything. But if the environment (or your market) has changed then your lack of action will kill you. Living with the Hollywood notion of “Build it and they will come” is simply that – Hollywood. Remind yourself that nothing ever stays the same.
What To Do
This issue really shows why networking, reading and continual learning are crucial for us all. None of us can afford to live and work in a bubble. If you’re a solopreneur and your business has been stalled for a while, then learn from that and stop mindlessly pushing.
Take a hard look at what you’ve been doing and get some outside help as soon as possible. Do you need to quit doing what you’ve been doing and go in a different direction? Another set of eyes on your situation is critical. Most of us get too close to the situation to see the issues objectively. Be open to the real facts of the situation. Usually we know or sense when something isn’t working – don’t ignore your gut.
Find a coach or a friend, get into a mastermind group, go to a conference – do whatever it takes to see and learn from others. Really listen to what the experts are talking about and take the time to see how it applies to your situation. Find a couple of online sites that you trust, both inside and outside your industry and read them religiously to stay up on what’s going on out there. And maybe, just maybe, you need a week off to recharge your batteries in order to see more clearly. You probably deserve a vacation anyway.
It takes courage to go for the life you’ve always imagined. And while it’s critical to never give up, that attitude must be balanced with the courage to really ”˜see’ what’s going on around you. If that means it’s time to quit and move on to a new plan, then you’ll find the courage to make that happen too.