Ok, let’s start by saying that you shouldn’t get the wrong impression, I’m not contemplating hanging up my email spurs or anything like that. Today we’re going to talk about quitting in a more general sense.
I’ve always been fascinated by the way people deal with quitting and giving up on something. I’ve watched other people over the years start things and never finish them and as for myself, I have a ton of half-finished projects that I’ve picked up over the years, but I’m not really talking about that.
What I’m thinking of is when you’re working on a project or a business and it becomes completely obvious that you’re not going to succeed and you need to make the call as to whether you pack it in or find a way to keep going.
From my experience, people almost always choose to keep going and try and make things work. It’s something about the human psyche that we emotionally commit ourselves to things and for a plethora of reasons we plug away at them even after it becomes painfully obvious that whatever we’re doing isn’t going to work.
I think it has to do with fear of failure. For some of us, the idea that something we’re working on isn’t going to work leads to feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment. I’m going to let you in on a little secret – I think that’s a good thing. I think this is the part of our emotional brain when it comes to projects and business that keeps us honest.
I see plenty of people in the startup world preaching from the pulpit of “minimum viable product” and talking about “failing fast”. They’ve created a culture of indifference to failure. As a result, people are unwilling to put in the hard yards required to make things succeed.
A classic example is the video chatting service Blab. I heard from a few places in the last couple hours that Bebo, the company behind Blab are going to pivot that service or change direction. Then they released an iPhone app called, “Bebo Swipe To Chill” which is all about video chatting with your friends – clearly targeted at young people.
Blab was a good concept that was well executed and has been around for about nine months give or take. The multiparty video chatting is great and I think they’ve done a great job building it. The problem is, the usage isn’t growing at some astronomical rate.
Oh well, fail fast… Let’s move on to something else then shall we?
Some people refer to it as “entrepreneurial ADD” but the truth is that’s just BS to let people off the hook for quitting. It’s like saying that you lost an important hockey game 5-1 but hey, there’s another game next week. Wearing your losses like a badge of honour makes you a loser.
Now, this is where I’m going to flip the switch and argue for the other side.
Sometimes though, you have to pull the plug. Consistently working on something that isn’t going to succeed is just soul destroying. It absolutely wears you out mentally and emotionally – it’s really tough coming to a landing on the fact that you need to actually quit, but once you make the decision, you inevitably start to feel better about it.
I think it’s important to think hard about quitting and challenge all of your preconceived notions about where you’re at before you make your decision. It can be helpful to get some outside advice as well. The reality is, sometimes, even when you have a good idea and you execute well, it just doesn’t work out – that’s the unexpected nature of things that you can’t account for.
At that point, you need to do the right thing for yourself and your own sanity and quit. There’s no point beating your head off a wall when there’s no potential upside. If you’ve done your soul searching and you’re comfortable you’ve done everything you could have possibly done to succeed, then it’s time to take a deep breath and pull the trigger.
Then pull yourself up by the bootstraps, go have a nice breakfast somewhere and plan your next adventure into the online world!