All the motivational speakers in the world will tell you the same thing, “Never give up,” and, “Do not let your fears or failures keep you from reaching your goals”. Despite everything, if you keep pushing, keep persisting, you shall succeed.
What if this is not always true? What if there is a point whereby the art of giving up is actually strategic and beneficial to your long-term goals?
That is exactly what Seth Godin argues in his book, The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit. There is a time and place for strategic quitting. But when exactly do you throw in the towel and head back to the drawing board? Here are three quick ways to determine if your project, idea, career, or business is on its last legs based on Godin’s wisdom.
Are you stuck in mediocrity?
If you are not great at what you do, why are you doing it? Why are you keeping yourself from what is truly your life’s work? In our careers, we tend to focus on what needs improvement: our gaps, weaknesses, or areas of opportunity. The performance review focuses on what you need to do better, not necessarily what you are already good at.
What is really powerful, however, is flipping this upside down. When you focus on your strengths, the theory is that you will be much more productive and everyone is better off. When we collaborate using our strengths versus forcing ourselves to work on our weaknesses, everyone wins.
Godin argues that it is easier to settle for mediocrity than confronting reality. The takeaway here is if you are not exceptional, world class, or absolutely #killingit at what you do… perhaps it is not the right fit for your strengths. Mediocrity is the real failure.
Is it a cul-de-sac problem?
Godin also describes cul-de-sac situations, those whereby you will go around and around in circles, and not really get anywhere. If the return on investment of your time and energy is minimal at best, regardless of how long you work the vision it doesn’t change your earning potential, then you might be stuck in a cul-de-sac.
Cul-de-sacs are dangerous because they are hard to identify, and when you do, it is even harder to quit because they are usually, at least marginally, successful on the surface. This cul-de-sac can show up as a strategy, a project, a career, or a business. It is a dead-end, and when you see that dead-end coming, you need to get off the train and get off it fast! Otherwise, every ounce of energy, time or money you put into your strategy is a complete and utter waste when you could be putting these resources into an idea you have a real shot at.
Is the dip worth it?
The final and largest concept to consider is the dip itself. The dip is essentially your barriers to entry, and the work you need to do to overcome them and be one of the best in your respective field. Therefore, earning your worth, due to the fruits of your labour. There is always a dip, and making it through is only for the select few. You need to be prepared to chip away at it.
This could be anything from the gruelling hours of practice you put in to being the next world-famous actress to the endless nights you spend testing markets and advertising campaigns to reach a critical mass market with your product. Whichever it is, you have to work through the hard stuff — this is the stuff that everyone looks back on and calls you an overnight success for. Behind the scenes though, it is you that is doing the hard brow-sweating work.
Are you willing to do it? Is it worth it to you to push through the dip?
Those are the questions you need to look hard and long in the mirror and ask yourself. Because, if you are going to get halfway through the dip and give up, that is when you’ve waited too long to quit. You have spent all your time, money and energy at that point. This is where strategic quitting comes in. Knowing yourself well enough and doing your research to answer these questions will indeed allow you to quit while you’re ahead.
What’s something that you’ve quit and what did you learn?