Quitting is severely underrated. If you've been following entrepreneurial leadership, then you know that everyone from Steve Jobs to the Google founders built their success on quitting. So why are we obsessed with making things work instead of just accepting that some of our ideas have run their course?
On its decade anniversary, it is worth taking another read of business maverick Seth Godin's classic The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick). I just rediscovered The Dip on audiobook, and perhaps the biggest insight we can all use is this:
Write down under what circumstances you're willing to quit.
To explain, Godin quotes ultramarathoner Dick Collins: "Decide before the race the conditions that will cause you to decide to stop and drop out. You don't want to be out there saying, 'Well, gee, my leg hurts, I'm a little dehydrated, I'm sleepy, I'm tired, and it's cold, and it's windy...' and talk yourself into quitting."
If you're making a decision based on how you're feeling at that moment, then you will probably make the wrong decision.
You don't quit when the going gets rough. You quit when you know you've invested more than you'll get out of it. You need clear, measurable metrics to know when to give up on your big idea or business.
Here are a few I've recently used:
I'll spend this much money: I self-financed my book The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur: 21 Ways to Ignite Your Passion and Pursue Your Side Hustle. I set a budget and a timeline to recoup that money. It hit the Amazon Entrepreneur book Top 10, which helped me reach the goal and do a follow-up book, The Productive Bite-Sized Entrepreneur: 24 Smart Secrets to Do More in Less Time. If I didn't recoup, then there would be no follow up.
I'll spend this much time: I spent a good amount of time on a side hustle and gave myself a few months to make it work. And, with no fanfare, I recently shut it down. Why? Come to find out, no one wanted it. To paraphrase Godin, the temporary pain of giving up is better than the slow death of mindlessly continuing.
I'll spend this much effort: I love working on new ideas, and there is one that I had been toiling away on for years. Within the last few days, I realized that the effort is too great to make it real based on my current time, priorities and resources. It sucks, but moving forward with it begs the question: How much of my life would I have to upheaval to make this thing a reality and, if I see myself at the finish line, would it have been worth it?
Give yourself permission to say, "No, it isn't worth it." And give yourself permission before you actually start.