Very often, we associate giving up with all things negative. Giving up means failing. It means you’re undetermined. It means you’re weak. It means you’re fickle. However, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to give up.
When to give up
As a rule of thumb, I start to contemplate giving up when:
1) I feel worn out
2) The days seem to be passing by too quickly
3) I feel stuck
4) I wonder if what I’m doing is worthwhile
Most of all, I give up when I realise I need to regain the most important thing – myself.
You’re only human
As human beings, we’ve got a limited amount of energy stored. Every word we say and move we make requires energy. Similarly, spending time to think and execute an idea requires tons of energy. Although we can regenerate this energy through rest or the consumption of coffee, it takes awhile for our brains to reach its optimal performance again. When we keep working ourselves too hard either mentally and physically without ample rest, our energy depletes far too quickly. Soon enough, we’ll be faced with burnout.
Burnout is no fun. Imagine a downward spiral of restlessness, mood swings, lowered productivity, and stress. That’s what burnout does to us.
Pushing the limit
Take it from me – I’m one who enjoys learning – but I won’t stop at that. I tend to want to master what I’m interested in. That being said, I’ve gone a little overboard sometimes when pursuing a skill/hobby/project/business idea.
I can be interested in a few things at once, so my days’ activities will generally be filled to the brim. I don’t work all the time though – I value my social life, so this is what I do: I plan my week in advance and pick a day or two where I’ll meet everyone with back to back timings – so that I can use the remaining days to work on all my projects.
I did this often when I was much younger (okay maybe just a couple years back), and it was only until recently I realized I did not have the energy to continue my pattern. I was suffering from burnout and felt restless most of the time. I wasn’t feeling good about myself too, as I kept wondering why I was taking ages to complete the projects I set out to do. The more backlog I had, the more I felt lousy. This affected my morale a lot, and before I knew it I slipped into a phase of low self-esteem.
The best way to determine if you need to kill something is to perform a diagnosis on how it affects you. I’m usually a yellow notepad kind of girl – I’ll draw a vertical line down a piece of paper and write down the pros and cons in each column. But sometimes, when the most logical answer just doesn’t quite seem to cut it, I turn to my feelings.
The key is to practice self-awareness.
Ask yourself these questions : Does talking about the idea to another party make you feel uneasy or stressed out? Do you dread being asked about it? Do you find that you need to keep reminding yourself why you are still working on it? And finally, when you do talk about other things, do you feel like you’re more excited and energized? If the answers are all yes, it’s a strong sign you are no longer motivated by it. At this point, you should consider giving it up.
But my reputation is at stake…
Remember this: You, and your project are two separate things. You determine how the project pens out, but the project does not determine who you are. People make decisions that don’t go in their favor all the time – it’s the ones who constantly choose to reinvent themselves that bounce back up a little stronger and wiser. Those are the ones who end up creating new projects that are better than the first. Those are the ones who end up changing the world.
Frankly speaking, if you stop caring so much about your reputation/ego and how people label you – you’d have a lot more energy to focus on the other things that you can do and actually feel good about completing them.
Failure at work
At Talenox, failure is built into our system. Don’t get me wrong – we don’t build to fail. We simply build with the notion that small failures are acceptable. We operate in sprints and projects. This allows us to come together to brainstorm, try out new ideas, monitor them, and kill them fast if they’re not working.
I’m not condoning that everyone should do what we do. Like every model or framework, you’ll need to look inwards and practice some discretion. This brings me to my next point.
Can you afford to give up?
Preparing yourself for failure means preparing for some kind of loss. It may be loss of time, money, or even pride. In some instances, the loss of respect from those around you. As any business person would know, we should consider opportunity costs as well. Could doing A result in a bigger loss from not doing B?
Because we’re a small team of 7 at Talenox, we’re pretty agile. We use Trello to manage our projects’ documentation, a Gantt Chart (classic ol’ Excel) to see who’s working on what, and communicate quickly through Slack. Whenever a decision needs to be made, we hold a weekly meeting and do a cost-benefit analysis. By doing this, we estimate what we are prepared to gain and lose. Bottomline is, we design systems that put people first. Whether it’s our team’s key resources (the people), or our customers, we know what’s truly important – and what we can afford to lose.
Before building failure into your company, ask yourself what you can afford to lose.
You are your biggest asset
Building failure into your own system (not your company’s), is much scarier than it sounds. That’s probably because there’s no one else but yourself to absorb all the losses – whether it’s emotional or financial.
You’re your biggest asset, and your biggest investment. Like any wise investor would do, hedge your bets and cut your losses short until you find something worthwhile to chase. When you find it, focus on it and follow through with confidence. If you’re a fan of Warren Buffett, you know he’ll agree.
Until then, it’s important to take care of your biggest asset – you.
Cut off the things which burn you out and make you unhappy. With that, you’ll find that you have more time, energy, and freedom to pursue the next thing.