“Never give up” is what we’re told throughout our lives, by our parents and by storybooks, by our teachers and coaches, and by our mentors and colleagues. The philosophy, which is idealistic, is that as long as you keep working hard, eventually you’ll get the result you want. You may have to find a new way around or improve yourself to meet the challenge, but as long as you don’t give up, you’ll find success.
Unfortunately, this isn’t how the real world works. In the vast majority of cases, as long as you keep working hard, you’ll eventually find success–but it may not be the type of hard work you think it is, and the success you find may not be what you originally set out for. The truth of the matter is, sometimes you have to give up one goal in order to pursue another, and sometimes you have to give up on a weak idea in order to pursue a stronger one. Then again, giving up on an idea too soon could ruin a potentially valuable opportunity.
So at what point do you cut your losses and move on?
There’s no one right answer, but as you’ll see from these 10 quotes, great people of all walks of life have been forced to face the notion of giving up, and it’s never easy:
1. “I have met many entrepreneurs who have the passion and even the work ethic to succeed – but who are so obsessed with an idea that they don’t see its obvious flaws. Think about that. If you can’t even acknowledge your failures, how can you cut the rope and move on?” -Kevin O’Leary.
This quote illustrates the importance of realizing that ideas are rarely perfect. Hard though it may be, it’s vital that you recognize the imperfections in your own work, and if they outweigh its strengths, it may be time to move on.
2. “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” -Winston Churchill.
Giving up is a conscious way of recognizing some level of failure, which makes it hard to do. But as Churchill explains, failure shouldn’t stop you–it’s just one step of the journey. In some cases, the sooner you give up, the sooner you can move on to something better.
3. “All of us make mistakes. The key is to acknowledge them, learn, and move on. The real sin is ignoring mistakes, or worse, seeking to hide them.” -Robert Zoellick.
Even when you do feel forced to give up, that doesn’t mean you’ll be walking away with nothing. You’ll have learned greatly from the experience, and you’ll be better equipped to deal with whatever comes next.
4. “You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do. You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.” -Steve Case.
Before giving up, try to look at your situation objectively. Don’t be drawn into overly positive or overly negative thinking–look at it from both sides and make a logical determination of whether it’s worth pursuing further.
5. “It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you almost get it right. No one is going to know or care about your failures, and neither should you. All you have to do is learn from them and those around you because all that matters in business is that you get it right once. Then everyone can tell you how lucky you are.” -Mark Cuban.
Giving up in one instance doesn’t mean you’re a permanent failure. You’ll probably give up many times on weak ideas or poor executions–eventually, you’ll get it right, and once is all it takes.
6. “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Edison.
This classic quote by Thomas Edison illuminates an alternative perspective on giving up. Don’t think of it as an admission of failure. This of it as an acknowledgement that something better must be out there.
7. “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” -Anais Nin.
This quote is important to remember if you’re afraid of letting your idea go. It takes courage to give up on something you once believed in, but sometimes it’s necessary if you want to move on.
8. “Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” -Richard Branson.
Richard Branson is an outspoken proponent of the idea that failure is just a step toward success. Learn from your mistakes and never be afraid to restart from scratch.
9. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
If something doesn’t work, you have to give it up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep moving forward.
10. “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” -Teddy Roosevelt.
Instead of focusing on all the “could have beens,” focus on what you can do right now with the resources available to you.
There’s never a clear answer on when it’s appropriate to give up. If you walk away from an idea, it might be just a little too soon. If you stick with it, you might waste a little more time. But the one key takeaway, as illustrated by nearly all these quotes, is that giving up doesn’t have to be the end. It’s just a new beginning. Learn from your mistakes, accept the new experience, and keep moving forward to wherever you want to be.