Posted by Todd Smith
In our world of endless self help books, positive thinking and the “never give up” attitude, we are trained to push through obstacles until we succeed. As kids, our teachers, parents and coaches taught us to “never give up!”
But at what point does this positive mental attitude actually hurt you?
A few years ago I was involved in an exciting Internet start-up that looked to revolutionize the web design industry. We assembled a team of the top people in their respective fields of expertise, had a great concept and all the capital we needed.
It was as if all the stars were lined up perfectly! We were going to hit the big time!
Then we launched…
The response from the market did not meet our expectations.
We were smart. We focused on the little things that matter. We refined and further refined our business model. We pushed harder and harder every day. Everyone on the team was working 60+ hours a week. We were committed to making it work.
Then the day came where my partners and I had to sit down and look at our options. We were we losing a large sum of money everyday; we weren’t making any measurable progress and were killing ourselves in the process. Should we continue with the current plan, re-strategize, or call it quits?
We went through the decision making process described in How To Make Critical Decisions. After countless hours of evaluation, we made the decision to pull the plug and shut it down.
When we started the business we knew our greatest threat was “What we don’t know, we don’t know.” And in the end, what we didn’t know killed us. No matter how confident you are, your greatest risk will be what you don’t know, you don’t know.
Abandoning a dream, losing the largest sum of money I had ever lost, and having to lay off our employees who had put their trust in us was one of the most difficult times of my life. I had to take a mental health week.
Darren Hardy’s recent blog post S-T-R-E-T-C-H Yourself, emphasized that you will only succeed to the degree you have failed. From my perspective, I couldn’t wait to see the success that would come from this failure.
A close friend’s experience represents the other side of the spectrum. He started a new business two years ago. He was so committed to succeeding that he stayed with it too long. Had he succeeded, his name would have been added to the definition of “Persistence” in Webster’s Dictionary.
But despite his efforts, he did not succeed. Today he has filed bankruptcy, is losing his home in foreclosure, his marriage is on the rocks and he is going through the most difficult period in his life.
Are you in a similar situation with your business, job or perhaps a relationship? Are you still thinking to yourself “never give up?”
If so, here are my suggestions:
1. Determine why it’s not working? Is it you? Really. Can you look in the mirror and honestly tell yourself that you have given it your ALL? I have found that 95% of those people who are failing at something are failing because they are not doing the little things that matter. You must be honest with yourself. How hard and how long have you been working at it? You must identify specific reasons why something is not working.
2. Make a list of your options. If you’re doing the things you know you should do with excellence and it isn’t working, then you have to STOP and consider your options. I’m sure you’ve heard Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: when you continue doing the same things over and over again but expect different results. NO CHANGE=NO CHANGE.
3. Identify the pros and cons of each option. Once you’ve written down all of your options, consider the pros and cons of each option. Where are the current red flags? How big are they? What are your risks? What is it going to require from you to make it work?
4. Make a plan with deadlines. If you decide to continue, determine what refinements you are going to make, and establish new targets with deadlines. If you don’t hit your targets by the specified date, it’s time to reevaluate and return to this process.
When going through this process you must remove your emotion and be totally honest with yourself. I would also strongly suggest seeking the counsel of your spouse, close friends or others you respect.
As I look back on my experience with the start-up business, it’s easy to mark it off as an utter failure. But if it weren’t for that experience, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Sounds simplistic but it’s not. I have gone on to do other things, realize other successes and most importantly learned by my mistakes. The formation of Little Things Matter and the creation of this blog is just one example.
And, if it weren’t for this business failure, I would not have sold a large chunk of my real estate holdings. If still owned all this real estate, I would have lost even more money. So life is good!
As Earl Nightingale said, “With every seed of adversity, there is a seed of equal or greater benefit.” That’s why you’ll only succeed as much as you fail. And you will only fail as often as you are willing to push yourself outside your comfort zone and take risks.
“Nothing’s worse than doing something you know you shouldn’t be doing – you know it’s not working – but you’re doing it anyway because you’ve been told to “never give up”. Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make. “-Gerrid Smith
Creativity, Entrepreneurship, Failure, Goals
Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.
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