July 2017
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When Do You Pull The Plug?

Knowing when to say when takes a little preparation

Someone asked me an excellent question the other day, “When do you know to give up?” It was a superb question and she touched on a key dilemma. We’re always taught to do our best, she said, and work until we achieve our goals, but sometimes success isn’t possible – or worth the price. How do you know?

Personal experience… Ugh!

Once upon a time, I had a startup. We made classic startup mistakes and it didn’t work out well. Years later, a friend quoted Will Rogers on how good judgment was the result of experience and experience was the result of bad judgment. I must be quite the sage.

Amongst many bad decisions, one of my biggest was to keep going when I knew that it wasn’t going to work – and that I hated my job. I knew it at least a year before I quit, and make no bones about it, I quit. I gave up, threw in the towel, said “uncle”. And thank goodness.

Why do we wait?

We stay when we know we should go for many reasons, including pride, loyalty, desperation, and determination. The process that makes us stay is just as important. It is simple, because it is short on process and long on denial. Like the famous frog in the pot, we get boiled by degrees.

If the frog doesn’t wait, why should you?

The truth is that frogs may not be bright, but they’re not that dumb either. They get out of the water when it gets too hot. That’s worth remembering.

Set limits before you start. Write the limits down on paper. Write them into emails that you send to yourself and a friend before you start. Review the limits occasionally – and honestly – and know when your time is up.

My startup crashed – and so what?

It was not the end of the world. My pride was bruised, but all of my limbs were intact, and I immediately saw that I should have left sooner. Lesson learned: Draw a line in the sand before you go – so you can say this far and no further.

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