In 1941, Winston Churchill famously told the students of Harrow School, "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never." Though Churchill gets the credit for the quote, Spartans created — and lived by — this mindset 2,500 years ago. Spartans push through, keep going, and don’t let anything stand between them and the goal. I’ve lived by this mantra my whole life. But unfortunately, Spartans are undoubtedly an anomaly in today’s world, as evidenced by these disturbing statistics.
- One-third of employees quit their job in less than 12 months.
- 90% of people quit the gym after 3 months.
- 80% of people quit their diets.
Admittedly, I see this as weakness. I’ve learned, however, that there are times when pulling back is necessary to preserve one’s own energy, save the tribe, or continue the mission. Animals will sometimes quit their hunt when they realize that the energy needed to kill their prey isn’t worth what they will get from the kill. Which begs the question: Are there times when quitting or pivoting is better than pushing through?
One thing that the hardships of 2020 taught me is that there are times when a strong pivot is necessary. We all know that life doesn’t always go as planned, and neither does running a business. What was once a sweet idea can turn sour in a hurry. What felt like the right path can end up being a dead end. And so, sometimes, we must throw in the towel. Or maybe we throw up the towel and catch it somewhere else. You keep going, but you change direction.
Let Your True North Guide You
A key element to tap into is your True North, your why. My mission is to change 100 million lives. It's not an easy goal, but I’m committed to it. So if pivoting or pulling back allows me to be more aligned with my True North, then it’s the right thing to do.
However, even when I hold up my True North, the answer isn’t always easy. Take the totality of 2020, for example: Where was my energy best served? In pushing through and trying to get races back as quickly as possible, or pulling back and conserving our resources to live to fight another day?
Legendary mountaineer Ed Viesturs said it best: “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory”
It's easy to throw in the towel when times are tough, when things are going against you, or when you're just not feeling it. But what you don't want to do is throw in the towel before you have to. It's an important distinction.
Turn Towards Your Trusted Personal Board
When you're feeling pressure to quit, you should turn to your trusted personal board of directors, the people in your life who you rely on to tell you what you may not want to hear. Sometimes, when you are deep in something, you can’t recognize your own blind spots. Our brain typically processes information more quickly if it agrees with our opinion. As a result, we often look for any information that will agree with the decision we want to make.
So grab someone trustworthy and make good use of an outside perspective. They may tell you to keep going or pull back. Either way, you’ll have a new lens on what to do next, one that's not driven by how you “feel” at that moment.
Reframe Your Own Identity
Many of us have built an identity around pushing through and never quitting. (I know I have.) So even when the smartest, most value-driven choice is to pull back or pivot, we all struggle with making this choice. Why? Because we feel that it's an indictment of who we are. But it’s not. It’s just a choice. It's as simple as that. Don’t get your identity wrapped up in the mix. Your identity is better defined by the value system that is driving the choice in the first place.
The bottom line is that we should all push hard — all day, every day. Don’t quit easily, and make sure that your decisions are completely aligned with your values.