When do you stop? When things aren’t going your way and maybe the writing is starting to appear on the wall that something just isn’t working (be that a line of code you are writing, a design you are working on, a marriage, a new start-up, or a capital raise), when do you throw in the towel?
If you have been reading my previous posts you may already know MY answer. NEVER!
Now, there are plenty of sayings and wisdom behind the idea of knowing when to quit. That when something isn’t working, you pull the plug before wasting energy, etc. Well, I beg to differ.
I believe the world is full of people that hike 90% of the way to the top of a mountain, but the fog prevents them seeing the summit. So they turn back not realizing how close they are. When it gets hard, really hard, to keep climbing, you might need to rest. You might need to get out your compass or your altimeter, consider your map, or discuss with your friend. But, after a break, KEEP CLIMBING.
I’ve been there before. One of my companies felt like it was hitting a wall. Cash was short (perhaps an understatement), employees were tired, competition was building quickly. As a matter of fact, the competition was better funded and seemed to have every advantage. The management team still believed in the vision, but the writing on the wall was in pencil. It looked like a few pen marks were even showing up. There were plenty of nights staring at the ceiling (Was I wrong about this idea, how embarrassing will it be if it fails, would I be better off quitting)… Sure, all normal questions and emotions. BUT GET UP… Start sketching notes. Start booking meetings. Consider “what ifs”. Get in motion.
Our start-up got down to $8k in the bank. We were going to miss the next payroll, which we had never done before. Everything emotionally said to quit. We pushed through and sold the company for $15m dollars not long after. The idea was good. The competition feared us as much if not more than we feared them… The writing may have been on the wall, but we were holding erasers, whiteout, and the various tools necessary to make the writing go away. I will also say that I was so tired that when we got the term sheet on the deal and appeared we were going to make it, I got sick for a solid week. My body was just worn out… But what could have easily been a failure (one that just about everyone would have said “good effort” to and not really been too upset about a bad outcome) became a great experience, a great story, and a great outcome.
Do you quit? I don’t think so.
If you get up early, work hard, and really commit, I think you are already ahead of most people on the planet. Push through and see how close the summit really is.
As a matter of full disclosure, I wrote this post closer to 4:45am not 3am (see previous post), and I have thought about quitting plenty over the years… But every time that I have chosen to push through, I am glad I did.