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Rules for Life

From the Mailbag: The Right Time to Walk Away.

“Hey I love what you guys do and I was wondering if you could share some wisdom and guidance. Maybe even share this chat on your page to help out other gentleman who may be struggling with this concept. What is the difference between giving up on something and stopping because it no longer serves you? Where is the line between failure and healthy growth?”

Great question, as this topic is absolutely worthy of a deeper look and applicable to all life situations. Giving up versus quitting. What’s the difference? When is it okay to stop? How do you make that decision?

This all starts with your mindset when you wake up every morning. What’s your purpose? Do you have a mission? You should. If you don’t, I recommend you figure that out.

Your mission is going to change at different points of your life. In high school, it may be to get into great shape, excel in your sport, get good grades and be accepted into the college or trade school of your choosing. Post high school, your mission might evolve into one where you’re trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. Once you’ve completed your education, the mission may be to learn a trade and a make a lot of money. In your thirties, you could be working towards saving your first million dollars, or starting a family. In any life stage, having a mission is crucial. This mission is the underlying motivation for everything you decide to spend your time on. It is your baseline.

With the understanding of your mission comes choices to make day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year. You have twenty four hours in a day, seven days in a week, and fifty two weeks in a year. That’s 8,760 hours per year or 525,600 minutes in a calendar year to accomplish your goals. You’ll probably sleep for at least 33% of this time, so chop it down by a third. The point is, even while it may feel like you have all the time in the world to achieve your goals, your time in a year (and on this planet) is limited. Being as efficient as possible with your time is so important. Recently, Elon Musk tweeted “time is the ultimate currency”. Coming from an entrepreneur who simultaneously acts as CEO of two companies and admittedly works up to 18 hours per day, that should tell you something.   

So, you’ve got a mission at each life stage. That mission acts as your foundation for the choices you make day to day because your time is limited and you don’t want to waste it. What next? How do you know when it’s the right time to walk away from something? As you grow, honest self analysis is crucial. Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, tendencies and areas for improvement is imperative to becoming the best man you’re capable of becoming. Standing still and refusing to change are a sure fire way to fail at life. If you want to succeed, and you’re driven to achieve your goals, this analysis should be happening frequently, and should be looked at in conjunction with your mission. When you’re having a tough time and you’re not sure if you should proceed down the current path, ask yourself

“Is this serving my mission?”

If you make the decision to leave because something is “hard”, “tiring” or “not happening fast enough”, chances are you are not approaching the mission to the best of your ability. You haven’t figured out the most efficient way to tackle your problems. You’ve become complacent, and you’re essentially quitting because you don’t want to put in the hard work. For example, let’s say you’re working at a company for a year or two, and your mission includes goals around learning more, being promoted and earning more money. The company is highly regarded in it’s field, and it is profitable. The company does provide you with satisfactory pay, a path towards promotion, and educational opportunities, but you haven’t been promoted yet. You start to get frustrated, and can’t understand why it hasn’t happened. Do you quit? No, not before you’ve put forth the effort required to fully recognize these opportunities.

If you’re unsure of what you need to do to get promoted and make more money, schedule a meeting with your manager. Ask them what you need to do to make it happen, and as a follow up have them put it in writing. Make sure you ask them what you’ll be evaluated on, how often you’ll be evaluated, how that evaluation is weighted towards the decision to promote you, and when that final evaluation will happen. Next, build a plan to not only meet this criteria, but exceed it. Give them no reason to deny you. Seek mentorship in the organization. Do your own supplemental reading and learning. Take on more. Set a timeline for yourself, with goals along the way. If that sounds like “too much work” or maybe feels like it will be “too difficult”, guess what? You’re thinking like a quitter. If you want to prove to the organization that you’re worth the investment for a promotion and a raise, you have to put in the work. If all of their requests are reasonable, and you have the means to fulfill their requests, walking away is a sign or laziness and/or lack of motivation. I don’t blame them for not promoting you.

On the flip side, if you decide to walk away because you’ve deduced the activity doesn’t suit your mission anymore, or the mission is impossible to complete with the resources you have at your disposal, it is probably the right decision. Maybe you won the Powerball and don’t need the money. It’s possible you have decided to pursue a different career path. Sometimes, the company is on the path to bankruptcy because of poor decisions made by leadership. Those would be reasonable reasons to leave immediately.  The decision to leave does not have to be associated with such extreme examples, either. If you truly believe you’ve given something 100% of your effort, and you’ve tried every reasonable way to succeed and it still isn’t happening, then it is okay to leave. You’ll feel no regret.

It would be legitimately insane to continue operating the same way and getting the same subpar results because you’re too proud or stubborn to “quit”. This is where having a big ego can really hurt you. Sometimes people get caught up in losing battles because they’ve invested so much time and energy and feel embarrassed to let go. I’ve seen this happen in relationships and careers. The guy is so afraid of being looked at as a coward, quitter or weakling that he continues to participate in somewhat toxic activities to preserve his ego. He stays in a relationship with the woman who is clearly not right for him because he’s determined to prove the doubters wrong. He continues to work at the dead end job with no prospect of promotion, even though there are other companies that can more adequately suit his mission because he was taught he should “never give up” and is “loyal”. This guy is a sucker and a fool, being used by and sucked dry of his energy by the relationship or company on a daily basis. He’s making purely emotional decisions driven by ego, not logic. He is wasting his time.

Remember, your definition of “success” is directly correlated to your mission. If you’re working for a profitable company, but your goals (learning, promotion, more money) are not being met, leaving may be the correct decision. Unless your company has granted you considerable equity and a path to promotion, staying is pointless so long as you have other reasonable alternatives. Never quit without a new plan. That is the dumbest thing you can do. If you’ve decided to walk away, walk away towards something new, not towards a romantic idea of “freedom”.

Still confused about what to do? From the words of Jocko Willink, it’s in your best interest to detach, take a step back, remove the emotion from the situation, and analyze it from 30,000 feet. Look at the facts. Am I on track to complete my mission? If not, what do I need to accomplish it? Is my mission possible with the resources I currently have? Am I learning? Am I still excited about the mission? Is there a path to happiness and fulfillment? Just because you feel tired or burnt out does not mean you should quit. Take a day (or a week) off. Recharge the batteries. Sleep on it. If you don’t feel refreshed after the time off and you’re sure that the mission has stalled or regressed, start considering alternative paths. Never leave until you have the next game plan figured out. Then it’s okay to walk away.

-Your Big Bro 

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