The Art of Quitting: A Cultural & Value Challenge


The Dip by Seth Godin, simply explained that there are times to quit and there are times to stick. The challenge is knowing the difference.

Here in the UK we aren’t good at quitting. Which also means we can be quite bad at starting in the first place. I learnt this very quickly when I set up my first business in 2007. Social recruiting before social recruiting became the norm 5 years later. The market crashed I was in my early 20’s and after 2 months of cold calling with the typical answer being ‘interesting idea but we are on a recruitment freeze at the moment’ I was in the bottom of the dip.

I turned the site into an information resource for jobseekers aka I quit. For years I never said the business failed I said it didn’t achieve the objectives I set out for it. This was true in one way but not in another. FACT the business failed – because I couldn’t see through the dip (money, experience, skills etc). FACT the business realised something I didn’t expect – the acceleration of my career in digital.

I am immensely proud of what I did and don’t regret it at all, however it has taken many years and meetings for people to understand the value of ‘failing’. There is a term we used to use in digital propositions for the agile approach to development – ‘fail fast’. I personally use ‘learn fast’ because failure against one objective is learning against many others.

The start-up industry in tech is booming with more fin-tech companies being created in London than in Silicon Valley at the moment. This is only good news as we learn to take the risks our fore-fathers did with a pragmatic business head and as a creative entrepreneur. Many will learn fast but that will only accelerate group (industry) learning and development as we establish ourselves as leaders in our field.

Knowing when to stick is the hardest, because it is when you are in the dip is when you are the closest to the problem and therefore the furthest from the answer. Are you approaching a cul-de-sac or are you about to get a break-through, I think this is the time to take a mini-holiday. Get out re-think, talk to people, clear your vision. Then re-approach. This could be moderated rather than quit or stick. We know the Pareto 80/20 Principle so how are you working, leveraging, delegating, approaching that could change to give a chance to change the shape of where you are going and keep sight of the challenge? There isn’t one answer for one person or one solution – it is accepting when you’re wrong and when you’re right – learn fast.

Even Stephen Hawking disproved his own theory and pro-actively worked to prove it wrong from 2004:

“…Stephen Hawking now thinks “there are no black holes”

The physicist, whose pioneering work on black holes in the 1970s made him a household name, has proposed a radical fudge to try and resolve a baffling paradox.”

[http://www.newstatesman.com/future-proof/2014/01/stephen-hawking-now-thinks-there-are-no-black-holes]

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