Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.
There are two kinds of “quit” in this world. There’s the smart quit. The one where you know you’re not doing the right thing with your life. The kind of one David Allen did. The one that intuitively feels right in every kind of way.
And then there’s the other type of quit.
The quit where a huge part of you wants to give up. The quit you make when you the world is against you, when you’re sick to your stomach half the time and when all those who told you it was a dumb idea to begin with are now reminding you that they told you that it was a dumb idea to begin with. The quit that just feels easier.
So what do you do when feel that kind of quit coming on? Simple. Never give up. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. So here’s what you’re going to do when you feel that kind of quit coming on (and I’m going to say “you” but it’s really “we” because these are the things I’m going to do as well when I feel this kind of quit coming on!).
#1 – You’re going to read Evan Williams’ story in Founders At Work. When Evan was at Pyra Labs they ran out of money. He laid off the team (actually just stopped paying them). Everybody hated him. He worked alone for a year in what I can imagine were far from optimal conditions. And what happened next? He sold his product (a little thing called Blogger) to a hot start-up (a little company called Google). The rest is history. And I’m pretty confident there would be no Twitter today if Evan hadn’t persevered back in the day.
#2 – You’re going to read Paul Graham’s essay The Anatomy of Determination.
We learned quickly that the most important predictor of success is determination.
Got that? Not talent. Not intelligence. Determination. Thank your lucky stars you’re facing adversity. How the hell would you be able to show that you have what it takes to succeed if you weren’t?
#3 – You’re going to listen to Joe Liemandt’s story of the starting of Trilogy. Trilogy was dead. Dead as in $500,000 worth of credit card debt dead. But this story is a prime example of entrepreneurial will (even if it will likely make every financial advisor cringe). Joe and his team didn’t give up. They believed in what they were building and they had a vision for the future that they clung to even in the darkest of days.
#4 – You’re going to read the story of Steve Genter in Friday Night Lights. Genter was supposed to competed in the Munich Olympics in 1972. One small problem. His lung collapsed before the Olympics. He swam anyway. Without painkillers. You gotta read the whole story but if this doesn’t make you re-think quitting I’m not sure what will.
#5 – You’re going to watch Jimmy Valvano’s (the former basketball coach at NC State) speech at the 1993 ESPYs. At the time Jimmy was only 8 weeks away from dying of cancer. This speech is intense. Some of his closing words? “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” (8:30 in)
#6 – You’re going to read the Three Feet from Gold story in Think and Grow Rich. Often when you’re faced with the prospect of giving up you’re simply three feet from gold. The world is full of people who were building what could have been the next Facebook or the next YouTube but stopped just a bit short. Don’t be one of those guys at the bar telling you the story of how he almost succeeded. Be the guy who gives it everything he has and has no regrets. Indeed, in your bleakest hour you’re usually three feet from gold.
#7 – You’re going to read this insanely cool collection of stories of people who simply did not give up. Reading through these almost makes you wonder if there has been anyone who has achieved something of lasting value who didn’t suffer rejection and defeat. My guess is that the number is pretty close to zero. Peoples’ failures often don’t get publicized but rest assured, pretty much anyone who’s ever risen to great heights has experienced more than a few Dark Nights of the Soul.
#8 – Finally, you’re going to realize watch the video below and realize that the greatest joys in life come precisely because you’ve been willing to go through the lowest of lows to get there. That’s exactly what makes them so sweet. One of my favorite professional athletes in Kevin Garnett (we had season tickets to Timberwolves games as kids). Kevin went through just about every form of hardship you can imagine. The Wolves sucked for years. Malik Sealy, one of his best friends on the team, was killed by a drunk driver (I was on the same road that same night so that one hit close to home).
All sorts of bad things happened. But he persevered. And last year he won his first NBA championship. Watch the pure joy:
That’s what you’re going to feel when you don’t give up. When you pull through and grow your company and get that big fat acquisition offer. When you ring the bell one day on the New York Stock Exchange. You’re going to remember those days when you wanted to give up and quit.
How sweet it’s going be.