The Art of Giving Up

I have been watching a lot of interviews with startup founders lately. These interviews can be very instructive, and can have some amazing life lessons. One common thread that is apparent in the stories of a lot of the founders and leaders is that they never gave up on their idea / company, despite odds that were heavily stacked against them. People like Elon Musk – who didn’t give up despite initial failures, and a whole industry that had no belief in what he was trying to do. Now – Tesla. But for every Elon Musk who made it through the lows to end up successful, there are thousands of others who probably had the same belief in themselves, but didn’t make it. One could argue that for all of those others – it would be better to cut their losses and move on.

But does anyone really have the right to make that judgement? The truth is that no one knows your journey like you do. And you are the only one who gets to make that call. But you have to do it for the right reasons, when you do. It is easy to confuse passion with possibility. But hope is not a strategy. You earn the right to take the call to stay in the game – but only if you fully understand the game. When you do, and you do it for the right reasons, even giving up is a win. Because it makes you better. That’s the art of giving up.

One thought on “The Art of Giving Up

  1. For most of these inventors, both historical and present, they had a long history of “tinkering” on projects. “Men of Science” like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, Elisha Gray, Charles Kettering and the Wright Brothers had an excellent understanding of basic scientific, electrical, and mechanical concepts, and also had physical spaces to work on their side projects. As a result, they were able to make incremental progress on small inventions, punctuated by occasional major breakthroughs. That’s why all these great inventors actually have scores of patents, while they’re known for only a couple of their great inventions. Because they knew that the science made their ideas possible, they had a knowledge base for the “how to”, and worked to make their concepts into tangible objects.

    But one of the keys to their success was that they scaled their projects to their knowledge and abilities, and worked on the the difficult and improbable rather than the impossible. Their critics could say that they were attempting the impossible, but those assessments weren’t based on scientific knowledge. The criticism was based on the faulty assumption that if it hadn’t been done before, it couldn’t be done now. The inventors knew the science and concluded that “it can be done”, and worked on the “how to”. The takeaway is to make sure that your goals – whether improbable, unlikely, or unfeasible – are still possible and based in objective reality. And if you have multiple ideas and goals, work up to the hard ones gradually. If you fall, fall forward; and if you fail, fail up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *