Do you know when to quit?

I recently wrote an article on persistance. Today I want to look at the other side of that.

A friend sent me an interesting article (Knowing When to Quit) that was particularly meaningful to him because of his own experiences in the coffee business.

As I think about this I realize that in past businesses I’ve very much NOT known when to quit. I’ve spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars and seriously endangered my family’s financial position because I couldn’t see past the emotion.

Readers of this blog know that I try to be a positive, can do kind of person. I think the “whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you are right” line of thinking is true.

But here’s the thing – sometimes you just don’t have the resources or ability to do this thing. You need to know the difference between blind optimism and justified optimism.

In On Writing, (the best book on the subject I’ve ever read) Stephen King said that there are 4 kinds of writers: bad, OK, good, and genius (I don’t remember his exact labels but for the record he considers himself in the “good” category). He said that with a lot of work you can make an OK writer good but that you can never make a bad writer good. You either have it or you don’t.

No matter how hard I try, or how much I practice, or how many lessons I take, I won’t be playing in the NBA. Some businesses aren’t going to work – they just can’t – the math isn’t there. Some careers or jobs just aren’t ever going to pan out. The trick is to be wise enough (or look hard enough) to know the difference. I recently read a short little book called The Dip that might give you some insight into how to do that.


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