Quit or be exceptional
Demystifying quitting a project
There are good and bad reasons to give up. Seth Godin, in his book, teaches us to ask ourselves the right questions before we even start a project. He puts forward several principles that we should all have in mind when approaching a problem. Here is a list of interesting ideas from his book.
Quitting short term is bad, quitting long term is good
Every entrepreneurial project involves a low point that must be faced in order to succeed. Giving up during the trough is not a wise choice since it does not allow you to know if the outcome would have been favorable. There are only two appropriate times to stop a project: before it begins or after the trough.
Start only with the idea of being number one in the niche you have defined
There are two types of work that people are shown: one is satisfying, the other is exceptional. One is satisfying, the other is exceptional. The first one takes us into the abyss of competition, the other allows us to climb to the top of the podium. In your entrepreneurial project, you can’t just be good, you won’t get very far. You have to be excellent at something, no matter how small, so that it sets you apart from the competition. If you can’t be the best at something (e.g. delivery time, design, customer relations etc.) compared to your competitors, it’s best not to start at all.
It’s easier to stay on a project that’s going nowhere than to abandon it
The “never give up” mantra we’ve heard in self-help books and motivational videos is not very sound. There are appropriate times to stop a project and others that are not. The problem with having this mantra in mind is that we don’t ask ourselves the right questions. The time and energy we invest in one place could be used just as much or better elsewhere. The social pressure to abandon is such that we often stop a project too late when we had explicit signals to do so long before.
Abandoning tactics vs. abandoning strategy (see article)
Tactics answer the question “how” and strategy answers “what”. If you want to get to what, for example “have a successful business”, you will have to try several “hows”. Giving up a “how” does not mean giving up our “what”. The goal of strategy is to win the war, the goal of tactics is to win the battle. We can win the war by having lost a few defeats. Very often, a conceded defeat allows you to better allocate your resources elsewhere.
The trough is what makes all the difference
The ability to endure difficulty and moments of doubt for months or even years is what separates the winners from the pack of candidates. Everything you learn during that time will be returned to you fivefold if you stick with it.
There are 7 reasons why you may not be the best
Material resources: You are short of money
Temporal resources: You are short of time
Psychological resources: You are afraid
Motivational resources: You are not really serious about your project
Emotional resources: You lose enthusiasm or interest
Your ambition: You lower your standards
Your vision is narrow: You focus on the short term instead of the long term
Your discernment : You have chosen a field where you have no particular talent or unfair advantage over your competitors (see article)
The trough is an opportunity
Because it is difficult, the trough allows a selection between all the candidates. If you manage to see the end of the tunnel, it is actually an opportunity because there will not be many of you at the exit. If you have endured the pain of the trough, you will have satisfaction and success at the end. Adversity is your ally, you must seek it out because it allows you to walk away from the competition if you triumph. Hollowing out creates scarcity (through the skimming it implies), this scarcity creates value.
Stopping a project is not a failure
As mentioned above, stopping a project is simply a better allocation of its resources. In the art of war, this is called a strategic retreat, not a rout.
The danger of a dead end
A cul-de-sac according to Seth Godin is a situation where you don’t regress but you don’t progress either. It is not a low point, it is a situation of stagnation that is here to stay. The opportunity cost is too great to stay in a dead end, you need to get out of it as soon as possible.
The longer you wait to make a change, the more difficult it becomes, much like a smoker who wants to quit smoking. The cliff is what describes the position of making an abrupt change that is the result of not having made a decision earlier.
Other interesting ideas from the book:
The first step to overcoming the low is to know that you are in the low or entering the low.
If you don’t think you can endure the trough, it’s best not to start at all.
To be a superstar, you must not only get out of the trough, but you must use it as an opportunity to create something extraordinary that everyone talks about.
Winners understand that accepting the pain now allows them to avoid a lot of pain later
Always ask yourself before you give up: Is the pain of the low offset by the benefits of overcoming the low?
If you don’t have the resources to dominate a market, select a smaller niche that makes it easier for you