Is It Time To Quit?
If we’ve labored over a job or an initiative or a project (of any scale) for a concerted period of time, and it hasn’t delivered what it was supposed to, we’ll find ourselves asking that very question, in one form or another.
Am I done? Is it time? When is enough, enough?
Of course, it’s a difficult question to answer.
Sometimes, it’s extremely clear. When our ability to contribute is permanently compromised. Or the money’s gone. Or our ‘political rope’ has been exhausted. Or, perhaps most definitively, the customers are no longer coming.
Other times, it’s nowhere near as clear. Like most things in life, our sense of the situation is fraught with uncertainty because, well, it is uncertain. There are always gray areas. There are always two sides to every story and, as such, reasonable people can have differing views of the exact same situation.
But that, of course, doesn’t help us as we grapple with our own situations. How do we see through the fog of our own judgement? How do we trust in ourselves, that we’re making the right decision, whatever we decide?
While I won’t suggest I know the precise formula, I have to imagine that answering the following questions - for ourselves - is critical:
What was my WHY? As Simon Sinek likes to say, we have to begin with why we do what we do. Not just to make money, but to align with our own values? To fulfill whatever mission we hoped to accomplish. If we know why we began to do what it is we are doing, and if the core mission of what we are doing is still aligned with our why, then perhaps its time to soldier on. If not, if we believe there’s a divergence between the mission of the organization (or leadership or unit), then perhaps it is time to go.
In the case of a business, is the need still there? Is the core goal of the project still relevant? Is it still needed? Is the problem still unsolved? If we were to quit, what would happen? If the alternatives to do that work could step in and fill the hole we’ve left, that’s one thing. But if not, then maybe the time isn’t right.
In the case of a startup, are we past “proof-of-concept”? Have we shown some level of success already? Have you shown that, at some level, this initiative can work? Has someone (other than your mom) paid you for this? Have they used your solution to help fill a gap they have? If so, that could be enough to suggest our work isn’t done. (Of course, that answer is a relative one and depends, in the case of a startup, on who our investors are, as entrepreneurs versus angels versus VCs may have very different expectations on what an appropriate return is.)
Is the question one of resourcing? Is it access to capital? To talent? Are we willing to do what it takes to get the access we need? Of course, as mentioned above, who provides you with those resources will also have a vested interest in the targets that are set and the benchmarks to adhere to.
Have we given this our all? Have we done everything we can? Did we give of ourselves as much as was needed, as much as was possible? Have we exhausted all avenues? It’s important, here, to differentiate between personal desires and frustrations with the needs of the task at hand. If we’re frustrated by the long hours, the personal sacrifices needed to get the job done, that doesn’t mean the effort itself is doomed, rather we should ask ourselves if we are equipped and willing and able to do what is needed. If the answer is no, then perhaps it is time to move on and go to something that is more predictable, less demanding. (That isn’t to judge the situation, it’s a personal assessment.) While this is probably the most important and yet most difficult question to answer, many times, deep down, we’ll know the answer.
There are more questions, I’m sure, but those are enough to get a broad sense of what we’re grappling with. Again, there are no easy answers most of the time, so patience, thoughtfulness and considerable diligence is essential to getting to the “right” answer, for ourselves.
One last thing: if you do decide to leave, it’s important to have something you’re going to, and not simply let it become a situation you’re running from (unless that situation has become toxic). It’s important to move to a mission you’re happy to go and re-engage and fight for. Something that aligns with who you are, what you want to do, with your “why”.