When work is hard, should you quit or keep going?

I’ve been at this coaching thing for about one full year. Yes I’ve written books before. Yes I’ve sort of said that I can help people run an awesome business in years past. But at no point did I sit down and do the hard work it would take to make mentoring and coaching my full-time income.

That is until just over a year ago.

Where I’m wildly more successful as a coach with one year under my belt than I was as a developer with one year under my belt, it still feels like a struggle. Some days the leads don’t come in as I’d like. People say no when I hope they’d say yes.

It feels like a long slog in deep mud sometimes. Sitting here it’s been great to read The Dip.

The Dip is by Seth Godin who is a well known marketer and writer. The Dip is a short read that’s going to help you figure out when it’s time to quit and when it’s time to push forward.

This is a very short book about a very important topic: quitting. Believe it or not, quitting is often a great strategy, a smart way to manage your life and your career. Sometimes, though, quitting is exactly the wrong thing to do. It turns out that there’s a pretty simple way to tell the difference.

The thing is that when you’re in ‘the dip’ every day feels hard. You’re working and not seeing the recognition that you want to see. Most of your work feels like so much effort for little reward.

Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you should quit.

In a competitive world, adversity is your ally. The harder it gets, the better chance you have of insulating yourself from the competition. If that adversity also causes you to quit, though, it’s all for nothing.

As Godin says, the fact that it’s hard is what makes it valuable. If you’re pursuing something anyone can do with little work, then it’s no very valuable.

3 Questions to ask before you quit

Most of the book is all about why you should be quitting. Why you should quit if you can’t be the best. Why it’s not worth your time to continue. Godin ends with the 3 key questions you need to ask yourself to see if it’s time to quit or if you should keep going.

1. Am I panicking

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy is a wonderfully weird book and contains some amazing advice. Particularly the admonition “DON’T PANIC”. This phrase is found on the Hitchhikers guide. Every time you use the book you are told not to panic.

When faced with a bad client or a deal that didn’t go as you had dreamed it’s easy to panic and run back to the job you knew. It feels safe over there. This new thing you’re trying is hard. If you’re scared, don’t quit, wait.

We have a similar rule when it comes to major purchases. We have a 48 hour ‘cooling’ period when we purchase things like cars. We’ll go talk with the dealer about it, but don’t make a purchase on the lot that day. Once we have a deal that we think is good we wait 48 hour before anything will be signed. On our last purchase it saved us because we decided to compute the gas cost differences between the two vehicles. It turned out that the more ‘expensive’ car was only more expensive for 4 months, then the gas expense caught up and it was a better purchase to spend more to get the more fuel efficient car.

Quitting when you’re panicked is dangerous and expensive. The best quitters, as we’ve seen, are the ones who decide in advance when they’re going to quit. You can always quit later — so wait until you’re done panicking to decide.

When you’re thinking of quitting, go take a walk. Wait for 48 hours or wait for a week. Decide before you start your business when it will be time to quit. Then stick with it until you hit that predefined point.

Don’t quit on a whim.

2. Who am I trying to influence?

If you’re considering quitting, it’s almost certainly because you’re not being successful at your current attempt at influence.

Let’s say you’ve decided you want to become a programmer. You’ve put in some months of training and you can work your way around a code editor now. With your knowledge you’ve decided that Google is the place to work. Despite your months of experience and your quick fingers, they don’t even bother to return your call.

You’re not getting the influence you want.

The problem isn’t that you have nothing to offer, it’s that the fish you set your sights on is a whale. You’re currently fishing with an entry level rod, not a whaling boat.

It’s likely that if you broaden your search you’ll find many companies that need what you have to offer. If you’re not getting the traction you want, broaden your reach.

Sure, some of the people in a market have considered you (and even rejected you). But most of the people in the market have never even heard of you. The market doesn’t have just one mind. Different people in the market are seeking different things.

3. What sort of measurable progress am I making?

The third and final question is about progress. While you’re in ‘the dip’ you may not be seeing the amazing progress you want but you may still be seeing progress.

If you’re trying to succeed in a job or a relationship or at a task, you’re either moving forward, falling behind, or standing still.

While I haven’t filled all the coaching spots I want to, I have more calls and hear the word ‘yes’ more often every month. That’s measurable progress towards my goal. Even in the midst of the struggle, I shouldn’t be quitting.

Recommendation

Have you struggled to get your ideas launched? Have you struggled in your career? Has your business struggled? If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these things then you should read The Dip.

With a short investment you’re going to have a much better handle on when it’s time to quit and move to a new idea and when it’s time to keep going despite the setbacks you’re facing.

Get The Dip on Amazon.

photo by: legofenris