When I was building my business, I considered quitting a lot. It was a rough few years. I wasn’t making enough to support my family. My team missed goal after goal. Our growth was snail-paced. I was even labeled “Turkey of the Month” in a nationwide newsletter.
Entrepreneurs face similar circumstances all the time. It’s why roughly half of all small businesses fail in the first five years, according to the Small Business Administration.
Everybody hits hurdles, faces catastrophes, has scars—especially those of us who are daring (or crazy) enough to start a business. Some people throw up their hands and give in. But high achievers win anyway. They certainly consider quitting. Pressure-packed environments and big, complex goals will make anybody want to quit at some point. But winners don’t.
People who have quit grasp at myths about those who have succeeded: they were lucky, their timing worked out, they had the right connections. The truth is, they persevered when others didn’t.
When you quit, you’ve allowed yourself to be overwhelmed by the negatives, the problems, and the hurdles. You choose to cede control of your business and life to competitors and other outside influences. Winners simply make a different choice.
You can choose the winning path just as easily. Below I’ve shared 3 questions to help you shift your mindset and 2 simple steps for moving forward—out of the fog of confusion and back onto the path to your big goals.
3 Questions to Ask Before You Quit
Can you really afford to quit?
When you quit, you lose the full return on your investment of time, energy, money, and other resources. The opportunity costs are massive—because you’ve sacrificed other opportunities and never accomplished this opportunity. If you were going to quit, it would have been much smarter to quit in the beginning.
Quitting sometimes seems like a great option—until you do it. After an initial (and false) sense of relief, you will be just as miserable as you were before you quit. You will have abandoned your goals and dreams, you will still have many of the same problems, and you will have given up your best option for solving them. You are forced to choose from the least of bad options, and that is the path to misery.
You lose your momentum and are forced to start over. Sure, you’ve learned a lot by getting to where you are now, and maybe you can use that knowledge to be successful next time. You might be able to start at square 4 instead of square 1. But what if there is no next time?
You may be facing a short-term frustration right now. Maybe what you need is simply a break, a brief time out, even an afternoon off to clear your head. Take that time and ask yourself, Do the benefits of quitting really outweigh these costs?
One of the worst outcomes of quitting is that it damages your reputation. You cannot get anything big done on your own. It takes the support of your team, your partners, your network, your family, even your community. When you quit, they notice. When you try to rally them to support your next project, they’ll roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, we’ve been down this road before. Fool us once …”
You’ll have a hard time gaining the support you need to win if you don’t prove to people that you know how to persevere.
It’s one thing for others to give up on you. The more serious damage comes when you doubt yourself. It will be harder to build the energy and momentum to succeed next time because you have to overcome the mental baggage of quitting on yourself. And that is when quitting can become a very bad habit.
My family wasn’t one for pithy sayings about how to get ahead in life or how to be a success. But one day, my mom shared the best explanation of the dangers of quitting.
Our will for what we want in life is like a wooden block, she told me. When we quit, we roll it over. Each time you roll it over, the edges become dulled a little. And that makes it easier to roll it over—to quit—the next time. Before long your will becomes soft around the edges, and you don’t have the mental strength to stick with anything.
The biggest danger of starting a quitting habit is that you miss out on the advantage of compounding effort. People who have a pattern of quitting struggle to get ahead in life. They never stay with anything long enough for their efforts to compound. “Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit,” wrote Napoleon Hill.
Every time we choose to persevere, we take a small leap forward in mental toughness, wisdom, reputation, connections, money and other resources that make it easier to succeed next time.
2 Simple Steps for Taking Control
Instead of quitting, you need to adjust.
If you are considering quitting or closing your doors, you likely have a cash flow or profitability problem (we all know that’s the reason most businesses fail). Of course, that is not quite true. You have a cash flow or profitability symptom. Step one is to discover the true source of your problem by accepting reality.
I would argue that many entrepreneurs fail to use facts for guidance and emotion for fuel. This is especially true in small businesses. The consequence? They aren’t able to make smart adjustments.
We get too attached to our products, even when nobody seems to want them. We get too attached to certain employees, even when they are underperforming or costing us money. We get too attached to our marketing, even when we aren’t seeing a strong ROI. We get too attached to our organizational structure, even when we’ve outgrown it.
Mostly, though, we get too attached to our imagined ideal of what it means to be an entrepreneur, even when our companies are screaming at us to take control, work harder, and focus on what is most important—activity that produces results.
Eight times out of ten, we refuse to acknowledge the obvious solutions because we’re guided by emotion rather than facts. If you feel like quitting, it’s time for a reality check.
You may be one small step away from a breakthrough. And no matter how confused or frustrated you are right now, you can still take one small step. Maybe it is a phone call to a vendor. Maybe it is a conversation with an employee. Maybe it is an afternoon away from the office to do nothing but think about your current problem or your strategy.
Think of this as the “Move a muscle, change a mood,” solution. Usually when we feel like quitting, we are overwhelmed into inaction. You can go to anybody who is on the edge and say, “I know you want to give up, but isn’t there one more thing you could do first. Let’s go do that one small thing.”
Serial winners stay in control by focusing on what they can do next—and then doing it. Action equals progress, and progress always feels good.
Go ahead and take that next small step and see if the clouds and confusion and frustration start to clear.
Everybody runs into problems like those you are facing—and they are exactly the problems that cause your competition to slack off or quit. Hanging tough now is how you can make your company special and separate yourself from your competition.
Once you start thinking rationally and can see the next few steps in front of you, get this issue behind you quickly and get right back to work.