When Is It Time To Walk Away?

In 2006 two young men set out to create a podcasting platform, Odeo. Not long after Apple would decimate any chance Odeo had of success, by installing a pod casting platform on every single iPod (and later iPhone) manufactured. So, as a result they terminated the project.

Whilst walking away from the initial project the pair recognized they had a solid platform and wanted to utilize this. Facebook was very popular, but users complained about the clutter on the “news-feed” preventing them from seeing what they wanted, celebrities and news.

Using their existing platform, the pair focused on creating a feed focusing on news, pictures and celebrities, They also limited the characters per post to 140. This platform is otherwise known as Twitter.

Walking away from a failing project allowed a billion dollar company to be born.

Quitters are Cowards

People are ashamed of quitting.

We are always told to fight for what you want, rise up to adversity and so on. But is this the right thing to be taught?

Just recently I had the very difficult decision of terminating my own startup. I had spent months working night and day on the project with a small team. I also had friends, family, professionals and a large social media following whom were all eagerly awaiting the projects launch. So when it came to the point of having to terminate the project I was ashamed, embarrassed and felt guilt towards my followers and my team — for their wasted efforts.

We were developing an exceptional global platform in the crypto currency space which no one had done yet. We knew it was a race against time as there was an established company working on something similar but on a much smaller scale. We were nearing completion of our project when the company announced they were expanding their service to do exactly what we intended on doing, and shortly after they raised $12 million.

There was no hope. I didn’t have the resources as is, the team being unpaid weren’t 100% committed and I couldn’t invest the time that was required due to completing my last year of University. I recognized that I didn’t have the capacity in my current state to handle a project of that size whilst competing with a company which had all the resources backing them. So I terminated the project.

Whilst fighting can be valiant, it can also be foolish and damaging. Whether it’s a toxic relationship, a business owner who has been losing money for years, or an athlete trying to train whilst injured. There is a time to call it quits. When you fight for too long it can be costly financially, physically, emotionally, mentally and can lead to a loss of time and permanent ramifications. All that energy and resources could have been spent doing bigger and better things.

There is nothing wrong with fighting for what you believe in. Look at Dwayne Johnson or Kerwin Rae for example. Both had very rough upbringings and in their late teens it looked like neither of them would amount to anything, as they had no direction and were getting caught on the wrong side of the authorities. Eventually they developed a burning desire to become the hardest workers in the room and they busted their asses to get to where they are today. They had countless adversities and setbacks but they bit the bullet and soldiered on.

The reason why they succeeded was because they had the burning desire, a desire which couldn’t be extinguished as they saw the light at the end of the tunnel. When you have that burning desire, nothing can stop you. But when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, you have to take matters into your own hands and change things.

The founders of Twitter could have continued trying to fight to make Odeo successful, wasting countless years and money. But they recognized it was an uphill battle with no light at the end of the tunnel. So they took a step back, and reevaluated the situation.

Taking a Step Back

Live to fight another day.

Some believe it’s a term to justify the “cowardly” action of running away. But really, it’s a strategic move -in many cases.

I say ‘most cases’ because I am a strong advocate of rising up to challenges, escaping your comfort zone and being on a constant path of self development. When you are confused, you are in the process of learning and when you’re scared, you are in the process of becoming stronger.

There is a fine line between walking away as a cowardly approach and walking away as a strategic approach. Or fighting on strategically and fighting on stubbornly.

A couple of years a go I injured my shoulder whilst training, it wasn’t anything serious but it needed time to rest up. I didn’t rest it, I was so concerned with losing my progress that I neglected to listen to my body and continued training.

As a result I ended up tearing my rotator cuff, and had to stop weightlifting and surfing for several months. I wasn’t 100% yet but I decided to jump straight back into it after a few months out and to no surprise I ended up injuring it further. For the next year I finally listened to the physio, did my daily stretches and slowly eased myself back into the training.

I was stubborn and chose to fight on, because that’s what we are taught — to fight through adversity. But this ended up costing me 18 months of not being able to train. Had I just rested my shoulder when it first started to hurt and take the next few sessions gently I would have been back to training at full capacity in just a couple of weeks.

It can be difficult recognizing defeat and conceding for a number of reasons Our egos get in the way, we feel guilt, shame and embarrassment, we can be naive or we can be stubborn and refuse to let go of a lost cause . But most of these will only be short term effects, and with time and patience you will be much better off in the long run for it (you’ll probably have extra cash to).

So when your’e facing adversity listen to your body, your instincts, your friends, family and colleagues. Take a step back, re-frame the situation and determine the best approach for your long term needs.

There’s only one reason why you should feel guilty for walking away.

You Only Lost if You Didn’t Learn

Adversity can be daunting as it can lead to “failure”, but in fact rising up to adversity even if you don’t succeed, results in a win-win situation.

How?

Because from facing challenges, you develop greater self awareness, new skills, confidence and get experience. All of which equip you to be better suited to deal with future challenges.

Lets look at my failed startup. what comes out of wasting 100’s of hours slaving away, losing hard earned money, and having a negative impact on my relationship? I grew from it.

I had effectively managed a team of 7, 2 of which were internationals who spoke minimal English, I networked meeting many like minded individuals and formed great bonds, I became a better writer, I grew a large social media following, I learned that I am capable of a lot when I put my mind to it, and I also learned the importance of having to balance work/family and relationships.

All of this life long knowledge I gained from a failed project. This knowledge I will be able to use in the future to better my chances at success. You can read more about the importance of adversity in my post, “Wishing Pain Upon Others”.

Had the founders of Twitter not walked away from Odeo, they would never have built such a successful company.

Next time you face adversity there are many different approaches you can take. Just remember, walking away is only a loss if you don’t learn from the experience and quitting is not giving up.

Key takeaways:

  1. When there is no light at the end of the tunnel it is okay to walk away
  2. The negative emotions you experience when “giving in” are temporary, focus on your long term needs
  3. When you are struggling take a step back, re-frame the situation and evaluate your options. If there is little-to-no chance of improvement in the long run, walk away. If you believe in yourself and the outcome, fight with everything you have.
  4. Adversity and challenges help you develop, go step out of your comfort zone!
  5. It’s only a failure if you didn’t learn from it.
  6. Remember your lessons, and apply them to future challenges
  7. Quitting is not giving up

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Will I author my own reality, or will I hand the pen to someone else? I am a digital marketing specialist and content creator with a dream to go international.