When Is The Right Time To Give Up?

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This article is part of The Power of Work series by Allihoopa. Why not read the full series? Just click on the link above. It’s free. But let’s now look at the big question: When is the right time to give up?

If you are like me, you certainly have read your fair share of “self-help” literature. Said literature often praises the willingness to persist, making examples of how important it is to never give in and always continue to work on your dreams. They tell the classic story of the two frogs who both fall into a bowl of liquid cream. The bowl is too high for the frogs to get out.

So they both start moving their legs and desperatly trying to swim anyways. However, one of them gives up after some time and drowns, while the other ones continues to try geting out of it. And -surprise- due to his consistent movement, his cream becomes thick after a while and he can escape. Fair enough. Smart frog.

But then you switch on your TV and watch one of those casting shows, where a clearly one hundred percent untalented person is dragged in front of the cameras, only to blame himself in front of the nation. Once they have received their verdict, you can often see them commenting on how they will under no circumstance give up and they will persist and for some of them this even means to come back for the next auditions in the next city or in the next year. Will they ever get talented? No.

Let’s be a bit cynical here and take our two frogs. This time, however, they both fall into a bowl of water. Again, one of them gives up and drowns. The other one of them continues. And then he drowns. Because the water does not get thick and he won’t be able to escape. So, pure, dumb persistance doesn’t appear to be the solve-it-all in any situation, it clearly depends on whether you are swimming in cream or water. Or, in other words, if the situation you are in justifies persistance


When to Give up And When to Persist 

But how do you know when it is best to give up and when it is better to persist? Well, the actual answer to this is: you don’t know. Many people have persisted and therefore were able to turn a misfortune into a fortune.

These are normally the stories that get told and quoted, because they shine and make a point. Others, however, have persisted and instead of “just” going broke, they refused to give up, persisted and as a result got themselves into prison for wrongful trading, fraud and bankruptcy. Point taken: persistance is a two sided sword and not the magic cure to all of your problems and challenges.

In an interview with __ Elon Musk, the guy who founded PayPal and later sold it to Ebay, which made him terribly rich, almost cried when he was confronted with the fact that he could be living on his private island and sipping cocktails.

The interview was done during difficult times for Musk, when the great financial crises of 2008, made it very difficult for Musk to continue with his businesses SpaceX and Tesla, and led to him investing his whole money. An important point he said, was “A company is like a child, would you let your child starve?”.

Felix Dennis, one of the richest self-made men in the UK, publisher of Maxime, and one of the three founders of CarphoneWarehouse, once stated that if it is your goal to be rich, you should go to a place where you feel comfortable and swear to yourself that you will not give in until they bankrupt you.

And I guess that is a good clue when it comes to your other goals too. It means nothing else than not giving up voluntarily. If you really want to be slim and healthy, then you shouldn’t voluntarily give up at any cost. Until they bankrupt you. Until they don’t permit you to the casting show anymore. Until every bank and investor have declined your proposal.

Until you break your leg while working out. But what about the frogs in the bowl of water? Well, their destiny is clear. Both of them will die. But the one who doesn’t give up voluntarily still stands better chances to survive. After all, the bowl owner might come home and rescue him or the bowl might fall on the floor. Or there might have been cream in there all along. Who knows? 

The Western World is Made of Cream

What we do know, however, is that the Western world is made of cream. We are in a bowl and cream is all around us. If you want to lose weight, you’ve got your cream right there. Sports and a good diet will inevitably make you slimmer. If you want to move up the career ladder: cream. Hard work and a reliable, friendly, empathic self will get you there. If you want to get rich: cream.

Being brave, innovative and open to listening to people who would be willing to spend money for a product or service and then reaching out to them to provide it to them, will get you there. 

Or it will not. But still you didn’t give up voluntarily and that makes all the difference. If you are forced to stop working out because you break your leg, then so be it. You certainly gave it your all and it didn’t work out. But one time, your leg will be healed, and you can start again. If you are in business and you go bust, then live with the consequences and try to get back up on your feet once it is possible. If you involuntarily failed at any given task, then try to learn from it and improve yourself.

Try to get back up on your feet and give it another go. It’s just a game out there. Nothing more serious could happen than you dying. And while you might deem this as a really serious thing, remember that you will die anyway. We all die in the end, but we should try dying while we are in the bowl and moving our legs to turn whatever liquid we are in, into cream.

Even if it is water and we will not be successful. Remember that both frogs died. But one of them tried and he might as well have been successful. The other one, though, was destined to day even if he would have been swimming in a bowl of cream.

So, the right time to give up is when you have to give up. Know that persistence alone will not necessarily get you to your goals. But without persistence you surely and definitely will not get to your goals. So the equation is losing for sure versus having a chance of winning. These are the odds in life. So go and search for the bowls of cream and whip it well!