Answer: You NEVER give up, but occasionally you need to re-evaluate if where you’re going is still where you want to be.
I spent the last few days in Chicago where I flew just to watch the Paul McCartney concert at Wrigley field on Sunday night (and then again on Monday night! hey neither Sir Paul nor I are getting any younger!) with my daughter Mia. At 69 McCartney has defied all the odds. His ability to rock the house was unlike any other concert I’ve been to.
It got me to wondering, as I connected the dots between this incredible concert and something nearly as profound that I’d experienced a few months ago.
I was giving a keynote about the power of never giving up as an entrepreneur to a relatively young audience – now days “relatively young” defines the vast majority of my audiences : ) At the end of the keynote one of these young guns asked me what must have been one of the toughest questions I’d ever had to address from the podium.
“So you talk about perseverance and tenacity but when ‘do’ you give up?” he asked. The answer I gave got me a standing ovation, which took me completely by surprise.
Last night that same answer struck me again.
“You never give up!” – at least not on those things that define who you are, your passion, your beliefs, your values, your faith. Call these what you will but they are the bedrock of who you are and the only real genuine part of you than you can take any measure of deserved pride in.
But not giving up does not mean that you don’t walk away from things. Often life throws curves at us, people, circumstances, events that we simply have no control over. We look at these challenges and cringe, especially those of us to whom giving up is an apparent admittance of failure.
You could say McCartney gave up on the Beatles and you can be pissed at him for doing so. How could he give up on one of the greatest bands of all time?
He didn’t. McCartney walked away as did John, George and Ringo. But he did not give up on his music, he did not give up on his passion, and he certainly did not give up on his love for performing. His values were genuine.
McCartney didn’t think out of the box he created a new box to play in each time he had to move on. As my very astute son once said to me, “Dad if you can’t get out of the box do you just decorate it nicely?” Isn’t that what most of us settle for, nicley decorated boxes that we can’t stand to be in?
Is it a stretch to try and tie this to the greater challenge we all face of making similar decisions about giving up when we are faced with tough circumstances? I don’t believe so. If we hold true to our values and principles then there is never such as thing as giving up, there are only detours, storms that temporarily toss and tussle our compass.
But staying on course means that you have to know what these values are and you have to live them. You need to find boxes that are worthy of who you are.
So what are the core values that define your life, which you can not negotiate on or relinquish to circumstances, events and the whim (or failings) of others? What are the principles you hold most dear?
The answer to that question in family, business, and every other aspect of our lives is a simple one, and I’ll make it very vivid for you by using the same example I used when that fledgling entrepreneur asked his question about when it’s time to give up.
Imagine yourself at deaths doorstep (sorry for the morbid tone but it’s necessary to make the point). You have minutes left to live and you have to answer a simple question, “what do you regret not having done with your life?”
Few of us will have a clean sheet of paper when making that list, but some will have much shorter lists than others. My suggestion to you is that you write out that list now and study it hard. These are the things you cannot give up on. These are the things that define you and your core values. These are the things that make your life worth living and make you a worthy man or woman. Take that list and staple it to your forehead so that you can see it in the mirror every day.
So what’s your list? What can you not give up on? It’s a much simpler and shorter list than you may imagine.
As for the rest, the stuff that didn’t make the list, just walk away, as hard as it may be, as sad as it may make you, just walk away.
Do that in business and in life and giving up is never an option.