This post is part of my Bad Career Advice series in which I expose outdated, clichéd, and counterproductive advice for exactly what it is.
I understand the sentiment behind this piece of advice and clearly, its intent is to push you past your own perceived limits. While its heart is in the right place, I believe the advice to “never give up” also ignores the blatant reality of life and instills the idea that quitting for any reason is an unacceptable act of defeat.
The truth is, we often have to give up in order to move forward. And there’s no shame in this. Life is full of beginnings and endings. If you refuse to give up when things clearly aren’t working or ignore signals that a natural phase of completion has been reached, you only end up wasting your time and energy.
It’s Not You…No, Really. It Isn’t.
All too often, people blame themselves for giving up. It’s seen as a sign of failure. Instead, quitting (at times) can and should be viewed as an empowering act of triumph. There’s honor in recognizing that one course has reached its conclusion, just as there’s strength in allowing another to begin.
When we try too hard to hold on to what WAS, we’re unable to see what COULD BE and embrace what IS.
W.C. Fields put it best: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.”
It is indeed foolish to continue devoting resources to activities that no longer serve you—or, activities that you no longer serve. While it’s hard to admit, we all have strengths and weaknesses. To expect that we are capable of succeeding in all activities equally is inefficient and unrealistic. There are times when we must put our hands in the air, surrender and allow others to take over. We have to be humble, accept that we are perfectly imperfect, and relinquish control in order to collaboratively take the next step forward. Giving up, in this sense, is often the most productive path towards achieving a goal.
Though it may strike you as harsh or uncaring, we must also give up on people at times. We’ve all experienced relationships that have grown counterproductive. There comes a point at which the pain of giving up is worth it when compared to the pain of pushing forward. And it’s only by letting go that we begin the process of healing.
Likewise, we must let others move on when the time is right.
In closing, let me also say that this is not intended to encourage you, my dear reader, to simply “give up” on everything the moment you encounter an obstacle. It’s just an option. Don’t deny yourself that freedom. Use your time, energy and resources wisely. Refusing to give up on something or someone that holds you stagnant is not an efficient use of your capabilities. Look at the true potential reward of sticking it out and weigh it against the risk of giving up. Be analytical. And be willing to admit that yesterday’s opportunity of a lifetime may no longer be worth the sacrifice today.
Life and everything we experience is fluid. It’s a perpetual cycle of birth and death and rebirth. Dreams change, people change; the world and everything in it is constantly evolving. Be willing to release the past and embrace your future. Give yourself the power to give up.