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Published: January 09, 2017

When To Throw In The Towel Or When To Persevere

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It goes without saying that persistence is the most distinguishable and important characteristic of a successful person and most definitely a successful entrepreneur. Lack of creativity can be overcome with persistence and hard work. (Interestingly, while a person may not be terribly imaginative, persistence always helps the imagination to figure it out.) Lack of money can be overcome using the same formula.

Why? You need the persistence to get you through the rough patches and over the mountains that will inevitably be in your path to succeed. Sitting by the roadside gets you nowhere.

It all comes down to persistence and hard work.

Persistence is Vital

In The Strangest Secret,1 Earl Nightingale, one of the fathers of personal development, shared a statement from President Calvin Coolidge, “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.”2 (This excerpt from Nightingale’s recording became so associated with him, many believed it was his.)

The fire of your vision for the future of yourself, your family and enterprise is the fuel that pushes you forward when things, makes you work the extra hours, and gives you the creativity to solve problems you never thought you could solve on your own.  It gives the meaning to your goals,3

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 and expands your vision, letting you see the broad view as well as the long view of things. It opens worlds to you didn’t know existed.

It’s that persistence which anchors you. As John McCormack, founder of Visible Changes, and 1989 Entrepreneur of the Year, says in his book Self-Made in America, “The essential ingredients of entrepreneurship are a vision, a sense of mission, and a will to keep going forward when everyone else is telling you to go back. . . . It wasn’t brains, brawn, or even our business plan that resulted in our ultimate success.  It was persistence, plain and simple.”4

It’s the thrill ride—the ups and downs of a roller-coaster—and you’re the ride operator.  And when you reach the summit, you look back on everything you’ve done and see what’s happened and you wouldn’t change it for love or money.

Should You Throw in the Towel?

But even with all that, sometimes you have to throw in the towel.

The question is when is that time?

Before you chuck it all, there are some things to consider.  First, is your attitude.  Sure things have gone bad for the moment, but you need to realize it’s not a failure.  As long as you can pull valuable lessons from the experience, you haven’t failed.  I knew a man who priori to the recession of 2008 was pulling in six figures. The recession hit and his income plummeted. He had to get a job, which allowed him to use all of his skills. Was he a failure? Of course not, circumstances beyond his control forced him into an unpleasant situation. But he still has his business, and the other job has given him other benefits that helped him with other situations.

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So if you’ve got to shut down the business—throw in your towel—learning is essential.

A legendary anecdote about Thomas Edison’s search for the perfect filament for the incandescent light bulb is that a reporter asked him how it felt to have failed over 6,000 times in his search. Edison replied, “I haven’t failed 10,000 times. I’ve just found 10,000 things that didn’t work.”  History shows only the triumph, not the time it took to reach the triumph.

So how do you know when?5

Some are easy. When there is no longer a demand for what you have to offer, and you can’t figure out a way to retool the product or business. Time to shut it down.  (But then again, look at the resurgence of vinyl, which was declared dead in 1990s. Sometimes maybe put it in suspended animation, instead.) No repeat customers is deadly. If you can’t get fresh faces to your business it’ll be a slow, agonizing death, but it will be a death.

The costs are too high.6 Losing your family, your health, the person you once were, you look at everything with jaded skepticism. At this point it’s time to reevaluate and if you can’t fix them, get out fast. Good family relationships, health and an optimistic attitude are all essential ingredients to success.  If you’ve lost your vision of your project and can’t recover it, again, it’s time to go.

But if you must throw in the towel, remember to take lessons away, because that’s what entrepreneurs do.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash.com via unsplash.com

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