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How to Win More by Giving up for the Right Reason

How to Win More by Giving up for the Right Reason

One of the core practices in Buddhism is non attachment. Buddhists believe that forming emotional attachments to things, will inevitably lead to suffering. Whilst this notion has been taken to extremes, with people not forming attachments to anything, abandoning all possessions and forsaking friendship. I believe that non attachment can be beneficial in certain ways, especially when it is applied to our ideas and goals.

It is perfectly natural to cling to our ideas. To want to work day and night to see them through. This is commendable. However, it could be said, that in some contexts, the idea of never giving up on something, no matter the costs, is well…inefficient.[1]

Instead of seeing it as giving up, see it as retreating.

What is Steve Jobs famous for?

I’d bet almost all of you answered “The founder and late CEO of Apple”. I’d again bet that none of you said, the founder of NeXt.[2] This was a company similar to apple that Jobs Founded during the few years he left Apple.

The reason for this is that the company was ultimately a failure, and was later brought up by Apple once Steve Jobs returned to the company. Though Jobs spent time, energy (and $7 million) on the company, he gave it up as it was not a success. He didn’t spend years after, losing his money and the rest of his credibility on NeXt as it sank, and Apple rose in strength and influence.

Walt Disney once founded Laugh-O-Gram, an animation studio he hoped would be the launching ground for his ideas.[3] Laugh-O-Gram soon went bankrupt and crashed, undeterred, he founded another studio. Walt Disney Studios. You’ve probably seen some of their work.

What these stories teach us, is that, ultimately not all ideas are created equally. NeXt wasn’t the next Apple, and Jobs came to know this. For whatever reason Laugh-O-Gram, didn’t have that magic X factor that Walt Disney Studios came to have, and again, Walt Disney came to know this.

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Of course, it’s good to be passionate about our ideas, but that passion can leave us blind to real faults. If we take a step back at our ideas and look at them objectively, we may see things that should be changed or perhaps the idea could be abandoned entirely in favor of a better one to come along.

Ultimately, if instead of seeing our ideas as things to fight for whatever the cost, but investments of time, effort, and money. We may come to see our ideas and projects differently.

In military history, there are countless stories of armies retreating from battles in order to win more important, larger battles. There are also stories (think Napoleon’s catastrophic invasion of Russia) of armies heading into battles or campaigns which ended in disaster (Napoleon never recovered from the loss). Its the same thing.

It’s difficult to let go because we fear that we waste the effort we’ve spent.

We like to think that our value of things such as projects or goals comes from our wish to see them through, or perhaps a prediction of their later worth. However our ultimate attachment actually comes from a complex web of emotional attachments created not by our views of its worth, but the time and effort already put into it.

In many ways, one of the most powerful aspects of our attachment to things is based on fear of our loss of that thing, as much as our liking or enjoyment of it. This false attachment based on loss is the sunk cost fallacy.[4]

For example: have you ever played a video game for a while, rebooted it up one day only to discover that the save file has been corrupted. Our frustration here doesn’t come from our the way it’ll take much longer to see how the game’s story progresses, or even the fact that we have to re-play it again, instead our frustration comes from the time we have spent on the game to amount to nothing.

The pain and frustration we feel when we lose out, is the same reason why Buddhists avoid forming attachments at all, as they feel this suffering is inevitable. But this isn’t necessarily the case.

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When the sunk cost fallacy is applied to our goals and projects, its easy to see how we can become attached to things that deep down we know might not work. Again, we don’t stick with them because we know their worth, we stick with them as we can’t bear to see the loss of it, or specifically we can’t bear to see the time spent on it amount to nothing.
In this way, abandoning the idea early on in favor of a better one can be the better option.

In the end, only you will know if or when to give up on something, but here is a short list of things to think about when in consideration.

How excited are you about it?

It could be a good idea to deeply examine how exactly you feel about your idea, project, or even current job that you may give up on. Does thinking about it stress you out? When you talk about it does you mood deflate and you try to change the subject, speaking enthusiastically about other things?

If its causing you stress and unhappiness, then perhaps its a good idea to truly consider how much it is worth to you. No idea is worth you health and happiness.

Plus, if you decide to stick with it, this unhappiness is only going to grow and expand, as deep down you know the thing you are spending your time on isn’t right for you
Listen to yourself and you’ll know the answer.

“What if?”

By now you’re probably thinking or saying those immortal words.

“What if this idea proves to be a great success”

“What if I am losing out massively?”

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We can never be sure of the answer to these questions, that’s why they are so powerful. But one thing we can be sure about, is that it is impossible to know the future.

“What if my book idea is the next bestseller?”

“What if its the next Harry Potter?”

Consider how truly realistic this is. There are many successful and published writers who only earn a decent living from their books. Every failed book ever written was written by someone who fought hard for it and didn’t give up on it. What if they spent that time on a better book? What if that better book was successful? They never found this out as they spent all their time and effort on a bad idea.

Can quitting leave you financially better off?

This is best explained with a gambling metaphor.[5]

How many times have you heard of a gambler putting everything they have into a bet, for that gamble to work out and they win big and are forever successful…Maybe that has only happened a few times. There are countless stories of gamblers putting everything into a bet, ending in them losing everything. Or if they win with the first bet, they lose it all in the second. Once again, the gambler’s commitment to win whatever the cost, is the sunk cost fallacy in point of fact.

It’s the same thing. If you put a significant amount of money into something, only for it to end in failure, that money is gone forever. That loss is greater still when you see time and effort spend on something as currency too.

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Who else is supportive?

When you consider the sunk cost fallacy, its easy to see why you might be biased, why your thinking is too subjectively bent towards an idea. In this way, getting the thoughts of others can be a better idea. There is no point asking friends, because as friends they are almost honor bound to tell you its a good idea and act supportive. But ask yourself how many people are clearly and visibly supportive and enthusiastic about your project or goal.

If there are many people, then, well you may be onto a winner. But if there are few, or even nobody, then ask yourself why that is, you might think its because they don’t care. But this isn’t the case. The biggest reason they may not be super supportive as they don’t want to see you fail and are trying to hint that what you are working on, may not be worth your time.

Letting go of what doesn’t serve you returns to you your best feature, your unique selling point.

When you put all your effort into something, there is always a risk of losing your most important feature. You risk losing that one thing that is the secret behind all your successes. If you quit something and that thing is truly returned to you and is ready to work for you again.

But what is it?

Well, the secret behind all your successes is yourself. If you put everything in an ultimately bad idea then you aren’t working with your best, but are working with the sunk cost fallacy. By quitting and working on something else, you gain all your passion and ability back.

It is difficult to consider quitting. I know that this is hard to hear. Again, only you should take the leap in giving up on something. If you are truly passionate about something, and others support you and think it a good idea. If you are happiest thinking about it and enjoy working on it, then fight for it with all its worth. If no part of you accepts this article and thinks I’m right in any way, then please, don’t pay attention to me.

I don’t know you, I don’t know your goals or ambitions. If I knew what you were working on its possible I’d think it a great idea.

But if somewhere this article connects, and deep down quitting seems like a good idea. Then maybe it is. Sometimes, giving up on one thing can lead to success in another.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

More by this author

Arthur Peirce

Lifestyle Writer

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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