Today I want you to quit.
I don’t want you to quit everything, but I definitely want you to quit some things.
Reading Success magazine recently, I read a quote from a professor at Yale’s School of Drama that suggested less than 1% of people who pursue acting really “make it,” and the difference wasn’t talent or good looks but perseverance.
Stop Quitting the Hard Things
Initially, I thought about all the ways that we talk ourselves into quitting the hard stuff. For example: sales is hard, so I want to quit. I tell myself I’m selling the wrong product. Or maybe I have the wrong territory. Or maybe my would-be customers are too busy to talk to me and I should wait for a more convenient time. Or maybe (if I’m desperate enough) the people I’m presenting to are just too dumb to see the obvious benefits of what I’m selling.
If you’re quitting things that are hard because they’re hard, you need to stop. It weakens your character, your ability to do good work, and severely diminishes your chances of success.
Start Quitting the Easy Things
But then I thought about quitting the easy stuff. One of the main reasons we don’t persevere and succeed in the end is we refuse to give up the easy stuff in order to pursue the hard stuff, even though the hard stuff will result in the biggest pay-off.
For example, this weekend in Manhattan Beach, California, thousands of people will be running a 10K. In order to run a 10K, I need to do the hard stuff (training), but I also need to quit doing the easy stuff that would keep me from persevering and crossing the finish line. I need to quit choosing the couch and Netflix when I should be exercising. I need to quit waiting to get started until I find the perfect running shoes and create the perfect running playlist on Spotify, etc.
The truth is, if you want to persevere, if you really want to “make it,” then you’re going to have to get good at quitting the easy stuff that doesn’t serve you. As a business owner, I’ve had to:
Quit letting myself off the hook when something is hard. For example, I used to find excuses for not discussing poor performance or behavior with my direct reports. I found every excuse in the book not to have an honest discussion with someone. Instead, I’d let poor performance/behavior go until I was so mad I didn’t even want to look at that person.
Relationships would suffer and, in the end, the performance or behavior always got worse instead of better. Saving myself the discomfort of the conversation and allowing others to save face was really hurting my business and the people who I should have been talking to.
Quit letting myself get distracted by less-important tasks. There are lots of good things I could do with my time, but they would keep me from the best things. It used to be that the best way to get me to clean the garage, rearrange my closet, or alphabetize my books was to give me an important project with a deadline. My thinking would go something like this: “I’m giving a speech in 4 days that I need to rehearse? Better get the oil changed in my car.”
It’s ridiculous on the face of it, but I see it (and used to do it) all the time. Now if I find myself focused on a relatively unimportant task, I ask myself, “What hard thing am I avoiding? Why am I avoiding it? Is it worth giving up what I really want in life to focus on the trivial?” Almost always, the answer is no, and I find the energy to get back on task.
Quit letting myself get distracted by the wrong things. Even worse than getting distracted by less-important things is getting distracted by the wrong things. There are things that have no business being in my life that, if I’m not careful, will creep in and kill my productivity. Usually this activity is easy to slip into and easy to get out of—mindlessly surfing the internet or binge watching the new season of House of Cards. Sometimes, though, the wrong things are harder to let go of—the friends you spend time with that are dragging you down.
Do You Want to Become Unstoppable?
Here’s what’s going to happen if you stop quitting the hard things that are good for you and start quitting the easy things that are bad for you: Your life will take off like a rocket. And by that, I don’t mean fast, at least not at first. Think about the last time you watched the space shuttle take off. At first, there was a massive amount of fire and smoke and almost no movement. But slowly, inexorably, the rocket started to move upward. And it was accelerating. Faster and faster until it breaks through the stratosphere. It goes from almost imperceptibly slow to unstoppable. You will, too. And you, too, will “make it.”
My friend Walter Nusbaum says, “Everything easy will eventually be hard, and everything hard will eventually be easy.” The easy choices today make for a hard life tomorrow. The hard choices today make for an easy life tomorrow. Make wise choices.
Did you know that I work with committed entrepreneurs to increase their accountability and achieve their goals? If you’d like some help sticking with the hard things and quitting the easy stuff you shouldn’t be doing, email: me firstname.lastname@example.org.