When to Pull the Plug… and LEARN

by Arlen Meyers

When to Pull the Plug... and LEARN

Creating a new venture, championing a new process or offering a new course or program is exciting. However, statistically, it is more likely you will fail than succeed and there is a fine line between determination and pig-headed optimism. You might not have the skills to do what you love. At some point, you will have to consider quitting and moving on.

Quitting is not a value in the entrepreneurial lexicon. We are all encouraged to follow our dreams, no matter the cost. It is a myth. “Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.” Some, given stress and burnout levels, would rather see you keep trying, even if it kills you. Don’t let it.

You should keep a failure resume. What’s the point of such self-flagellation?

Because you learn much more from failure than success, and honestly analyzing one’s failures can lead to the type of introspection that helps us grow — as well as show that the path to success isn’t a straight line.

Your failure resume would include:

  1. Schools that didn’t accept you
  2. Papers that were rejected
  3. Places where you faced disciplinary action or were fired
  4. Companies or projects you started that were a bust
  5. Grants you applied for but never received
  6. Lack of promotions or failure to get tenure
  7. Failure to get a salary increase you requested
  8. Lousy job assessments or online reviews
  9. Personal failings
  10. Poor teaching, student or audience assessments of your performance
  11. You have limited emotional intelligence or lack entrepreneurial competencies
  12. You have a significant personality disorder or pyschopathology

Perseverance has received lots of support in recent years from a variety of schools of research. One is from psychologists studying grit. In fact, there’s a large body of work showing that perseverance may have a harmful downside. 

Here are some signs that it might be time to hang up your cleats and move on:

1. It is not fun any more

2. It is making you sick

3. The people you work for or with are unethical

4. You realize that the window of opportunity has permanently closed

5. Your innerpreneurial instincts are telling you that you are doing what you are doing for the wrong reasons.

6. You are willing to take personal responsibility for your failure and apply the lessons to your next initiative

7. You have shown that your business model is fundamentally flawed and that you don’t have the time, resources or interest in fixing it

8. You have changed your priorities

9. Your life is out of balance and practicing entrepreneurship is further tipping the scales

10. You believe the fates are working against you. Truth be TOLD, sometimes they are.

There is a difference between quitting a project and quitting on yourself. Sh$t happens and learning from mistakes and how you adapted to the inevitable slings and arrows of misfortune shapes us all, if we let it. It will discourage and destroy us if we don’t.

Being innovative isn’t just about what you start — it’s about what you stop. “You don’t have the capacity – the time, resources or energy – to do the new things because you are busy maintaining the old ones,” explains innovation expert Jeff DeGraff. Don’t get caught in this trap: Figure out what practices or ideas are no longer serving you and make room for new ones.

“Stopping things is hard. It’s full of feelings of loss, disappointment and failure. It takes more than creativity. It takes courage to stop what you’ve been doing to make room for the things your organization wants to start doing now.”

The history of business and innovation proves that some of the biggest winners have been the biggest quitters at some point in their career. The important point, is that, after quitting, they continued to move forward, not sideways or backwards, with their next idea.

Along the way, tidying up is a good idea. Let go of the banana and don’t slip on the skin.

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Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org and co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship

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