Perseverance is a wonderful trait to have. If you can fight through obstacles to reach your goal, that’s an amazing thing to do.
At times, though, people will keep pushing at a dead end, and end up wasting time that could be put toward other ventures instead. The difference can be very hard to spot when you’re in it, so determining those conditions ahead of time can help.
In David Epstein’s book “Range“, he says:
“We fail…tasks we don’t have the guts to quit.”…knowing when to quit is such a strategic advantage that every single person, before undertaking an endeavor should enumerate conditions under which they should quit.”
Not just quitting
This applies to more than just quitting. As I heard recently on the Businessology Show, they talked about how almost no company wished they had waited longer to let people go. Instead, if they had trimmed their staff earlier it would have lead to healthier company for the remaining staff. It’s a difficult thing to do, particularly in the moment, so having the conditions determined ahead of time can be very helpful.
This is something that we’ve done a bit of work on at GreenMellen, but likely not enough. When COVID first started ramping up, Ali and I spent some time calculating our runway in various scenarios, and determining what actions would need to happen at certain checkpoints if things went downhill.
I don’t recall our exact strategy, but one checkpoint was something along the lines of “If we get down to three months of runway, we shut down the business“. The thought was that if we ran things down to zero, our staff would leave with nothing. By stopping a few months earlier, everyone would get a solid bit of severance pay to help bridge the gap. Fortunately, COVID didn’t affect our business much, and our runway is still measured in years, but it was nice to have that predetermined line to measure in case things got tight.
Not just money
It also doesn’t need to be about money. For example, we had one team member that told us she was going to retire when she had her first grandchild. Epstein says to “enumerate conditions under which they should quit”, and that was a clear condition that fit the bill and it made sense to all of us.
You can base your milestones on finances, age, clients, or grandchildren, but having some idea of what the end might look like will make your life easier if that time ever comes.
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