Willingness to Accept ‘Failure’ and Walk Away

The phrase “winners never quit and quitters never win” has always bothered me. It’s a nice thought at first: hang in there, don’t give up simply because something is hard. However, sometimes you need to quit. Sometimes, walking away is the best thing you can do. If you’ve ever had a bad relationship, this advice of never calling it quits seems as absurd as it really is.

So, what does this have to do with being more suited to entrepreneurship, especially when ‘perseverance,’ ‘tenacity,’ and ‘follow-through’ are on so many ‘qualities of an entrepreneur’ lists?

The thing is, these qualities aren’t bad and have helped many people’s careers take off. It’s the belief that failure is the worst thing that can happen to you and you must never stoop so low as to walk away from something that causes the problem. As we addressed in the first of the series, being an entrepreneur means things aren’t always certain. Failure is always an option on the table. How many stories about entrepreneurs have you heard that include the list of ideas that didn’t work or pan out? It’s not odd at all to have a company be one of a string of ventures that have come and gone.

A company closing down or moving on isn’t necessarily failure. Having an exit strategy is part of making solid business plans and decisions. In a world that preaches changing jobs too often or losing a job as being a sign of a possible character flaw or moral failing, it is hard to understand that businesses have a life cycle. In the past, you may have never been exposed to this side of company decisions. As an entrepreneur, all decisions are largely, in not entirely, yours to make and this is one of them. You need to know when and how to call it quits.

On a smaller scale, you need to be able to recognize when an idea, product, or strategy isn’t working out or needs to be retired. Pouring in time, money, resources, and good will into something that doesn’t return enough value is silly. You need to be honest about the results you are getting and equally honest about what needs to be done about it. Having a “never quit” attitude can cause you to lose all those things you put into the idea.

Being able to walk away is only good if you get something out of the experience. Allow yourself the freedom to stop a bad situation and walk away, but pause to examine it closely. Finding out why and how something went wrong can take some of the sting out of a bad decision if you know what you are going to do better or different tomorrow. As entrepreneur, you probably have other great or exciting ideas you want to try. Learning and growing from mistakes and having the wisdom to know when to stop makes it easier to give those other ideas a chance to be born.

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