Don’t ever quit. That phrase, typed as a status update in the social media sphere, is something I’d been holding onto for weeks as entrepreneurs I respect shared similar pieces of broadsided advice.
Searching for inspiration after a somewhat uneventful day at work, my intention was to encourage countless startups living on the verge of a breakthrough. Feedback from Facebook friends led to delivering this post, which delves into reasons why acknowledging conflict and taking risk, as well as a willingness to leave things behind, are crucial elements of entrepreneurial success.
One response: “There are plenty of things worth quitting.”
Given that giving up and quitting are different subjects, one would think the editor in me would draw greater distinction between the two. Though my attempt at brevity may have failed, it’s allowing me to further reflect on these bold concepts, and to point out that the possibility of success derives from a deep understanding of our tendency to fail. It’s also worth noting that entrepreneurs don’t choose a profession and pursue it. They discover who they are and learn how to live it. I’ll return to those topics later. For now, let’s consider: Who are these people?
Most entrepreneurs typically don’t begin anywhere near the top. They are your neighbor, your teacher, your brother, your barista or the guy selling sunglasses at the mall. They’re the woman who’s been sitting in the cubicle next to your office for 10 years. They are your boss, your employee, your coworker and your friend. They keep pushing the pencil. Holding down the fort. Looking at the bottom line.
They punch a clock, take a salary or run the show. Each day is like another. They wait. They watch. They wrestle. Executives tell them each quarter that their department is the first line of defense, but their insights never made it to a boardroom, a whiteboard or training manual. They know their industry, their customers and their roles with the company, but never quite fit in. Valuable ideas and opinions may be misunderstood, undervalued or dismissed by supervisors or peers.
They go home from the office unfulfilled in their work, underutilized in their positions, and sick of the standard political fare. They keep their heads down, numbers up and resumes loaded in lieu of the next round of layoffs, cutbacks or uncanny decisions of some corporate giants.
Then something happens. Maybe they got bored. Maybe they got educated. Maybe they got fired. Maybe a conference, a seminar or a networking group blossomed into a new career. It could have been the recession. Perhaps an extended period of time off work. One day, they took a big step back. They sucked up everything society had taught them in terms of how to best employ their time, talents, gifts and abilities as those relate to stable, long-term employment and a weekly paycheck. They examined their accomplishments, failures and the time they’d put in. They did the math, inhaled a deep cleansing breath and took the biggest step of their professional lives.
They gave up on quitting. They started over.
Startups shoulder heavy burdens, but don’t lie still. They offer extraordinary value, and give much of it away. They lack experience, yet excel in leadership. They aren’t always the smartest, richest or fastest, yet stay in demand. They put dozens, even hundreds of hours into projects and campaigns with no guarantee of a payday. They stop for red lights, yet rarely stand down. Each moved from silent worker to decision-maker. They took risk. They wanted something more.
They are the founders. The startups. The entrepreneurs.
Their motives are alternative. They stopped working for a promotion they didn’t want and started pursuing dreams that won't die. They’ve exchanged fantastic, even once-in-a-lifetime deals for extraordinary growth. They finally figured out that once you start something innovative, it never stops. And despite the constant flow of unique challenges and lucrative opportunities in life, they gave up on quitting because it no longer applies.