A concept that I have struggled with is to know when I should abandon a course of action? My problem is that when I decide to do something, I usually do not give up. I will keep trying, trying, trying until I either succeed or fail so badly that I am forced to move on. See I have a great strength but it is also a major weakness. I believe that I am right. I have tremendous confidence in myself. If I decide on a course of action, I will pursue it and by force of will make it successful or die trying. The problem is that sometimes, and probably more frequently than I want to admit, I am just wrong. The course of action that I am trying to pursue is not quite right. It might be directionally close, but I need to make some adjustments.
I have discovered a few ways to help me with this concept. I have got better at this for the last several years, so some of these ideas seem to be working. Here are the three concepts that have helped me on this journey of knowing when to say when.
- I learned this from a speech by Elon Musk. I always thought he was this crazy Internet tycoon. Then I realized he was the same age as I am, started PayPal the same year I started my company and we both produced entirely different outcomes. Why? In this speech, he said something that really impacted my thought process. He indicated that you have to learn to understand that if you come up with a design, or a process that takes too long to implement then is just simply a bad design. Scrap for a better one as fast as possible. That is a really powerful point. If you are trying to force a design you come up with to work, and it is taking too long because of all the resistance, then maybe, just maybe you should consider the possibility that your design is flawed.
- Success is not the destination but something you bump into by accident along the path. Spend very little time conceiving your destination. Staying with the Elon Musk character. He decided he would contribute to society by helping to preserve human consciousness by creating redundancy in planets that we populate. Huh? Yeah, that is quite the goal. However, he spends very little time on that destination. Rather he started an aggressive journey to get there. Now he may never get there, he estimates less than a 1% chance that he will succeed. However, that is not the point. He is engaged in the zig zag process of the journey up the very steep mountain. As he is doing so, he is finding success. The number of inventions, patents, improvements in travel and many other things have been born out of this journey of his. It is actually staggering. We have a modern day Leonardo Da Vinci in our midst. Journey before destination.
- Feedback Loop. Keeping on the Elon Musk theme, this is the one area that if you hear him speak he will emphasize over and over again. The need to have a closed and immediate feedback loop. You must be seeking for and getting feedback constantly from clients, friends, colleagues, competitors and your own team. Feedback is essential and one of the ways you discover that you need to throw in the towel quickly and try something different.