Know When — and What — to Give Up in Order to Move Forward

By A.J. MacQuarrie

It’s likely that you’ve seen this meme pop up in your Facebook feed from time to time: A mugshot of Winston Churchill, with his characteristic bow tie and cigar, rallying readers to “Never, never, never give up.”

Well, Churchill never said that. What he actually said was “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense . . . “

Another exception should include “entrepreneurship.” Because knowing when to give in, to cast off bad ideas, processes or people who hold you back is an unconventional skill that’s absolutely necessary for building a successful business. If certain ideas aren’t panning out, you need to know when and what to give up on or you’ll go broke, drive yourself crazy or probably both! Especially in this quickly changing world, you need to be fast and decisive and understand what to give up on.

I’ve given up on a lot of things to get me to where I am today, running a multimillion dollar business. When I dropped out of college after my junior year to pursue my healthy vending business, I raised a lot of eyebrows. But, I realized I had to do it, I had to go 100 percent on the business and I don’t regret it. I had such a rare opportunity with healthy vending — the market was wide open — and I had enough “convictions of good sense” of it becoming a success. I reasoned that college will always be there, but this business opportunity would not.

After being on the Canadian version of Shark Tank (a show called Dragons’ Den), I gave up on my original business model. Kevin O’Leary’s point that I had nothing proprietary was well taken. I went back to the drawing board and created a model that not only helped me scale very quickly but created proprietary attributes to my company. I changed my model completely, and if I hadn’t given up on my original plan, I wouldn’t have been able to scale the way I did, where we’re in over 60 cities across the U.S.

You can’t just give up on everything because something isn’t working, though. Don’t give up on the overall mission, the big idea. In order to give up, you have to gain something. It’s necessary to give up in order to pivot, to maneuver and ultimately push forward. Give up on things that aren’t moving you forward.

You should always be making changes and actively looking for them. I regularly sit down with my director of operations and go through our systems and processes to come up with better ones and toss out old ones. We evaluate what needs to change to get us streamlined to the next level and we’re not afraid to give up on whatever’s not working.

Imagine your success.

Shift your mindset to understand that giving up isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can often be a good thing because it frees you up to consider new paths, overlooked solutions and creative ways around obstacles to success. This is essential.

Know that you can always improve.

Figure out what you’re doing now that you might just be doing out of habit and comfort. What are you holding on to because it feels safe? Sure, we’ve heard the phrase “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” — but it can always be better. It’s important to question your processes: What’s new, what’s better, what’s next. Ask what you’re not doing that you could be doing to make your business more profitable, better for your customers and more satisfying for your life.

Take a measured risk.

Start with something small. Giving up doesn’t have to be giving up on something big. But, you should challenge yourself — a higher risk can result in a higher reward.

Keep moving forward.

Don’t just give up for the sake of giving up; give up to pivot, to move ahead perhaps in a slightly different direction, but always trying to move forward.

Change demands thought, not impulse.

Give up strategically in this fast-changing world. Consider the models, systems, and processes that move you to your goal. What’s your new strategy? Where’s the data behind it? It’s vital for you to understand why you’re giving something up because it can go south pretty easily if things are constantly changing. “Why am I doing this?” is usually a good place to start, but remember to follow that up with “what am I trying to achieve?”

As an entrepreneur, you want to protect your “baby,” but you won’t take your business to the next level if you’re stubborn and stuck on your original plan if it’s even just a little broken. We’re taught that giving up is bad from a very young age so it might not feel comfortable at first, but believe me, it’s very liberating when that baggage is released. Technology is helping us move on to new and better concepts, systems, ideas so you often give up without realizing it when you upgrade your phone or computer. Continue to practice the art of giving up and it will pay dividends!

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