Quitting is for quitters: How to keep going when everything tells you to stop

In the beginning….

When I first started consulting, I closed my first 2 new business appointments. After that, I failed to close the next 27 in a row. I went 5 months hearing nothing but “No.” I was discouraged and frustrated. So I called my dad for advice. After hearing my story he said, “Brad, sometimes you need to know when to come in out of the rain.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear.

persistenceWhile I was banging my head against the Wall-of-No, I was also meeting monthly with about 20 other consultants who were launching their businesses. We gathered together to try to share best practices, collaborate on projects, and encourage one another. Unfortunately, most of them were struggling to find prospects at all, much less close business. Only a few of us found even 29 prospects, despite the fact that there were lots of seasoned business people in our group. I sought out the 2 – 3 in the group who had a measure of success. They each told me (in their own way), “I don’t know what’s working for me. You just have to try everything.” Thanks for the insight!

Though no one could explain why; their success remained. The fact that some of us — even if only half a handful of people — were closing business, was proof to me that it could be done. I decided to ignore my Dad’s advice. Instead of coming in out of the rain, I persisted. There wasn’t much in the way of evidence, I didn’t have much of a strategy, but I had found some success. I was convinced there was a way to make my business work.


But I wasn’t going to keep banging my head against that wall. I reached out to everyone I knew who had sales experience and success. That effort led me to a sales coach who helped me to see what I was doing wrong. It wasn’t long before I was closing deals again.

I often look back and think about that group. We all had similar experience and training. We all got started with a telemarketing firm that gave us 10 appointments. But out of the 20 some people who were in that group with me 12 years ago, I think 2 of them are still in business.

Why keep going?

When you work for yourself, it’s easy to give up. There’s no one by your side telling you to keep going. In fact, many of the significant people in your life are telling you to quit! But it’s always darkest just before the dawn. Every significant breakthrough for me has come past the point where it made sense to keep going.

I’ve been working out, trying to get a little healthier. When I do sit-ups at home, I can do about 30 before I quit. It feels like 30 is my limit. But when I work with a trainer, he’ll make me do 50! We can tolerate a lot more pain, challenge, and difficulty than we think we can. We want to quit when it starts to get hard, but the gold comes when it is really hard. Persistence does pay off.

The screw-it-stage

Do you feel like quitting? Great! That’s actually a sign that you are close to a breakthrough! My wife calls this — and I’ll clean up the language for you — “the screw-it-stage”. This is the place where you don’t give UP; you give up your idea of what the solution looks like. You take risks. You try new things. You open up your imagination. She says you always find what your work needs when you throw yourself into the “screw-it-stage”.

don't give up

You are already failing, right? What you’re doing isn’t working. Get a second opinion; invest in a coach; or throw everything you’ve tried out the window and have a brainstorming session. Because you can’t just apply your strategy, in the same way, over and over, and expect to reach success. In fact, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results isn’t persistence — it’s insanity. You need a new perspective. Find new tools, new methods, or new talent. Swallow your pride, get rid of your attachment to your first strategy, and try something new.

When I was stuck in a new business rut, that “something new” was investing in a sales coach who looked in from the outside. His perspective helped me see what needed to change. When I was exhausted from too much client work, I found a VA, and then added some team members who made it possible to keep going. Persistence and change go hand in hand.

When you feel like quitting, here are some questions that can help you find the change you need:

1. What is POSSIBLE if I keep going?

When people are thinking about quitting, it seems like an easy way out. It seems like the perfect solution! But if you flip it around and ask, “What opportunities are available to me in this challenging situation that I would’t otherwise have?” you might discover some good things. You might find the “silver lining” in this cloud. By embracing the challenging situation instead of looking for a way out of it, we put our energy toward resolving it instead of escaping it.

2. What was DIFFERENT when it was working?

Has something changed? Remember that I closed my first two appointments, then went 0-for-27. The key to getting back to my winning ways was to look at what I did right to close those first two. The truth was, my early success had gone to my head and I had abandoned a new business process that was working! I thought I knew better than the guy who trained me and I went off on my own way. Getting back to the basics helped me get back to success.

What’s different for you? It might be something that you are doing differently, or it might be something that’s changed in the environment around you. Either way, if you identify it, you can plan a response that will get you a different outcome.

3. WHO can see what I can’t?

It’s really hard to be objective looking at your own situation. It’s so much easier to look at someone else’s situation and see clearly where they are dropping the ball. This is why group therapy works, why peer groups and mastermind groups work, and why coaching is all the rage. Get some help, get an outside perspective. But make sure it’s a perspective from someone who believes in you— someone who wants you to succeed. My dad’s message to “get out of the rain” was more about him not wanting to watch me struggle than it was about me finding a way through.

We’re going to be delving deep into this topic of persistence for the month of July. We’ll look at how improving your focus and vision can clarify what needs to change, how to find appropriate help, and how to know when it is time to throw in the towel.

Stories are so valuable. With stories we can instruct, encourage, and influence others. Take a risk, and use the comments section below to share a story about a time when persistence paid off for you!


Photo credit: Reaction Gifs, Death to Stock Photo

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