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Leadership Thought #252 – Know When To Move On

November 28, 2011

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Knowing when to move on from something is rarely an easy decision.

Far too many people get stuck in patterns or hold on to situations that are no longer worth their time and investment.  Life is short.  Once you conclude that something is not working for you, transfer your energy into something different and move on.  I say this with the caveat that I don’t include marriage or parenthood in this point of view because by their very nature both require perseverance, sacrifice, and commitment.

Giving up on an idea is not a failure.  It can be basic common sense.  Both time and resources are finite.  If you spend them on something that has little chance of working out, then essentially you are wasting your efforts.  This does not mean you give up on the idea of taking risks or pursuing long shots, but it does mean you do so carefully with your eyes wide open and a willingness to pull the plug when needed.

There is a Mickey Rooney joke I’ve heard about gambling that has always resonated with me: “I once lost $2 at the racetrack once and spent $2M trying to win it back.”  Just because you have already invested money or time in something doesn’t mean you’re stuck and must see it through.  Sometimes it’s best to take your losses early and go home.   We are all individuals and as such have different personal capacities to absorb risk and manage failure.  However, for each of us, there does come a point of diminishing returns.  Not all our time needs to be spent on productive activity, but it is critical that we are aware of the fact when our investments/efforts become non-productive.

I’ve always believed the overall curve of any individual’s life should be upward sloping accompanied by a series of plateaus along the way.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be troughs or periods of time when you feel you’ve reached a plateau.  When you are stuck, you should be consciously striving to become unstuck not seeking more glue.  When faced with adversity, do your best to take positive steps to help you get back on track.  Don’t get mired in the past but embrace the present and pursue the future with great vigor.   Know when to move on and you will have less pain, frustration, and disappointment in your life.