How Do You Know When To Give Up?

I hate giving up. Giving up is quitting. I also hate failure. But there’s dignity in failure–at least you tried. There’s no dignity in giving up. That’s a coward’s choice.

Sometimes, however, I think, there must be a time when it is appropriate, or even wise, just to pack it in. A time when there is a dignity in ceasing to slam that square peg into that damned round hole. When it’s OK to say, “I may never succeed at this task, so it’s time to move on to the next one, and see if that goes any better for me.”

Indeed, failure is monumental. But it’s final. When you fail at something, that’s it. You’ve failed. Your trials come to a finite conclusion from which you cannot be redeemed. You saw a task out to completion and you can go no further. And because you didn’t give up, you will never be left wondering “What if I’d have stuck with it?”

The one thing you give up by allowing failure to take its toll is control, and that’s where giving up becomes tempting. When you give up, you’ve called the shots. You’ve decided for yourself, regardless of external factors, “No, this isn’t going to work for me after all.” Failure is somewhat fateful–you give a task all you have and then leave the rest to the universe to decide. Failure, often, can be something that is out of your hands.

But maybe that’s where the appeal of failing lies–you have a worthy scapegoat when you fail. You can say, “Well, I gave it everything I had, but it didn’t work out. It’s not my fault.” Whereas giving up is most definitely your fault. Giving up is a conscious decision to fail on your part, rather than an unstoppable failure by default.

So when is it right to give up? It seems when failure is imminent, giving up is something of a preemptive strike–conceding to an inevitable end. But what about when you’re wrong? What about when you think you might fail, but that failure isn’t yet written in the stars? Isn’t, in that case, giving up just a lazy way to not work harder to win?

What about all your insecurities? What about your misconceptions about your capabilities? Your skewed perception of different situations and those surrounding you? Is it not better to fight until the bitter end, to cut out the variable of your own poor judgement, and let failure beat you instead of beating yourself? Isn’t it more noble to go down fighting, than to withdraw your hand in a knee-jerk of fear?

Failure, it seems, is for the brave–while giving up is for the scared. What I’m saying is, there might not be such thing as “the right time” to give up. Like some Journey bullshit: don’t stop believing. If you care about something, the best way to approach it is to go down in flames trying to succeed at it. TC mark

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