DiscoverThe Tim Ferriss Show#254: When to Quit - Lessons from World-Class Entrepreneurs, Investors, Authors, and More

#254: When to Quit - Lessons from World-Class Entrepreneurs, Investors, Authors, and More

Update: 2017-07-232
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I'm very excited to share this episode. It's our first 'roundtable' approach to discussing a single topic. This came about when I asked 5-Bullet Friday subscribers (sign up here if you're interested) to send me questions, and one that stuck out was: Where's the line between stubbornly pursuing an idea that isn't working and the patience and persistence needed to actually make it work? In other words -- when should you give up and quit and when should you push on?

Since this is something I myself have struggled with, I came to the conclusion that I should reach out to people who might have a better answer. So, I sent the question to the following entrepreneurs, authors, and innovators:

Their answers are a thorough overview of how to assess your own ideas and opportunities, and determine which ones worth pursuing. Enjoy!

Show notes and links for this episode can be found at tim.blog/podcast.

This podcast is brought to you by Shopify. With the help of Shopify, many readers of my blog -- first-time business owners -- have ended up making millions of dollars each with their side gigs. Back in 2009, I helped create Shopify's Build a Business, which is now the world's largest entrepreneurship competition.

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the more the this episode is brought you by shop if I I have known in love to shop if I just about forever back in two thousand they had something like eight or ten employees know they more than two thousand I helped them as an advisor to create build a business competition which is now the world's largest entrepreneurship competition and many readers of my blog first time business owners have ended up making millions and millions of dollars each many of them aside gigs to their full time jobs so the goal of the build a business competition is to get would be entrepreneurs to get off the couch and make things happen all you have to do is open a store on shop find start selling and you can join in July or after July to be eligible to win what does winning mean you have to be one of the top performers top sellers in a given category and the prize the reward is an exclusive opportunity to learn from mentors and experts and in the past that has happened in places like the Gatsby castle where we had Tony Robbins and even John and Seth Godin and so on one neck or island which is ser Richard Branson is private island it's nuts and super super fun I'm also involved so there's a special offer for people listening to the show go to shop if i dot com forward slash to him and sign up for a free thirty day trial you will get all sorts of exclusive free video courses to help you along in to get started including how to start a profitable drop shipping business with Corey Pereira you also get some goodies from me it's all free it's all exclusive to people who are listening to this podcast to check it out Shutterfly dot com forward slash him and remember to sign up for the free thirty day trial the this episode is brought to my ninety designs I've used ninety nine designs for ages since even before podcasting was the thing and I've used them for all sorts of graphic design needs their fast and they are convenience with uni logo website book cover or anything else I've done competitions for instance for book covers related to the for our body ninety nine Designs makes great design accessible to everyone and makes the process so much easier and I use them recently for artwork and illustrations inside of my Tao of Seneca set of books this is a collection of stoic writing interviews and so on to tell Seneca I decided to use their one to one project service in this case you invite a specific designer chair project agreeing a price and work together until you're satisfied and the artwork just blew my mind you have to check it out I kid you not see can check out some of the artwork from top Seneca as well as some artwork and logos and so on that your fellow listeners had made at ninety dot com forward slash him that's nine nine designs dot com forward slash Tim I really suggest you check it out and right now you guys can receive a free ninety upgrade on your first project this gets you I think one hundred and thirty percent more submissions of people who want to work with you and give you first drafts of what you're looking for to access your free design please visit ninety nine designs dot com ports lashed him click the link on landing page that's ninety nine designs dot com forward slash Tim the Hello boys and girls ladies and germs the Stampers and welcome to another episode of the team Bear Show word is my job to tease out to have its tools tactics routines favorite breakfasts of the world's greatest performers whether they are leaders athletes business icons chess prodigy is military strategists or film a blank your favorite category this particular episode is one I am very excited about it is an experimental format it does not focus on the lessons of one particular person instead teachers the tips and tricks of multiple people on one topic seeking consider this the first ever round table conversation on this podcast I would love your feedback so please let me know on Twitter at T Harris T F E R I assess what you think of this year to ten how much you like it would change et-cetera And here's how it came about sometime ago I prompted its subscribers to my five bullet Friday newsletter which is free every Friday sent out a very short email with five bullets of things that I am reading or that I've discovered experimenting with et-cetera could include supplements articles books who knows i find alot of weird stuff that I end up enjoying and un check the outing sign up it's always free it is just that im not log a forward slash Friday check it out to not blog for such Friday and it may solicit questions these were looted and one of the most uploaded questions was one that I struggled with this is from JF Kearns here's the question where's the line between stubbornly pursuing an idea which isn't working in the patience and persistence needed to actually make it work in other words when should you give up verses when should you push on and I thought about how I would answer this and I realized I actually struggle with this so rather than make up some blue shit then just play that off and give my own response Why don't I reach out to the number of people I think would have better answers to this and that's exactly what I did so to that question and I sent it to a number of friends of mine in past guests on the podcast and they dug into it so when should you quit when should you persist when you know if an idea or how do you know Friday is a bad idea that just isn't going to work versus a good idea that you haven't made it work yet so the first person to start off with Scott Bell ski he is an investor and entrepreneur best known perhaps for co creating hence an online portfolio platform in two thousand ten Vail ski was included in Fast company's one hundred Most Creative People in Business list then you learn from seventeen time I think it is best selling author Seth Godin and then we have hedge fund manager author entrepreneur change culture Debbie Milne whose episode on this podcast is still one of the most downloaded of all time Adam Robinson the co founder of Princeton Review and advisor to some of the masters of the universe out there and then we have incredible photographer and also CEO Chase Jarvis and many more so I'm excited about this I hope you enjoy it let me know what you think of this format at Terrace on Twitter one quick housecleaning point is very very important for any of you who receive five a Friday or subscribe to any of my email here it is I clean my email list every six months so that email service providers know I'm only a million people who really want what I am sending because getter number It's not the size of the lists that counts it's how you use it so if you subscribe to my want to keep receiving them please open a recent message for me and click on any links within doesn't matter which I'm going to be doing a big perch soon getting rid of people who have been getting a lot of emails and not opening any of them because it's just crowding your inboxes waste everyone's time so be doing it big doing a bitch perch was going say a big purge soon getting rid of people who are not opening email Andrew the socialist so if your interest and still getting those please just open one of my email does matter is more and click on any link and that will keep you subscribed then if you're interested in checking out what more than I suppose this point one million people get every Friday check out Bible Friday at him not long for such Friday ok back to the episode this one covers a wide range of stories lessons and will ultimately I hope help you determine when to keep pushing forward and separate that from when it is wise to quit and I did this one for myself as well so enjoying Asia he turned us or find your question when he going when the car quits thinking about it there are many times in the middle of any boat journey where the ambiguity self doubt and this iteration get you down and really make you question ever it's especially hard before you have any customers for anyone even knows when you're building to say that anonymity is both a blessing and a batch it's a blessing and I can play an eatery is that nobody is watching is a batch because nobody is watching because nobody cares every journey like this some extent so you can't quit because of margin means you may be doing something special and creating some indefensible from competitors and copycats the question I think is is whether or not the difficulty is making you question your core assumptions and beliefs in the final vision or they're just getting you down the trick is to separate our chat in tough times from what you're learning you're learning that your assumptions are wrong customers don't want your product and or potentially Billy something you know in the run spaces building the wrong thing then you should ask yourself the costs a question doing all you know now would you pursue this this project all over again would you invest the money and energy you have invested to get as far as the time in solving this problem or knowing all you know now would you just do something different and you still believe in the vision and wall nation with progress and deflated by the process you so have conviction Don't quit keep on trucking you're just having some of those mid journey Blues society's immune system is trying to squash you don't let it keep going but if your answer is hell no if you are or if you think geez you know I can go back before I got into this mass there is no way I would had a distraction then ask yourself why are you still trying or the sun cos keeping you from quitting over valuing the plan you how we because of how much invested and so far I have heard the human tendency behind this is referred to as the investiture diversion were more simply the endowment effect we have this tendency to disproportionately dieting just because the owner regardless of how we got them and I think you're liable to believe more in your vision and hold on dearly to the progress you've made thus far because of all you can dust it I find the winners never quit mantra to be very elementary I think it goes against what we learned from many successful startups that in their original vision with great success and Twitter interests and your being you name a few last conviction but refuse to change because a POS progress you've made or pass investments from others or just lessons from yourself and you become mis aligned the Eurovision you're officially doing things for the wrong reason so I guess to sum it up if your conviction remains division is still something that gets you all giddy and teary eyes don't let the incumbent obstacles and setbacks pushy to quell instead use these periods to build muscle I remember and will never forget even if I want you to stop years of being its right candidates credit that you're doing out being just a few months away from running out of money and having tons of fits and starts because honestly didn't have great experience and expertise energy and read the first time we saw being done part of that but the division of organizing a creative roads were never caught less interesting despite those hardships loss conviction and what that might look like I'm getting excited about it so we just got tired and despondent a lot on what energy that we never just never lost the conviction so he didn't quit we just tried to learn how to become resilient we are low in cash to try to become more resourceful we had a saner team unity want to hire new people Doctor reef doctor and then hire we became super fucking reversal as a small team and the stuff we need a stronger but always ask yourself Do I Still Believe in the vision here with you embark on the same journey if you knew everything you know they you know now the answer is no seniors off the struggle by making infection sooner for quitting in trying something entirely new don't just stick with that for the sake of that only put up and put in our chat when he got enough conviction of the self all the VA its seafood and I might be only person you know who's written a bestselling book about quitting is called didn't want to explain it in their two big ideas the first one is this things that are scarce are more valuable and creating something that scares is difficult because if it was easy it wouldn't be scarce so what we have a situation where a lot of people start a project and then they hit the debt the debt is the thing that makes the project worth doing in the first place so for example consider the case of doctors to be a doctor got her medical school and it did dip in medical school is organic chemistry organic chemistry is designed to weed out people who aren't going to make it the rest of the way if it weren't for organic chemistry there would be a lot for doctors is there a lot more doctors the doctor wouldn't be as valuable for consider the case of watch for gas many people aspire to have them but they're difficult to get lots and lots of people join the gym in January too much glee in celebration but by February half of them have quit by March half of the rest have quit why because it are the only people get out of the other end have made it smooth did it because they didn't quit so the first lesson we take away from this is that it doesn't make sense to weekend least our projects and quit them in the debt because you're wasting an enormous amount of time we think about it from the point of view of a company like Amazon with seven trillion it is today how many of you with their customer the first week for the first month where the first year or even the first decade that what happens is it's fun to start a company because you've got nothing but blue sky and then it's difficult in the case as I get difficult when the headlines were Amazon dot toast and was never the work but they persisted and he made it to the dip came out on the other side their competitors didn't have the temerity and the stamina to make the other side that's why it's a valuable man is the first to second in the second thing is that knowing the difference between a dip have called the sac or dead is critical because persistence alone doesn't guarantee success persistence is one of the requirements but so is a smart strategy and generosity so is doing something that might work too often we find someone stuck in a call this act because they don't have the guts to stop if they're telling themselves the story that winners never quit a quitter never win which is baloney everybody who's the winner has also quit you don't see many high powered fifty year old executives walking around to choose that because they took ballet when they were for but they quit we don't do everything for ever we have to give up some of those things to get the energy and resources we need to get through to the other side of the day so I think we can all agree that cigarette smoking is a den that at least emphysema and death it makes sense to quit there is no dip when it comes to cigarette smoke but may also be said of your freelance career or it may also be said of this huge plan you have to change the world and you've gotten those emails as much as I have Tim those plans to change the world like a Thrasher do we feel like a hot knife through butter if only If only If only If only and the poor person is doing has been doing for seven ten twelve years because they think they're in a debt they're not dead how do you tell them apart well I'm afraid I cannot give you a map but I hope I can give you a compass how do we tell them apart tell them apart by first understanding that someone else must've gotten down this road before us the chances that you'll be the first person the first human to get to this particular debt are very very low so it makes sense to put your resources into projects were others on similar projects have gone through a debt if there's no one who Hass and yet still be a pioneer of cheering for you but it's a low profile way to move forward the second thing is to ask yourself Do you have more assets than you had a week ago or years ago is it adding up is their forward motion so back to the ad is an example every day I was I had more customers in the day before every single day that's forward motion by the other hand their living from paycheck to paycheck from finding the funding from short term customer certain customer is not adding up then you might be in a dead end not so to summarize the books only eighty five pages long check it out but to summarize the book is pretty simple we know that bloggers adopting her show this is a big fat middle if you can get to the castle that chasm feels like he did that chasm feels like that moment when you should quit because that's when most people to quit and the people push through it get to the other side were there the best in the world being seen as being the best in the world the best blogger the best podcast are the best online store the best eyeglass maker the best talent once you are seen as the best you are rewarded by the search engine you are rewarded by your customers were marketplace but to get there you must have the resources to make your way to the long and we get so if you're going to start understand is harder than you think if you're going to start commit to not quitting in the day if you start practice understanding the difference between a dip and at any time into the hay this is James out the sir and you can find me or at least the sidebar part of me and Jas out the true outcome then there's links to me at twitter facebook link than in all sorts of other fun places this is a fascinating question him because it's not as if people to quit or is that I am with things that are going and stuck with things that are going good there's really three types of situations and to think that can happen any situation so there are things that when things are going badly should abandon things are for all which you should and there are things that even great with either abandoned or persistence that on the accelerator out so I give some examples and actually on a star I'm certain that ah so I've been in several situations that were going absolutely great and fantastic and those were important situations for me to abandon and classic before a classic example is Jerry Seinfeld so GE General Electric are designed gown hundred bonus if you just do another and signed out at the end of his run he still said so Howard Stern asked him How can you do the jury the entire country wanted you to do another are a hundred how can no to that and Jerry Seinfeld said Howard that's why those people are not that show and I am because I exactly when to quit sometimes when things are every project in the world has a half play every brand every personality the cells of every book or movie or business everything else at some point has a half life where it starts to decline after that and you could say okay wow and diversify to find other things to do but one thing's for sure is that and that he will things are feels you can imagine they can possibly go bad that's the exact time you need what I need to diversify my life or I need to stop this at the top and pursue other creative entrepreneurial pursuits or I need to expand my life in other ways instead of continuing you know this thing that builds up and I feel so good about now's the time where I can be proud of what I've done and it's time to move on so in my very first is that I so we're growing really fast I was building websites for the entertainment company so we did the websites were just about every Bad Boy Records Law Records interest of jive and so on we did HBO Miramax icon banned websites and so on were doing re rowing hundred percent leather percent yes I had this sense that I didn't what was going to happen in the next phase of the engine and Emmy had I didn't know if I needed to build more software skills among my employees are more strategic skills among land boys and I felt the ability a website using a lot of ties and rebranded that point and everybody was making an offer to acquire my own partners well you know what maybe we should heap I'm hitting the as much as we can but I don't know if they're if they're learning in junior high slow something's going and so we that our game and I'm glad we did because two years later nap later the Internet bust happened there was no way to predict that I couldn't so maybe at the very last minute there was no way to predict but sometimes sell or chains years at cha when you learned everything heal you you couldn't learn and that they knew was part of the learning curve and now the slope is very last frame difficult to learn new things you can you say ok la try really and pour all or getting incrementally better at something or I could be proud of so the new project at the bottom of the learning curve and begin again and so that's not always the best answer a perfectly to abandon something that's doing great now you might continuing are continuing to serve people I'm very clear vision the future holds I am so many happened next like with my own with my own for instance I always and directions I wore my rain to continue even right in the same genre I always love reading his personal passion I feel that when they do it I feel is nice feeling in my chest when I do it and I feel good about it doesn't matter sometimes I slip that but I always feel good more and more rain because I personally love and I feel it delivers value not just myself but to an audience because everything you do have an audience you can think of just yourself you have to determine on so am I value for others and you get feedback on that other people will tell you so how does apply phrases to this I know situation clearly he was getting feedback that the show was great and he was at the top of his game was super creative but he had basically the idea is to continue his show and had that sense that he experienced before so decided it whereas for me right something like raining again see ten different directions looking know I can picture the future about what directions I know in the next one to three years so something I continue none something is only okay it's not that it's not great deals like you should persist because it's going let see you making money you're feeling creative and people are noticing when do you persist and when so here's a small example our podcast for little we did a hundred and seventy seven episodes question of the day in fact a young of Jim Bass was a guest post on the podcast my hose on the podcast with Steve and under was the co writer of a little known book on economics and we were having success were podcast in iTunes only lives and we were getting a good we're top one hundred or so we're getting a good amount of downloads per month we were making a very nice profit on advertising we did some that were fun and were sold out and weary and Steven and I are good friends were having just fun getting together and joking around for a few hours being recorded so everything's last the number were getting and this is only so meaningless metric and every other case with the number was not going ah it wasn't nor wasn't bad it was enough to create a profitable business for everyone to pay some employees and to take care of people selling ads for us so Zane Gray Little is this created a podcast it was with my friends with many great guests foes including of course Kim Perez right column director of and creator of billions and other movies I Franklin's lament here immediately and all these great guest host A J Jacobs it so much fun doing it yes it did and be all like something we should persist because we knew the podcast audience in general is going for for the world and our goals were not going down but they were going up by this we like something was wrong and after his seventy seven episodes we only had so many questions of the day lah and meanwhile was taking a lot of creative her away from our other projects for instance our own individual podcasts are re I miss doing them I guess it was great it was fun it was successful in terms of profits but it wasn't going on and sometimes to be that extra bit of creativity you need that you're improving at what you do and so there was no complaint and no criticism and everything was fine we decided to give it up now sometimes when you a new key ally
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#254: When to Quit - Lessons from World-Class Entrepreneurs, Investors, Authors, and More