Winston Churchill repeated it nine times in a short speech. Pro golfers often wait 14 years before winning a major tournament. Authors line their walls with rejection notices. Unless your current disappointment is a stepping stone to something greater, giving up forever freezes the judgment of that effort at its current point. Never, never give up.
My plan was to include tantalizing statistics about efforts in light bulb development, winged flight or the silent years and decades of vaccine development. You already know these stories. Let’s go personal and explore what kept me from giving up. In the early years of being out on my own, someone asked how long I planned to try making my business work. When I responded, “As long as it takes” there was no history or wisdom in my brain hinting at how hard it would actually be. When a client probed to see if I’d accept an internal position — giving up was not on the list.
My belief was that I had a mission on this earth. In spite of no investment money, brief corporate experience and silent and insidious racial barriers (some I’ll never know and others that were leaked to me) I could not quit. Whether money was low or flowing my purpose remained clear. Money never seemed to be the top of my life pyramid. This caused painful problems and self-doubt. And then I’d receive a testimonial on how something I said or wrote saved a career, a business or maybe even a life. That’s the kind of legacy I drilled into my long-term memory and my short-term daily checklists.
I hired a person to do outreach and marketing for our training courses and coaching. She was a fine person with many skills I did not possess. She worked hard and then quit. It was taking too long for prospects to turn into clients. Soon after she left, the clients rolled in. I remember the scenario because it wasn’t the first time it had happened. Mental note — rest, exercise, sleep; don’t quit.
If not me, if not now, someone else would eventually crack the code of what I was trying to build. It helped to recall my idea of a standing desk years before one arrived on the market. The upright position would be healthy in dozens of ways. Another idea that went to prototype was a weekly/monthly planner that advanced as time moved forward — you had to keep up with it. I ran out of money and staying power. My book on balance and achievement came out before other hardcover bestsellers. Most of us can cite examples of ideas we never finished. The difference is that someone else had the vision along with the staying power. Someone brought the idea to market, the manuscript to the right publisher or the course curriculum to the aware operations manager. With time, it is always possible to win.
The smart move is to learn and grow from your tactical battles while staying on “purpose” with your central dream. I would pick the big, most important part of my contribution to the world and latch on to it like a rabid dog. It’s hard to quit a deep-rooted dream — so don’t.
Two friends offered a graduation gift as I left college and drove north to continue my studies. It was a Langston Hughes poem that read, “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” I didn’t understand the meaning for years as I tried to pack it, move it, store it and display it without breaking it. Hughes’ words were artfully painted on a delicate, sliced piece of quartz-like stone. I was successful at keeping the graduation gift out of the path of six different cats, two dogs and four parakeets over the years. Finally and unfortunately, I was the one who bumped it with an elbow and watched it tumble and crash to the ground — no pets to blame.
I found a bottle of Gorilla Glue and carefully re-attached the three pieces. Squinting to see the glue lines, I’m more clear on the meaning of never giving up and “holding fast to dreams.”
Rick Griggs is a former Intel Corp. training manager and inventor of the rolestorming creativity tool. He runs the 10-month Leadership Mastery Academy. firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-690-7327.