Is it time to quit?

Before Cheryl Strayed embarked on her hike from the Mojave desert in California to the bridge of the gods in Oregon, she set an intention. She made a promise to herself that she wouldn’t quit unless she was physically injured. This experience was later documented in her book Wild. If you’re interested, it’s worth checking out.

Similarly, when J.K. Rowling decided to write children’s books, she made a commitment not to give up until every publisher rejected her. It took her 12 attempts before finding success. On a related note, Colonel Sanders faced rejection 1009 times before a restaurant agreed to partner with him on his famous 11 herbs and spices chicken. It’s also worth mentioning that he was 65 years old when he started. These stories emphasize that success can come at any age or after facing multiple rejections.

So, what can we learn from these examples, especially as teachers? The main point is that it’s important to know when to persevere and when to call it quits. This isn’t about planning for failure, but rather about finding ways to keep going. As mentioned yesterday in my discussion about running, setting conditions under which we allow ourselves to stop can be beneficial. This doesn’t mean quitting permanently, but rather taking breaks during the activity itself. For example, I might set conditions before starting a run, such as only stopping if I’m at risk of hurting myself or feeling sick. These conditions provide sensible guidelines for when to pause. Feeling tired, having a stitch, or unfavorable weather are not valid reasons to quit.

As a creative person, you may encounter moments when you run out of ideas, lack inspiration, or feel low on energy. While these may seem like valid reasons to quit, they can also be used as conditions to push through and continue. If you’re out of ideas, just start putting pen to paper and let your thoughts flow. Often, inspiration comes in the process of creating. Similarly, even if you lack energy, you might find it later on. These conditions for quitting will vary for each individual, so it’s important to determine what works best for you.

For example, if you’re a web comic creator, you could set a condition to release a panel or cartoon every week until you start feeling bored or uninspired with your characters. Equipment malfunctions or technical issues should not be reasons to quit, but rather opportunities to experiment and try different approaches. If you’re a newsletter writer, you might commit to publishing weekly until your subscribers reach zero, indicating a decline in interest. However, if you believe in your ideas and feel that success is just around the corner, you can choose a different condition.

As a podcaster, I personally set a condition to release episodes every weekday until I run out of ideas completely. This serves as a motivation to keep going and explore new topics. Anything other than running out of ideas becomes an excuse rather than a valid reason to quit.

I encourage you to create a list of conditions under which you’re allowed to quit. Keep it small and focused. Remember, if the reason to quit is related to equipment, try fixing it or exploring alternative options. You never know what you might discover when you venture into different mediums.

It’s important to note that the goal is not to produce the same level of quality every time. There may be moments when external factors affect the outcome, but what matters most is showing up and being consistent. Even if you have to use older equipment or produce something quick, it’s about the act of showing up rather than the perfection of the end product.

Setting these conditions is not meant to trap you, but rather to help you navigate through the challenges and uncertainties of the creative process. When you enter the “tunnel” of a project, where engagement and interest may fluctuate, having these conditions in mind can provide the determination to keep going. As long as you have the necessary resources and are not jeopardizing your well-being, the only conditions to turn back and quit should be if you run out of food, water, or your mental health is at risk. Otherwise, the journey is worth it, not just because of sheer perseverance, but because you know there is something valuable waiting on the other side.

Setting intentions and conditions has a powerful effect on your mindset. It strengthens your resolve and gives you a sense of purpose. Personally, when I commit to podcasting every weekday until I run out of ideas, it ignites a determination to keep going. It reminds me that there is still unfinished work to be done, and I show up for myself and for my audience. Ultimately, it’s about showing up for yourself and your creativity more than anything else.

Remember, this approach may not work for everyone, and it’s important to find what resonates with you. If you’re starting a new project or considering one, now is a great time to set your own conditions for quitting. You’ll find it incredibly helpful during those moments of doubt. When you question whether you should continue, consult your list. If it’s not a valid reason to quit, keep pushing forward. You’ll discover a newfound sense of determination.

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