I have this vivid memory of sitting in the doctor’s office, staring at cheap art on the wall. You know, typical waiting room kitsch. On that wall was a framed poster, in a flourishing font which bordered on the ridiculous. It read: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow’.” And as cliché/oddly specific that memory is, it stuck by me- for good reason. Because there have been times in my life where I needed to quit, and that wasn’t a bad thing.
We’re told from an early age to see things through; to stick it out. Everyone has at least one memory of someone telling them to keep going. But if I were to ask you to remember any lessons you were given about cutting your losses, and making a strategic withdrawal, it might be a little harder. That’s because by in large, quitting is seen as a surrender. It’s seen as being beaten by an obstacle larger than yourself. Well I’m here to tell you that’s just not true. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, soldiering on and throwing in the towel are just two faces of the same coin.
First and foremost, failure, both initial and continuing, is not definite. In the sense that they are lessons that you should take on-board for your next attempt. Civilization didn’t create fondue, discover penicillin, or make it to the moon on the first try. You better believe there was a long line of burnt cheese dips, non-mouldy bread medicines, and rockets that just tipped over on the launch pad before fizzling out in disappointment. Otherwise we’d all be immortal gods of dairy that hovered a good metre off the ground everywhere via repulsion technology. But alas, that isn’t the reality we live in. Not until Elon Musk decides so, anyways. Essentially, failure is only failure if you don’t learn from it. If you can take even one small detail away from the entire experience, then it’s time well spent.
With this in mind, why would you choose to keep going down a path if you know it won’t work? Wouldn’t it make sense to quit, return to your centre, and start fresh having changed for the better? If the logic stands that you need to fail in order to succeed, wouldn’t it also dictate that you need to quit to continue? It comes to a point where you need to realise that resources, both emotional and otherwise, can be better used elsewhere. Away from an endeavour that just won’t work out, regardless of how much you want it to.
But no matter. For this isn’t the end of the road. This is just the retreat before the final assault, and the accepted defeat before the triumphant victory. This is beauty, this is symmetry. It’s the perennial rhythm of existence. The familiar cycle of being. Birth, death, rebirth. Rises, falls, returns. And on, and on again, until the cosmic matter decides it’s too hot to keep going, and implodes upon itself. Not to worry though, that’s a problem for, like, way down the line.
The road to success is littered with hard-learned lessons and trite sayings. So much trite sayings that if you made a drinking game out of this article, you’d be smashed by the second paragraph. Wake up in February, and wonder what the hell happened. But I digress. It’ll never get easier, else it’s not a goal worth pursuing. And it’ll never feel completely satisfying until you’ve hit that eureka moment. The one thing that you need to learn somewhere down the timeline, however, is that it’s OK to quit. Quitting just means you’re once step closer to getting it right. In failure, there is well earned wisdom, whether it be wisdom acquired comfortably from a distance or wisdom that leaves a scar. Trust the process, and have some patience. You’ll get where you’re going. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and quietly think of tomorrow.
Header image: vpill