Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m not sure if I can do this”?
It usually happens to me when putting together anything from IKEA. I really hate that stuff…
Then there was that time when I started a job as a technical recruiter. I would pick up the phone and call random people to see if they wanted to leave their full-time jobs for temporary contract positions.
Fifty calls a day. Everyday. Oh, the horror. What really made it hard was trying to understand thick-accented Indians over the telephone. Their accents were so thick and indiscernible, I remember thinking I could never succeed in this job.
But you know what? I got through it. Was it easy? Heck no. But I made it. I didn’t become the world’s best technical recruiter, but I did reach a basic level of understanding and competence.
And herein lies the question you have to ask yourself: “Am I capable of becoming world class at this?”
If the answer is no, then you should quit.
Seriously, what’s the point of being just average at something? I want mastery, fluency. I don’t dabble. Go all the way into the deep end or get the hell out of the water.
Seth Godin wrote a book called The Dip, and it’s required reading. His basic premise is that sometimes it’s better to quit.
Yes, you should quit things. Quit bad relationships. Quit bad jobs. Why? Because life is too short to be terrible at things.
He also says that sometimes you should press through. Knowing where the line between pressing on and quitting can be tricky. Here are a few questions that make the distinction easier to figure out:
- Have I given this project 100%
- Does doing this activity help me grow as a person?
- Would I do this job for free?
- Can I become the best in my field at this?
- Does this take more than it gives? (BEST ONE)
There’s nothing wrong with quitting the wrong things. Continuing to do things that aren’t good for you is a far worse crime.
Things Are Hard Before They’re Easy
Another thing to consider before quitting is the simple fact that things are hard before they’re easy. Think back to the first time you rode a bike. It was scary and you probably scrapped your knees several times. You also probably had training wheels at first. Then one day the training wheels came off and you pedaled away like a bat out of hell.
You’ll never have to teach yourself to ride a bike again. It’s literally ingrained in your physical and mental memory bank. This is pretty much true for everything. It usually goes like this:
- This is scary
- It’s scary but I’m doing it, terribly…
- I’m getting the hang of this
- This is easy
Oversimplified? Heck yea, but it’s fundamentally true.
Before you can run you have to crawl. How fast you want to run depends on how long you’re willing to scrape your knees and eat dirt. That’s the tradeoff you need to consider. Some tradeoffs aren’t worth it. Sometimes you just need to run.
Whenever I conceptualize this in my head, I visualize a roller coaster. Some ascents are longer and scarier than others, and sometimes the thrill on the descent down isn’t worth it. That’s when you need to find a better ride to jump on.
Barriers To Entry
The best rides have the longest lines. These are “barriers to entry.”
The same applies to most worthwhile endeavors. Want to be a lawyer? You’ll need a bucket of money, and you’ll probably have to kiss your social life goodbye. Want to be a doctor? Same thing. These fields have high barriers to entry that prevent less serious people from getting in.
Are you willing to push past these barriers? Is the price of entry, the climb, and the payoff worth it?
Low barriers to entry present a different problem. The lines are short but the cart is stuffed. Too many people saturate the market, commoditizing everything.
The solution? Be different. Stand out. This applies to both low and high barriers of entry. Becoming the best in your field means mastery. The master surgeon and the master freelancer face completely different barriers but experience similar benefits.
It all starts with self-awareness. Don’t just jump on any ride. Jump on the ones that balance your sense of thrill, risk, and reward; choose the ones that make you say, “Let’s do that one again!”