Quick announcement: in the first post on this blog I mentioned that my investor and I were trying to start an import-export company. However, after a few months into it, I realized that the prospects of it didn’t look as good as I had thought they would, and also we were still stuck in the stage of searching for an idea. I felt I really needed to answer some questions about what I wanted to do next and what are some of the things I want long-term.
Well, for one, I knew that I wanted more freedom (I still do) and it just seemed to me that going deeper and deeper into trying to establish a company would mean being tied down for a long time. If you have a day job, of course, you have to work to pay the bills, but you can quit. However, when you’re working with other people and using their money to establish a new company, it’s difficult to untangle yourself from it. On top of that, I felt like it would be entirely on me to figure out the most of it – like what should we import/export, how to do it, what are the legal requirements etc. etc. And frankly, it was a lot of pressure with no certainty of success and without any way of knowing how long it would take. So I decided to withdraw from it while I still could (meaning that there weren’t many sunk costs yet).
In order to have less working hours (I still have the thesis to write) and earn a bit more, I decided to become an English teacher. I will probably write about it more in the future, as there surely will be some stories about my students. But I wanted to talk about something else today.
There is a certain shame in quitting.
Whenever I have a problem, I tend to ask everyone about their opinion on the matter – should I do this or should I do that? Am I overthinking this? Maybe it’s not as bad as I think? Often (and also when I find a problem too embarrassing to talk about it) I will type it into Google to find what other people thought and wrote about it; I will type in questions or just statements I’m hoping to find. Side note: I think in many instances people, or at least I, really know what we want to do, we are just looking for validation and support for our decision. Or we are looking for some arguments to justify it because having a list of 20 sound reasons to do something seems like better grounds to do it that just simply “trusting your gut” – at least this is how I often feel. This is my MO (trying to change that).
When I was trying to find an answer to my question about giving up on the company, I found numerous articles advising how to get through a period of doubt, why you shouldn’t give up, how to stay inspired etc. etc.
And I’m thinking: why are we so against quitting something? Why does giving up get such a bad rap? Like in this startup example – let’s say that someone has a great idea, they believe in it, they want to pursue it; then they encounter hardships and everything seems difficult. However, if they still believe in the idea that they had in the beginning then it’s easier to stay on track and see the light at the end of the tunnel. But if you don’t have this idea, then it’s really difficult to see the point in sticking to it.
I would compare it to a relationship – you meet a great person, you believe you’re a good match, you’re in love, but then you encounter some hardships. Now, if you still love that person and you believe it is worth to stay together, then it’s probably worth putting some effort into it and sticking around.
But what about a situation where there’s a person that seemed great at the beginning, but then you discovered there were some issues with them or how they treated you, and from then on it was getting worse? And it’s just so frustrating and hard to be with them? And on top of that, not only you feel something is off, but the rational reasons for staying together are also gone?
If you don’t feel good about a person at the beginning of a relationship or there are mountains of problems, no one will tell you to stick with it (or at least not a majority of people). They will say that it will be only more difficult later on and you will just find more and more faults in them. If there are red flags, if you are miserable and depressed, if you think that it doesn’t make sense to keep going, you should get out of a relationship. There is someone out there for you.
So why isn’t it the same with a job or a startup? I get that not everyone can be passionate about their jobs and that sometimes you just have to accept that you’re doing something to earn a living, and passions and hobbies have to come after working hours, but if you’re miserable from the beginning, it’s probably not gonna get better. If it’s a startup and you’ve been working on it for 3 months and you don’t feel like continuing, people will say “but you know, you’ve only been doing it for three months, it’s always hard in the beginning”. But I cannot imagine people saying the same thing about a new relationship – like “It sucks now and you’re miserable, but it might get better, you only just met him/her”. No – at the beginning of a relationship you’re enamored with the person, it’s the honeymoon phase, everything is easier. And maybe it should be the same with a company you’re trying to start. It is at the beginning of a startup or a new job that you should feel like you believe in it so that when hardships arise you can still keep going. If you don’t have the heart to do it almost from the very start, how are you gonna find it later? There’s a difference between “I really believe in the idea, but it seems too hard” and “nothing feels right about this”.
I don’t mean to encourage people to give up easily. I think you should weigh all the pros and cons. But if you feel depressed and you feel it’s not right for you, this emotion is a strong indicator. That’s when rational thinking comes into place – to see if the decision you’re considering actually makes sense or you are just afraid of the hard work (and avoiding hard work just because it’s hard is gonna prevent you from growing and get you nowhere). Also, I believe in damage control. Once you discover something is not for you, you should get out to minimize the losses and to save your precious time.