Sunday, April 5, 2009

When should you quit?

I am notoriously hard headed about giving up on something. When I was a boy, neighbors warned their children against playing games against my brother and me, saying something like: “The Greenan boys will kill themselves rather than lose.”

Setting aside just how bizarre a warning that is, I’m afraid nothing has changed. My brother has completed the Au Sable Marathon twice (a straight through 120 mile long canoe race—something else that I’ll write more about—for now here’s a link --still plenty of time to sign up for the 2009 race), including last year. I insisted on giving a tour of CityWalk last week with a broken rib—even though I went from the tour to the emergency room.

But even I have to admit that at some point, you really just have to quit on a project. Watch a basketball game in the final minute or so, and if a team is close they may foul and hope that they can catch up if the other team misses its foul shots. But at some point, the team behind will quit fouling. They are too far behind to ever catch up. Continuing to try is futile.

Lately I’ve been working on a number of projects that probably will never be completed. They aren’t quite dead, but any chance of success looks pretty remote. I have to think about when it’s time to cut my losses and move on to something else.

But my nature is to keep trying until the bitter end. Also, it’s hard to judge when one of our projects becomes impossible. All of them start off with only a remote chance of success, so I am used to living in a world where you have to always believe you can accomplish the very difficult, if not the impossible. Otherwise, you would quit before you ever started.

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