When Is It Time To Give Up?

When is it time to give up on an opportunity, a project, a goal, or an aspiration? Some would say never, others draw a line in the sand, being a budget of some type, and you stop when you’ve used that up. Others fall by the wayside and surrender when they run out of willpower or faith. And, of course, some never start, and others can never stop as they railroaded themselves in one way or another. But none of these responses is correct if you want to achieve all that is possible in your business and life.


Active Knowledge Question:

Do you have a ‘measure’ that you apply to decide when it’s no longer worthwhile investing in whatever it may be you are investing in?


Go, No Go

In business and in life, there is a significant benefit to be gained in reflecting on and developing the ‘right’ answer to the question, ‘When is it time to give up’?

There is a saying in business, I’m not sure where it has come from, but it goes something like, ‘You will achieve a lot less than you hoped for in the first year or so, but in ten years, you will have achieved more than you could have ever dreamed of’. Another saying is, ‘As soon as you give it up, that’s when it will suddenly become a success’.

These sayings carry a message around perseverance and the effects of compounding on your efforts. 

All of us, especially those in business, will often wrestle with the question of whether we should continue a project because it’s just not achieving what was hoped for. And these are often quite difficult decisions.

An Approach

I believe the answer lies in the approach- attitude is a better term – that you bring to this area of activity.

In business and life, you must develop a framework – an ethic, a value, a trait – to guide the activities you invest in for your business and personally.

And by invest, I mean effort, experimentation, creativity, imagination, improvement, growth, development – there is a breadth of language that reveals the activities which need to be considered.

Evolution and change are constant and continuous, and so must you be. I like the ethic of ‘better every day’ as a trait of continual improvement so you are always growing. It causes one to consider where to grow, where to invest, where to explore – strengthen, expand, play. These are the actions that need to be present in your business and you personally to grow and continually become more competitive.

To Compete

You are always competing against yourself, not others, but yourself to improve, learn and grow. Create a cadence of investing, resting, reviewing and building momentum. This attitude around ‘competing’ provides the foundation for how you frame and answer the question ‘When is it time to give up’?

As An Individual

As an individual, see yourself as an Achiever who has the confidence/faith in yourself and is constantly stepping forward. Pursuing areas to strengthen yourself – physically, emotionally, mentally and in capability; exploring areas of interest and opportunity that brings them joy.

As A Business 

As a business, you exist for a purpose, and that purpose is to meet a real need within a community. A need that you embrace and around which you create a compelling vision. One in which others can discover a conviction and to which they commit themselves as well. Your business outcompetes all others by delivering greater value to your customers than anyone else. And when you achieve this, the profits are there, so you can reinvest.


The journey of competing is a constant dynamic of positioning as you move from one point of strength to another, continuously building on everything that has gone before – moving, evolving, adapting, creating and compounding.

You see stepping stones for each new leg of your journey, and whilst you see ahead, you focus on that next stepping stone and reach that next landing. Then you rest, review, reward, celebrate and step out again. And you may well have reset where that next stepping stone takes you. 


There is no failure; it’s not a word in your vocabulary. It is a disempowering word and reinforces only weaknesses and negativity. In contrast, your focus is on learning and growing stronger from all you have experienced.

You step forward on the next leg of growth and take in all you can, and if there becomes a point where no more can be gained, you pause and then set out again on a new leg.

You are constantly growing, and whilst at times you may not have achieved all you had hoped for, you have learnt more than you expected you would.

An Approach/Attitude

Question: When is it time to give up?

Answer: That is not the right question.

Why: Because it feeds into a culture of failure and evidences a limited vision of the journey you are undertaking and the destination you are seeking to reach.

Right Questions: What is the purpose, motive and vision in my business and life? How do I journey there? What do I believe are the steps? 

Set in your business and life a vision of the journey you are undertaking and the compelling destination you are striving to reach. This is your quest? Look ahead and layout the stepping stones as best as you can. Step forward on the first step and achieve all you can. Then, when that step has delivered all it can, pause, reaffirm the next step and move forward. 

You are not locked onto a train track where you say ‘never stop’. You do not have a fixed expectation of an outcome, and if you can’t achieve it, you abandon it all. You recognise that what is deliberately planned at the outset will likely not be achieved. The journey is dynamic, changing and evolving. You seek the path that emerges that will take you to the summit you are striving to reach. And you are always keeping an eye open for the unexpected, and unrealised learnings are not forfeited but captured and built upon.

Your journey is not a single isolated activity; it is rich and diverse and likely includes many parts. Your attitude is one of movement, compounding and momentum.  


You know where you want to go and what you want to achieve. There is commitment and conviction that empowers and is honestly the great joy in all you achieve. You know there is much that you need to learn and discover and that it is the richness of the journey. The most important trait is your competitiveness, your willpower to challenge yourself and continue the journey.

When is it time to give up? When you can no longer imagine and create a vision of where you want to go.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel