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When Is Something Worth Letting Go?

There is a time and place for everything.

The Buffalo Bills were down 28-6 against the Los Angeles Chargers when one of their players walked off the field during halftime. Later on that evening that player—Vontae Davis—made an announcement on social media that he was retiring.

He said:

"Today on the field, reality hit me hard and fast: I shouldn't be out there anymore."

Of course, a lot of people were outraged, including the Bills linebacker—Lorzenzo Alexander—who said: "It's disrespectful to his teammates." However, other teammates disagreed calling Davis, "a working-class hero."

While the departure was unorthodox, this act raised a number of questions for people, one of the biggest being: How long should I stick with something?

In this day and age, this question is more important now more than ever before. With many people starting up businesses a lot of people believe that they'll make it big someday. Or the fact that persistence or perseverance are traits that many people deem in high regard—myself included.

Many others have taken to performing studies revolving around perseverance. A recent study of roughly 29,000 filmmakers, artists, and scientists discovered that most of them have experienced hot streaks during their career. It was during that time where their work had wide acclaim and there was no indication when they would occur.

There is also the work that Carol Dweck has done on growth mindsets which found those who see challenges, problems, and limitations as opportunities to learn and develop tend to perform better long term. They grow from challenges and receive a deeper and wider skill set.

However, there is research that challenges those studies. Some challenges can be seen as overcoming a boring task and those that persist through those tasks will likely earn little growth or development.

Also in terms of hot streaks, you can enter into a gambler's fallacy. It's the belief that if you continue, you'll get another payout. It's why gambling is so addictive and so many people often say "give me one more chance." These hot streaks can be the same and may even be dangerous financially as one study shows that some would even sink more money into a business or invention even when they've been told it's faulty.

While this is all doom and gloom, this isn't a reason to never aspire for anything in our own work. 

There will always be pros and cons to every decision that we ever make. 

Starting a business has goods and bads while working a day job has perks and downsides as well.

What's important to realize in all of this is when you are feeling stuck or when something does feel hopeless, it's important to ask that question. But more specifically it's key to be looking at your own cut-off point.

When does doing something actually become meaningless to your own development?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing continuously and expecting different results every time. With this in mind, you want to be looking at when doing something actually brings you to that point.

In order to do this, it's not a matter of looking at the work—there's more to it. Boring work can advance your skills and reward you later on. A high paying job can lose its purpose as well. What matters is how you view it and what the work can provide.

I recently dropped a client for whom I've been writing for seven months. A lot of people would describe the work I did as boring; however, what little money I've earned was significant enough for me. Furthermore, I gained much valuable writing skills and values that I still hold.

Why did I drop the work though? 

Because I realized that there was no more room for growth. 

And how I discovered that was by looking at the work and the reward that came with it: financially, mentally, and professionally.

  • I realized that I wasn't going to get paid more for my work (not that my work was poor but that resources for the company were limited).

  • On a mental level, the work was draining for me. I had many other things I wanted to do and didn't have time for it due to client work.

  • On a professional level, my skills weren't going to grow much. The work itself was unique in that I was writing for various topics. But there were topics that I enjoyed while others I didn't care for. A lot of the work I got revolved around the latter.

So be mindful of what sort of work you are doing. There is no shame in dropping something or refocusing. Whether you choose to persevere through the path you have right now or to change it is your call. But be aware of the costs and advantages that staying or changing to something else will bring.

A path is meant to twist and turn, it'll never be a straight shot.

To your growth!

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