For the sake of your career, just give up
Despite the stigma, we give up all the time – we just call it growth, change, or maturity. Counter-intuitive as it might seem, a person’s success can often be measured by how frequently and effectively they call it quits. Consider some of the most successful leaders – Jeff Bezos originally sold books; Bill Gates created a niche software; Steve Jobs didn’t launch the iPod, and subsequently the iPhone, until 25 years of business.
All of them owe their success to experimenting, iterating, and quickly culling whatever wasn’t working. By “giving up” on some things, they were able to hone in on what showed results.
The challenge then becomes figuring out which goals are worth the effort, and which should be quickly abandoned.
We have some ideas – learned from our own failures and successes – on how (and what!) to productively give up in your career. And if you’re an audio-visual sort of person, check out our workshop recording on the same topic.
The things you should never give up
You should never give up on your dreams…if they’re the right dreams.
What’s a “right dream”? Every dream is legitimate, isn’t it? Not exactly. Some dreams are sneaky, tricking us into thinking we want one thing when we really want something else. We see it as recruiters all the time; a person’s dream to rise through the ranks often masks a deeper desire to have a lasting impact on an organization. Their dream of endless earnings may come from a deep-seated desire to provide a comfortable life for their family.
Usually, the more we soften the details – removing specific numbers, titles, or companies – the clearer our real dreams become. The dreams that guide our behavior and fulfill our need for purpose. In short, the goals you should never abandon.
The things you should (probably) give up
Whether intentional or not, most of us compare our current advancement to some carefully crafted image developed in our youth. “By 30, I’ll be a manager,” or “at this age, I thought I’d be making more money.” Some of these goals are worth chasing, while others hold us back.
We would know; the team at Proven have fallen into this trap many times, often to the detriment of the company. At one point we had nine offices open across the US and Europe, but we were bleeding money. Most of the offices were incapable of sustaining themselves. Quitting seemed like the right thing to do – and it was. To a point. Still, closing multiple offices wasn’t what we had pictured when we started the company. It felt like a failure. It was a failure. But if we’d stuck with the initial vision, Proven wouldn’t exist today. So instead of throwing away the entire company, we gave up on specific locations and operations. We focused on what was going right.
All that to say, if you’re going to give up on something, consider trading in that fixed vision of success for something more flexible. There are many ways forward.
Small “give ups” for big wins
When your job isn’t going well – you’re overwhelmed; you’re falling behind; you’re dreading Mondays – it’s easy to want to flee. To run far, far away. Leave the role, or the company, or possibly the entire career path. Distance is the easiest solution…and sometimes it’s the right solution. But first, ask yourself this – what, specifically, is going wrong, and how can you give up in small ways to make a big impact?
Here are a few ideas:
- You’re not being heard. Faced with this problem, the first thing to “give up” is usually your communication style. Try tweaking how straightforward, or diplomatic, or pushy you’re being. Small changes to the way you convey your thoughts can make a big difference.
- You’re fed up with your team. Maybe you love your work, but not the people you work with. In this case, you might want to try switching teams or, even better, try digging into what specifically is setting you off. Is your team moving too slowly? Not transparent? Don’t get along? Figure out the root problem and treat it directly before jumping ship.
- The timing is off. Back in 2020, it wasn’t the right time to be in the restaurant industry. Today, it might not be the right time to be in the corporate real estate business. Sometimes timing dictates what’s available to us, and to fight against time can be an uphill battle. “Giving up” on the industry or pivoting your role might be in your best interest.
- You’re not performing well. If you’re struggling to impress your boss – or just keep your head above water – you might be lacking the right tools. Perhaps it’s time to “give up” your current tools/strategies and experiment with a new approach, or else advocate for specific development opportunities.
- Your basic needs aren’t being met. Not making enough money? Need more medical coverage? Unless you can convince HR to reevaluate their providers, it might be time to “give up” on your company.
- You’re bored at work. First things first, are you bored all the time, or just when doing specific tasks? It’s normal to find aspects of your job unstimulating – but that doesn’t warrant “giving up.” Yet if you’re consistently bored, it might be time for a new challenge.
- You’re burned out. Ask yourself – is the burnout self imposed, or is it a consequence of the work culture? Is it a company-wide problem, or localized to your team? The solution isn’t always to leave the job (though that works too!).
What will you give up on today?
We listened to a podcast recently in our Book Club which recommended a “reverse bucket list.” An advocate for simplicity, the speaker shared how he put together an annual bucket list, only to go through and remove as many things as possible. The practice was meant to clear the clutter of our wants, to help us focus on what really brings us fulfillment.
Most of us have piled expectation upon expectation when it comes to our career. Creating a reverse career bucket list might help to unload (or give up) some of that accumulated pressure. When we can sidestep our ego and take a deep look at what we want, choices that seemed impossible can become less daunting.
No, we shouldn’t give up on everything. That’s rarely the answer. But recognizing what’s working – and what isn’t – allows us to focus our efforts where they make the biggest impact.
Happy to discuss what that might look like in your career (or life!). You can always reach us with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.