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Bad Career Advice: Never Give Up

This post is part of my Bad Career Advice series in which I expose outdated, clichéd, and counterproductive advice for exactly what it is.

I understand the sentiment behind this piece of advice and clearly, its intent is to push you past your own perceived limits. While its heart is in the right place, I believe the advice to “never give up” also ignores the blatant reality of life and instills the idea that quitting for any reason is an unacceptable act of defeat.

The truth is, we often have to give up in order to move forward. And there’s no shame in this. Life is full of beginnings and endings. If you refuse to give up when things clearly aren’t working or ignore signals that a natural phase of completion has been reached, you only end up wasting your time and energy.

It’s Not You…No, Really. It Isn’t.

All too often, people blame themselves for giving up. It’s seen as a sign of failure. Instead, quitting (at times) can and should be viewed as an empowering act of triumph. There’s honor in recognizing that one course has reached its conclusion, just as there’s strength in allowing another to begin.

When we try too hard to hold on to what WAS, we’re unable to see what COULD BE and embrace what IS.

W.C. Fields put it best: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.”

It is indeed foolish to continue devoting resources to activities that no longer serve you—or, activities that you no longer serve. While it’s hard to admit, we all have strengths and weaknesses. To expect that we are capable of succeeding in all activities equally is inefficient and unrealistic. There are times when we must put our hands in the air, surrender and allow others to take over. We have to be humble, accept that we are perfectly imperfect, and relinquish control in order to collaboratively take the next step forward. Giving up, in this sense, is often the most productive path towards achieving a goal.

Though it may strike you as harsh or uncaring, we must also give up on people at times. We’ve all experienced relationships that have grown counterproductive. There comes a point at which the pain of giving up is worth it when compared to the pain of pushing forward. And it’s only by letting go that we begin the process of healing.

Likewise, we must let others move on when the time is right.

In closing, let me also say that this is not intended to encourage you, my dear reader, to simply “give up” on everything the moment you encounter an obstacle. It’s just an option. Don’t deny yourself that freedom. Use your time, energy and resources wisely. Refusing to give up on something or someone that holds you stagnant is not an efficient use of your capabilities. Look at the true potential reward of sticking it out and weigh it against the risk of giving up. Be analytical. And be willing to admit that yesterday’s opportunity of a lifetime may no longer be worth the sacrifice today.

Life and everything we experience is fluid. It’s a perpetual cycle of birth and death and rebirth. Dreams change, people change; the world and everything in it is constantly evolving. Be willing to release the past and embrace your future. Give yourself the power to give up.

Photo Credit: katiew (Flickr)

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12 Responses to “Bad Career Advice: Never Give Up”

  1. Jo says:

    Really great advice. Too many times I think we tell ourselves that quitting is failure because we ‘should’ be successful. Something I’ve discussed a lot with a mentor is the idea of ‘should’. We tell ourselves that we ‘should’ do something. We ‘should’ get a good job. We ‘should’ go to Uni. We ‘should’ take that promotion, even though we find the work unfulfilling. Take away the ‘should’ and we realise we have a choice and making the choice is far more powerful than going along with something that we realised wasn’t right for us.

  2. Ellen says:

    I love the idea that “giving up” can be “empowering”! Truly, in my opinion, there is no such thing as giving up. It is just the process of “moving on”. You are right, everything changes constantly and we must be prepared to change and make changes along the way. If we are not prepared to do this, then we are being held captive.
    Keep the advice coming. You are extremely insightful. Thanks for all you words!!!!

  3. This is fantastic advice! Equating a career/job search with the fluidity of life is so apt, especially considering how often giving up on one thing that isn’t working for you can open your eyes to other amazing opportunities. I recently gave up on one freelance gig go after two long years of trying to make it work, only to discover a whole world of possibility with another gig. If only I’d given up a whole lot sooner! :)

  4. Renata says:

    Hey Chrissy
    I liked this post a lot.
    As I regularly work in front of a computer,I’ll give it a try. Thanks for giving so many useful tips for us.
    BTW, Happy Thanksgiving.
    I sent you the link to my blog (I recently started it)


  5. clarevel says:

    this speaks of what i exactly feel right now.
    now, i am more confident that i know i should give myself a chance to explore what more i can do if i give up on my career. resignation may perhaps bring out other potentials in me, it may drive me away from being stagnant in my job. many thanks

  6. […] I recognize that there are times in life when giving up is indeed the right thing to do. But Katy was astute enough to know that this was NOT one of those […]

  7. Since I’ve always been an idea person, I tend to beat myself up when I work on an idea and nothing comes of it. Thanks for making me feel better about being able to realize when some endeavors have reached their end! My current plans and the work I’m doing with my blog to raise money for grad school are the first time where I see that continuing the project won’t be a waste of energy. Time to release my past and leap over the next hurdle!

  8. Cindy says:

    This is the best advice for me. I’ve been going no where with my career, and I have been trying to get a job for so long in my field with no luck. Time for a change and explore new options. Thanks for posting this, I am happy to give up finally!

  9. […] and went to sleep. I woke up at 7am the next morning feeling…better. Not great, but not exactly ready to quit […]

  10. […] Lesson: Sticking it out is one thing, but don’t be a fool about it. Pack up and move on if the outlook isn’t getting any […]

  11. […] couple of years ago I read this post on the Eat Your Career Blog in the Bad Career Advice series about being told to never quit: I […]

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