You Are Going to Quit

Wed, June 12, 2013 11:04 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Sterling Lynk

(Sterling is the Executive Director of the Madison Area Down Syndrome Society, serves on the board of Down Syndrome Affiliates in Action, and has a varied and extensive background in nonprofit management and training. The following blog post comes from his series of posts called The Mighty Purpose.)

You Are Going to Quit

This is a great graph.  It's so good that I couldn't stop myself from stealing it directly from a February offering called "The Roller Coaster of Shipping" on Seth Godin'sblog.

Think of this annotated graph as representing your experience as you pursue the purposeful life, or even "just" a great idea.  The vertical axis is your inspiration or feeling of joy related to one of your great ideas.  The horizontal axis is time.  Seth is a writer, so he marks time in stages of getting published.  I'm sure you mark time differently.

Look at it closely.  This graph tells you 1 very important thing; that you are going to quit.  Now look again and then you'll know when are going to quit.

There is a good kind of quitting out there.  If you don't know what that is, I suggest you check out a book written by the very same Seth Godin who I stole from today.  It's called The Dip (remember the rules when considering books). 

But the quitting you find on the graph is not the good kind.  It's the bad kind.  It's the kind I was talking about when I wrote the following on my Mighty Purpose Brithday Wishlist;
30.  Are you thinking about quitting something important because it's 'just too much'?  Don't quit.  I promise you the alternative to having 'too much purpose' isn't much better than what you have today.
When You Quit
One of the most rewarding things in my life is when what I write on this blog, or what I say or do elsewhere, connects with you so well that you reach out to me.  You post a comment, or you send an email (, or you call me (608-698-6055).  You share with me the energy and inspiration that you've captured, and the clarity of a discovered path to you living your purpose.

At the same time, one of the most disappointing things in my life is when that energy, inspiration and clarity gives way to inaction and confusion.  This quitting happens more often than not, and it's a bloody shame.

I can predict when you will quit: at point 2 and point 4 on the graph.

Here's how Godin describes point 2:
"The first trough of reality. Now that I've pitched the idea to someone (and I'm on the hook), the reality of what has to be done sets in precisely as the manic joy of invention disappears."
OK.  Most folks don't even get this point.  They don't pitch their idea and they don't get themselves on the hook, but you do.  This is why you are part of this community.

But, then you realize how impossible it is for you do this idea of yours.  How big it is; too big for you.  After all, we are talking about something as "soft and fuzzy" as purpose, or a project that will actually matter.  Way too big.  And, thinking about it doesn't feel as good now as it did before.  So you quit, even if you tell yourself another story (i.e. I have another better idea,  I don't have time, this wasn't the best fit, etc.).  

But, maybe you don't quit.  Instead, you find a way forward and you get to work.  In fact, most of you who are a part of this community don't quit at point 2.  You instead quit a little later, at point 4.  Here's Godin's description:
"The horrible trough of stuckness. The path didn't work. The data isn't here. Critical people have said no. People in critical roles have said no. I can't find any magic. Sigh."
Clearly, the project is dead.  It was worth a try but it turned out that it wasn't meant to be.  Hey, you got it this far so don't feel bad.  You've done more than most so it's OK to quit...I mean, stop for now.  Right?  Wrong.  

Telling You "Don't Quit" Isn't Good Enough
Years ago there was a very nice gentleman who worked for me.  When I call him a gentleman, I mean this man was a true mench.  Unfortunately, we were struggling and not getting the results I and the organization needed. 

Because I believed he had the right values and experience, I did everything I could to help.  I even asked one my colleagues, the leader of another area, to take him as part of her team before I would have to terminate.  Ultimately, it didn't make a difference.  He started strong and then started struggling again within a few months. 

If you asked that gentleman what he was going to do to achieve his benchmarks, he would insist that he simply "had to just do it".  If you asked how he would do it, he would tell you that he would redouble his efforts, work harder, and that he would sit down and focus.  Unfortunately, this wasn't good enough.

So, what are you going to do so you don't quit?  Redouble your efforts?  Focus on the hope and promise you felt when you had that inspiration and a sense of unlimited energy?  I am sorry, but that won't be good enough.

What am I suppose to do to help you stay the course, so you get to point 5 and beyond?  Yell at you?  Encourage you?  Shame you?  Beat you?  Remind you about your Why?  Tell you "don't quit" like I did on my birthday wishlist?  I am sorry, but that won't be good enough either.

Your Life Is A Creative Project.
In the last few weeks I have recommended murder and not trying to be happy.  Last week I warned you that I would tell you that you needed to manage your life like a creative project, that your life needs boring, old-fashioned, and some-times lame, project management.

I like the definition of project management on Wikipedia;
"Project management is the discipline of planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling resources to achieve specific goals.  A project is a temporary endeavor with a defined beginning and end (usually time-constrained, and often constrained by funding or deliverables), undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives, typically to bring about beneficial change or added value. The temporary nature of projects stands in contrast with business as usual (or operations), which are repetitive, permanent, or semi-permanent functional activities to produce products or services."
So if you are managing your life like a creative project (to create a purposefully lived life), then here will be some features of your life:
  • Goals and sub-objectives?  Yes.
  • Plans?  You bet.  I suggest annual, monthly, weekly and daily plans.
  • Task lists and daily action?  Uh huh.  But, make sure these line up with your values and goals.
  • Check in meetings, project review meetings, over-communication?  Yes, yes and yes.  Check in with yourself.
  • Budgets?  Yup.
  • Reframing and rechartering?  Certainly.  
  • Beneficial change?  I think living your purpose everyday counts as that.
  • Non-repetitive and impermanent?  Say no to the life of quiet desperation (at lease make some noise).
  • Temporary?  You are going to die.  You just don't know what happens after that.

The Case For Project Management
If the idea of actively leading your life and using tools like those used in project management sounds compelling to you, then skip this section and go to the end.  Life is too temporary.  If it doesn't sound that great yet then I'd like you to consider the following.

Think about the last job you had that you really enjoyed.  If you haven't had at least 1 of those, then think about a time when you were a part of a group or movement that was special.

What did you do when your boss (or partner, or mentor, or whoever.) needed you to do something big that you never had done before?  When you got to points 2 and 4, did you quit?  Or, did you keep going until you got something delivered, even if it wasn't that great or it was just plain bad?

I bet you didn't quit.  I bet you delivered that big "something", or your best approximation of it.  You took action and you got it done.  

How did you make sure that you and anyone else who was working with you kept moving forward?  Did you plan, organize, motivate and use resources (i.e. did you project manage)?  How could you not have?  If you had a better project management tool box, would you have gotten even better results?

I think so.

Life is something big that you've never done before (or if you've been reincarnated, then you haven't done this life before).  The hard lives to live are the purposeful ones, and hard lives, like hard projects, need quality management to make them great.

Be well,

Sterling Lynk

P.S. - You should get started with this idea now.  I am personally partial to two systems that were designed for life management or can easily be transformed for life management: 

There are others, but these work and their fairly simple and easier to integrate into your whole life.
[Image: Seth's Blog]

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Or dive in to Sterling's blog by visiting the page below:

I want to tell you what WONDERFUL time I had at the conference. I learned so much and came away with lots of ideas for our organization. -Barb Waddle, The Upside of Downs of Northeast Ohio


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