When to quit, when not to give up - Executips


Sunday, November 19, 2017

When to quit, when not to give up

Simon Cowell, the hard to please judge, gave the golden buzzer to a singer who couldn’t even hear.

Mandy Harvey has been singing when she was four. Then a tissue disorder made her completely lose her hearing when she was 18. Ten years later, she hasn’t thrown in the towel. In her America’s Got Talent audition, still completely deaf and playing the ukulele, she beautifully sang her own composition entilted “Try.” She admitted she wrote the song to say how she wanted to do something more with her life than just give up.

Our heroes in life are those who fought it out to the end. It is very rare to have an adviser tell us to just quit it. But there are occasions when giving up may be the wisest thing to do.

Dr. David Feldman, writing on the Psychology Today website, cited the work of researchers Carsten Wrosch and Gregory Miller. The two experts reported that “goal engagement” may be a healthy alternative when our original ambition has turned into an impossible dream. Wrosch and Miller wrote in the journal Psychology Science that by “withdrawing from a goal that is unattainable, a person can avoid repeated failure experiences and their consequences for  mind and body.” Feldman added “another good reason to disengage from a goal is that it’s no longer personally important.”

“When people have difficulty motivating themselves to pursue a goal…it’s because the goal isn’t as meaningful to them as it used to be.”

I agree there is nothing to be ashamed about giving up when we have the right reasons. We may be beating up our self-esteem that it can no longer fight another fight. I am sure we all have friends who keep on chasing a certain “dream” just because of pressure from family and peers. Some may even have the wrong motivations like status, pride, fame or even revenge. 

There are times in our lives when we must admit to ourselves that we are not born for certain things. All my youth I imagined myself being a star basketball player but all my visualization didn’t work. I became very close to fellow players who spent a lot of time in the bench because we just talked while others played ! I was not cut for basketball but no one ever beat me in sprint and boxing.

We may be looking for our gifts in the wrong place or our “true love” showed itself to us late in life. There are people who become famous for their new-found interest in things like photography, travel blogging, literary writing, painting, dance, fashion design, the culinary arts, social work, etc.

Feldman wrote that the wisdom in giving up an old dream is that we can have better use of our time and energy for a better one. We should not allow the world to prescribe to us a certain definition of success. We choose our own.

In my 30s, I dreamed of becoming the most-written about creative director in Asia. Later on I wanted to be president of an advertising agency. These things didn’t happen because the industry was full of much more talented guys. I moved to my current job where I have what I believe is the best job in the world for me. My division creates media that inspire a nation.

What is regretful is when one does not even give their talents a chance. We have friends who have grown old with their hidden talents remaining hidden. And they are so gifted! The reasons for not trying can be a lack of encouragement and support from family, loss of enthusiasm for life after a major heartbreak or loss of loved one, or it can be the fear of failure.

The fear of failure is understandable because being judged is among man’s greatest fears. People scared to take flight can be advised that no one escapes failure. In fact, I cannot name any superstar who was sensational from the very start. 

There is also this thing called “learned helplessness,” a term coined by Dr. Martin Seligman, chairman of the American Psychological Association, after doing his famous experiment with dogs.

I know there are people who don’t buy any comparison with laboratory animals, or are offended by experiments in which animals are harmed. I apologize, but for whatever it’s worth, let me mention Dr. Seligman’s own version of Pavlovian conditioning described in his book Learned Optimism.

In the test, the experimenters gave a burst of electric shock to dogs as they reached for food. Half of the dogs were able to stop the electricity if they pushed a button with their nose. The other half were not given such relief. The shock wouldn’t stop no matter how they pushed the button. After
some time, these unfortunate dogs just stopped trying. They accepted it as fate.

You are right, humans are smarter than dogs. That is precisely why I trust that the moments of pain and failure will not teach us “learned helplessness” if our destiny is worth fighting for.

In fairness to Dr. Seligman, his work actually intended to prove the advantages of optimism versus pessimism. But we will discuss that in another post.

Before Jim Carey became the highest-paid Hollywood actor, he was booed on his first comic stand up. The great comedian was also a failure when he first auditioned for Saturday Night Live.

My eldest son spent eight years in a four-year college course. He had a late and hard start in professional life. It was not very easy to earn the approval of his bosses and peers. Now at 34, he is writing comedy screenplays for the country’s top three movie outfits. I have not even written a single screenplay which has always been my dream ! We can’t say he’s already successful but that, I think, is a good brand new start.

The first verse of the song by deaf singer-composer Mandy Harvey goes :

I don’t feel the way I used to
The sky is gray much more than it is blue;
But I know that one day I’ll get through
And I will take my place again
If I will try. 

Let’s try before we give up. Whether for the old passion or a new dream, the world is always kind to people seeking another chance.

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