I have a problem. I start things.
It’s an addiction, really.
I get people spun up on some idea (could be mine or someone else’s I’m championing), parade off into the wild, and before I know it, I’m responsible for maintaining more than I possibly could ever have time or energy or interest or capacity. And a bunch of people are in the wilderness without socks.
I am just so sure I am going to do all of these freshly startified things because I am ridiculously passionate about them. And even more importantly: they need to be done! And I need to do them! And I want to do them! And holy shit there are a lot of them now. Aaand I’m going to disappoint a lot of people when they all come crashing in on my skull.
I set expectations that the thing(z) I’m doing I must surely be planning on doing forever. But, nope! I’m just a firestarter. The world definitely needs kindling, but it sure as hell won’t keep you warm in the dead of winter. And that’s fine. I know who I am and what my limitations are.
I used to be CEO of the company I started. Did that for 7 years and then just quit. I felt like a miserable failure to quit when I did. I mean, I felt like a miserable failure and that’s why I quit. But enough about that. The crazy thing was that doing that made me a better CEO when I returned to the position a year later. (How much better remains to be seen, but I’m slightly less of a basket case, and that seems "better", I suppose.)
I used to think there was some Great Virtue in never quitting anything.
"You can’t fail if you don’t quit," I would often say with all the earnestness of potato salad.
That’s probably true for a lot of things. It’s a good notion and a useful one. Seriously. I mean that. If you like that particular thought—keep it and just quit reading right here and you’ll have followed this random Internet stranger’s advice twice. Have a medal. 🏅
Nothing lasts forever. All of us anxious about wanting things to last? We’re in denial. Atrophy is the default state of life. Good things don’t last. But you know what? There is not a finite supply of good things that we will run out of if we don’t hold on for dear life.
The thing about life is it’s actually one hell of a lot freer than we give it credit for. At the end of the day, you don’t have to do the things you don’t want to do. And not just at the end of the day—that’s true at the start of the day, at the middle of the day, and at the teethbrushing time of the day, too. Toothbrushing? Whichever. You get it.
Know what? No one will show up when you’re on your death bed and congratulate you for not quitting things you spent most of your life wanting to quit. You probably won’t even get an emoji medal. (Better grab that one up top before you lose your shot.)
Yep, you quit doing a thing you didn’t want to do. What are they going to do? Take away your birthday?
And you’re really going to have to get honest about what it is that’s keeping you pressing forward on something that might just need to die. It might well just be your ego.
I like how Parker Palmer puts it: "Leaders who participate in this denial often demand that the people around them keep resuscitating things that are no longer alive. Projects and programs that should have been unplugged long ago are kept on life support to accomodate the insecurities of a leader who does not want anything to die on his or her watch."
So yeah, you should probably spend more time in your life putting Let it Go on blast and dropping mics.
But never forget: In every end is a beginning.
Eh, you’ll probably end up wanting to quit that, too, someday.