On giving up

British Royal Marine Joe Townsend, a Wounded Warrior with the Allies Team, shot puts during the 2012 Marine Corps Trials, hosted by the Wounded Warrior Regiment, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 19, 2012. Townsend, from Eastbourne, England, placed first in the 10-kilometer hand cycling competition and 200-meter wheelchair race. Wounded Warrior Marines, veterans and allies are competing in the second annual trials, which include swimming, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, track and field, archery and shooting. The top 50 performing Marines will earn the opportunity to compete in the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., in May.
Photo “Shot Put” courtesy of Daniel Wetzel on Flickr

Every success is the culmination of a series of failures. To get it right once you have to get it wrong a hundred, maybe a thousand, times. Then you get it almost-right a thousand times more. The day arrives, at last, when you succeed.

Or it doesn’t, because there are no success guarantees.

Not all visions will come true. Many businesses will fail. For every story of Olympic glory, there are a million stories of dreams unfulfilled.

Giving up on a dead-end strategy or a flawed prospect can be part of a powerful process. The challenge is knowing when to change course. How can we know the time has come to give up on a venture, a product, a career, or a goal?

There are two kinds of success—task success and life success.

Task success. If your goal is to go to Rio de Janeiro and win the 2016 gold medal in shot put, you have one pathway.

Life success. If your goal is to lead a happy, satisfying life in sports, there are infinite pathways: weekend warrior, coach, fan, collector, researcher, writer, historian, trainer, scout.

Task success is clear, discrete, and measurable. Either you win the gold or you don’t. You can assess progress and the likelihood of reaching your specific goals. Emotional success is the desired long-term condition of your life.

Imagine a thousand-mile trip. How do you navigate your way to the destination? By focusing on a visible, short-term point along the horizon that brings you ever closer to an end-point you can’t see.

Have a long-term pathway and a series of short-term pathways that support it.

One is a point on the near horizon, and the other is your final, desired destination. Both speak to the things that will enrich your life.

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