Never give up


Be persistent, by default.

It is possible to create new things, situations, fortunes, futures and possibilities through the sheer force of your mind, also great companies, beautiful art and trips to the moon. It takes just one person and their idea to make it become reality. It might take time, but it will happen if you persist.

In his modern inspirational self-help classic, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill described how the early American super-entrepreneurs like Rockefeller and Morgan built business empires through determination and mental power. You can have everything you want if you are willing to work hard and make sacrifices. You have to decide whether it’s worth it to work hard and become a multi-millionaire if it also means that you never see your children grow up.

I have two balancing perspectives. One is that you should never give up – eventually you will get what you want. The other perspective is something I call Let’s Fail Quickly. To actually give it up. There is a fine line between knowing that you will ultimately succeed by hanging in there and applying more willpower, and realizing that it is time to quit. Put it in perspective: you want to win long term and don’t give up on your goal, but along the way you might have to fail many times.

It is always better to identify early on when you are up against unbeatable odds and cut your losses, try a new route forward. An example of long-term failure, from hard experience at one of my own companies, came from investing year after year in establishing our business in a new market, only to realize after years of time, money and effort spent that we weren’t going to succeed because of poor economic conditions, messy competition and the wrong people hired. Had we pulled out all the stops and thrown more time, money and resources at it, we might ultimately have succeeded – but it was simply not worth it.

I think, of course, that if you never give up even the most hopeless project will eventually be a success. Everything is possible and nothing is doomed. But sometimes it is not worth pursuing. Since my mindset, by default, is geared towards making things work, I don’t give up. I try, and try, and try. However, if I become convinced that it is not going to work, I’m quite eager to fail as quickly as possible, take the loss and move on.

The tricky question is to know when to quit. It could be a financial decision, an operational one or simply a gut feeling. Usually, the reason and the moment will appear naturally. It is generally harder to quit or shut something down when a lot of time, effort, financial and emotional investment and personal and political prestige are involved – not to mention complex dynamics, like the European Union and the euro – while more trivial projects can be closed down more easily. Just as you should like to succeed, you should be aware of when it’s time to fail. But your default setting should be to never give up.