Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

Hold on with me here.  Kenny Rogers has a song called “The Gambler” that talks about a conversation between two men down on their luck.  Meeting on a train, the gambler says to the other man that he has some advice for him.  The key parts, in my opinion are the following few lines:

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run…”

Due to the fact that I seem to always have new projects going on, this part always struck me as funny.  I am honest enough with myself to be able to say that I have no idea when to walk away from something.  Oftentimes, I will hang on trying to fix things long after I should’ve turned it over to someone better equipped to handle the project.  Shutting it down is also another possible outcome in some cases.  I’ve always feared failure, but I convinced myself I could not fail if I didn’t give up.  I have learned, though, that sometimes a project is just not going to work out.

I was discussing one of my projects recently with my mentor, and I was looking for some guidance.  The project was not hitting the goals that I had set.  I kept telling myself to hold on for a period of time that felt appropriate, and I was struggling.  I could not tell if it was time to throw in the towel or to just continue on.

My mentor asked me what I stood to gain from terminating the project.  Additionally, what did I stand to lose if I keep it going?  These simple questions framed the entire problem quite nicely.  I concluded that the low momentum was what frustrated me most.  If I terminated the project, I really would not gain much at all.  The project is fairly well automated and requires limited input.  If I keep the project going, it costs a minimal amount of resources.  So I decided to keep it up.  Every now and then I would be surprised at a sudden and unexpected growth point.  Currently, that is enough to motivate me to continue on.

While projects are started for the best reasons and with the best intentions, not all will be completed.  Think about this in another way, and it is like relationships.  We have all had people come and go from our lives, sometimes without warning, and sometimes without cause.  However, you are not necessarily a failure for it.

So, at times, it pays to evaluate where we expend our valuable resources.  Whether it is time, money or energy, we should always be aware of where it goes.  With everything being so finite, can you afford to spend everything needlessly?

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