Never, except

It’s been said that nothing worth doing is easy. I believe there’s some truth to that. It takes four years of study to get a college degree. It requires nine months of pregnancy to have a child. And, last I checked, it takes a great deal of hard work and diligent savings to put a kid through university.

I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP.” I believe the actual quote from Winston Churchill was:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

I’m an optimist so, for the most part, I believe this is solid advice. It’s kept me in business for 12 years. It motivates me through tough times. But sometimes it seems self-defeating. How do you know when giving up is actually the wiser course of action?

I once tasked a tech-savvy employee with helping his coworkers improve their technological skills. Rather than share his knowledge, he opted to do their programming for them. After five years of this, I gave up and let him go.

I should have done it sooner.

I drove my last car more than 150k miles. I loved that Lexus and it was paid off. I was determined to hit the 200k mark. Unfortunately, the repair bills were quickly adding up and a couple-thousand dollars too late, I gave up and traded it in.

Up until recently, one of my single friends dated a divorced guy who expressed that he had no intention of getting married again. She wanted a commitment and, eventually, a marriage. But she fell hard for him and wouldn’t give up. Two years into the relationship, the two moved in together. She was certain they were on the path to happily-ever-after. When she finally realized they weren’t, she gave up and moved out. Now she feels like she wasted two years of her life. She didn’t give up fast enough.

A friend of mine has the emotionally wrenching job of working with cancer patients in a local hospital. One of her patients, who had been successfully fighting the disease for several years, discovered the cancer was back in full force again after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant. She decided to spend her last remaining weeks at home instead of continuing painful treatments at the hospital that would add only weeks to her life. She wanted to enjoy all the time she had with her husband and children.

I have a neighbor who considers himself a technology geek. He’s always trying to do his own email marketing. When he runs into issues, he calls us. But he ends up spending more to fix the problems he creates than he would have spent to have us create his emails for him.

In Winston Churchill’s quote, all those “nevers” are followed by “except to convictions of honour and good sense.” I guess it takes pretty “good sense” to give up on things that cause us more harm than good.