One of the hardest things in life is to know when to keep going and when to move on.
On the one hand, perseverance and grit are key to achieving success in any field. Anyone who masters their craft will face moments of doubt and somehow find the inner resolve to keep going. If you want to build a successful business or create a great marriage or learn a new skill then “sticking with it” is perhaps the most critical trait to possess.
On the other hand, telling someone to never give up is terrible advice. Successful people give up all the time. If something is not working, smart people don’t repeat it endlessly. They revise. They adjust. They pivot. They quit. As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Life requires both strategies. Sometimes you need to display unwavering confidence and double down on your efforts. Sometimes you need to abandon the things that aren’t working and try something new. The key question is: how do you know when to give up and when to stick with it?
One way to answer this question is to use a framework I call the 3 Stages of Failure.
This framework helps clarify things by breaking down challenges into three stages of failure:
In the rest of this article, I’ll share a story, solution, and summary for each stage of failure. My hope is that the 3 Stages of Failure framework will help you navigate the tricky decision of deciding when to quit and when to stick with it. It's not perfect, but I hope you find it to be useful.