While I was on a plane ride to Hokkaido, I…
Living is tough – we are constantly tangled between difficult decisions on a daily basis. What dress to wear, whether to go out or not, or whether to strike up a conversation with someone you’re attracted to… the list goes on. These decisions however are considered short term decisions – the outcomes of these decisions are likely focused towards the short term.
Rather, I want to bring up the attention of longer term decisions, decisions that require input for weeks, months, or even years such as – I want to make basketball as my living, I want to start my own business, or I want to become a rap star. These are our dreams, our aspirations, our hope. What makes these decisions difficult are that they require us to balance between hope and reality. Dreamers often do not want to face such reality, or to accept the truth, but by ignoring our actual circumstances we may hurt ourselves or even those around us. And so as much as we hate to, we have to constantly ask ourselves – when should I give up? What is the art of giving up?
In life, we are bound by many limitations. We are constricted by time; without time to build relationships we may lose touch with the ones we love, and with each passing moment we lose our youthfulness. Our time is valuable; we need time to be responsible for other people and towards ourselves; we need time to have fun, relax and be human, and we need time to bring in income.
Money is another consideration. Without money, you may not be able to afford what you want to do with what you have to do. Say you have a family with two kids, you’re a thirty five year old dad struggling to make ends meet and your dream is to make basketball a living, yet your skills may be amateurish at best. I’m not even talking about reaching for the fame or going to the NBA. We need to be realistic and responsible here; we need to realize that money is the vital factor in creating a livable situation for the two kids and your wife, and whatever family and friends that also rely on you.
Physical limitations are also limitations in life. We all come in different shapes and sizes, we all come with our own gifts but also our own imperfections. If you’re a seven feet giant living in this world, statistically the chances of you making it to a premier basketball league is much greater than the average person. If you are blind, it will be very difficult to fulfill a career on professional racing. Or if you’re sixty and trying to participate in the Olympics, your health and athleticism may make it near impossible for you to compete with the younger participants.
Your unique circumstances and priorities may also be limitations. For example, if your country is at war, the government may strongly advise you to participate in military services instead of becoming a tennis pro. Or say you want to become a world celebrity by becoming an Opera singer, but the current trends are geared toward pop and hip hop rather than classical music, you are going to have a difficult time. So yes, if fame is a consideration but the society trends are not geared for your aspirations, you may not be able to reach for the stars during your lifetime.
This list is not exhaustive of all the limitations. What it does bring light to is that each and every one of us has very different circumstances, and how much these factors apply to us differ amongst us. We must be smart about this and accept who we are and our own situation.
I hate to use the phrase giving up. To me, giving up is a choice made due to different reasons than the ones stated above (more on this below). Rather, the term ‘sacrifice’ is much more appropriate here. By understanding our reality and realizing our limitations, we sacrifice our dreams and our hopes for the greater good of society, for the benefit of ourselves, our families, and our loved ones. It is when giving up is a sacrifice should we then decide to quit.
When should we not give up then? Like I said, giving up is a choice. Too many times we see people give up too early and too fast. When people discourage us and say we’re not good enough, that’s not a good reason to give up. When we envy people better than us and tell ourselves we will never be as good as them, that’s also not a good reason to give up. Or when we say we won’t make enough money as we want to (when we’re already making ends meet) that’s also not a good enough reason to give up (unless your goal is to have a lifestyle that can be fueled only by lots of money). If we tell ourselves it’d be a waste of time if we don’t reach to the top, that’s also not a good reason to give up. As long as you’re passionate about what you’re doing, these reasons should not deter you to stop doing it. Sometimes we will blossom into doing something that will be unique to our own that other people cannot claim. And if we can only contribute a smaller slice of the pie than we would have liked, so be it, but that will forever be your slice.
Those who do what they do for the fame and money will have a much more difficult path than those who focus on becoming better at what they’re doing. Fame and money aren’t something you can exactly “aim” for; if it happens it happens and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. I’m not discouraging anyone who wants to pursue fame and money, and sure there are ways to better secure these things, but the factors for them to happen can sometimes depend on fate. For instance, you may be four feet five and want to become a great basketball player, but if you want to go to the NBA for the fame and money, you may be disappointed. Or take DJing as an example – being a world recognized DJ now can earn you millions, but back even a decade ago the money you would have earned would have paled in comparison. You may be lucky or unlucky enough to be born in the era where your interest, money and fame merge together. And that’s why our aim should be directed towards goals that can be improved through hard work and effort.
The art of giving up is a difficult art and one best understood early. If your goal is to travel around the world it would be best to start young. The older you get, the more responsibilities you would have, and therefore the more difficult it will be to reach this goal.
What makes ‘giving up’ truly an art are the risks involved in our decisions. Should you quit college early to work on your business that has shown promising but unproven potential, or should you give up owning a business? What if the loss of a college education could have a negative impact on the long term outlook of your career if the business doesn’t work out? Or say you want to pursue your dreams of becoming a rock star full time by quitting your job, how will that play out in the long run? It’s these unknowns that are difficult to predict that makes giving up (or sacrificing) an art.
But this is just our toes dipping into the swimming pool, this post doesn’t do justice to all the factors that play into consideration of when to give up. As I mentioned, everyone has their own unique genetics and circumstances that will affect their decisions. Serena Williams, noted for saying sports weren’t her most passionate interests, may not have had the lifestyle she has today had she quit pursuing tennis. Do you go for something you’re interested in, or something you’re good at and can make lots of money, or something that brings in stability? Each of us has a different answer to that, and these answers will be affected by salary difference, lifestyle difference, personality etc.
What this post does is it gives you a basis to consider when you are thinking about giving up on something that may have a longer term impact. Give up when it becomes a sacrifice, not when it becomes a challenge. Know what you want in life. And do your best to predict the outcome of your decisions, but whatever these outcomes may turn out to be, accept them fully and move on. This is the best way to live our lives to our full potential.
* Image of HK Band Project Ace