When do you tell the difference between quitting and pivoting?
I think there’s an absolutely huge difference between them. And the answer is never written in the stars, but within our own capacity to meet them.
A few years back, I binged the series ‘Halt and Catch Fire.’ For many of us in small business during the 2020 pandemic, it will feel like a perfect metaphor for scrambling, learning, and strategy.
For the first time ever, understood the power of pivoting into new opportunities.
Header image copyright AMC
The main characters follow a fictional history during the rise of computers and the dot com explosion. From the first computer, to networked gaming to browsers, the main character is a visionary with the knack of seeing when the writing was on the wall, and when to double down.
In this story, these characters were the first to invent a bunch of the ideas that have changed our world. But things like corporate espionage, or being a day late to an expo, gave the competition the edge it needed.
So they are constantly in a race to learn and iterate faster than everyone else.
Here’s what impressed me. They all had absolutely huge egos. And they were all brilliant at what they did. And they poured every ounce of energy and skill and passion into their work to be first to market.
And, without too many spoilers, they had wins and losses.
The powerful lesson was the ability to look at the situation ego-free, and realize when the time for something was over – no matter how much you believed in it.
And pivot into a new opportunity.
It does take a lot of flexibility.
And it takes an awareness of yourself to realize that you’re not just quitting because things got hard.
I am constantly challenging myself on this.
It’s in my temperament to thrive on new projects, to seed new ideas, and then leave the actual building of the thing to other people. My mom’s voice haunts me to this day that I was a flighty-headed quitter.
So I take battle with this demon daily, thinking through my plan for the next few months, identifying if its really worth my time, or can be safely backburnered for a better time. And then making daily progress toward those goals.
And then, out of nowhere, the world takes a left turn into global panic and pandemic.
Many of us are re-thinking a lot of our strategies, and where we’re putting our time.
So don’t be hard on yourself. You may not be a quitter at all.
In fact, it is likely smarter to get out while the going is good, instead of grinding away blindly in the hope that things will get better.
So how do you distinguish quitting from pivoting?
It’s a great question. My answer would be that a quitter loses energy or interest in a plan that makes sense. A pivoter knows when to conserve and re-direct energy because a plan doesn’t make sense any more.