Know When to Walk Away
Do you know when to walk away? It could be walking away from projects, situations, relationships… I am the first to admit that I have difficulty walking away, especially when I have invested a lot of time in an initiative. I constantly hear that adage that was part of my childhood, “Finish what you start.” As a result, I stay in situations that are sometimes detrimental – I am not talking about situations that are physically dangerous – mostly project situations. Pursuing my informal liberal arts education has forced me to learn to walk away because of time constraints. Although it’s difficult, I am forced to walk away, but I should have anticipated that there would be courses that I chose that wouldn’t meet my expectations, and have a plan in place for alternatives.
Many of you many know the song, The Gambler, recorded by American country music artist, Kenny Rogers. In the song, he sings:
“You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em,
Know when to walk away, know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin‘ at the table,
There’ll be time enough for countin‘ when the dealin’s done.”
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler
If you cannot watch the video, go here!
Knowing when to walk away is not just a skill for gamblers, it’s a great life skill for everyone because we will face many situations in our lives when that skill comes in handy. Knowing when to walk away is necessary when negotiating, working on projects that are not bearing fruit, in unhealthy relationships, and the list goes on and on.
So what prevents us from walking away? Using myself as an example, I signed up for the course, the Structure of English Words, offered by one of the top universities in the United States. The description of the course was exactly what I wanted, except the professor was underwhelming, and the course was in audio format, yet he was referring to information on a screen, which I couldn’t see. There were some really good bits of information, dispersed throughout the lessons that I had taken. Because the course was free, I decided to make the best of it, so I worked on other lessons. Then when I decided that it really wasn’t working for me, I had already invested over 10 hours of my time, and didn’t want to walk away even then. I invested another few hours when it became clear that I had to walk away.
In another example, I started another course, and the first half of the course was excellent, and everything was fantastic, but then the professor started to talk about things that weren’t useful to me. I continued with the course because I had learned so much initially, until I realized that the best of the course had come and gone, and it was beyond the point of knowing when to walk away, so I walked away and felt disloyal because I had benefited from the course, and was now jumping ship.
In another instance, I started an anthropology course, offered by a university in Pakistan, delivered by a top anthropologist instructor. In the first lecture, the professor lectured first in Urdu, then he repeated it in English. Although the information was very good, I realized that the course would take twice as long because the professor was saying the information twice. Had I wanted to learn Urdu, this would have been the right course for me. This was at the beginning of my informal liberal arts education, so I stopped the course, and started working on other humanities course.
There are a few things evident in my situation that are useful lessons for others. I haven’t quite mastered the art of disengagement. With the Structure of English Words, there were payoffs once in a while, in the form of me getting really good information every so often. Should a once in a while payoff be good enough for you. In another instance, I was subscribing to the sunk cost fallacy. I told myself that I had invested a substantial amount of time and effort into working on the course, so I might as well complete it. But there are two sides to every argument, and we have also heard about throwing good money after bad. It is easier to walk away when you haven’t invested a lot of time, and that was evident in the anthropology course.
Knowing when to walk away, and actually walking away – quitting – we are opening up ourselves to better projects, situations and relationships. It’s never easy to walk away, so when you are entering a situation, although you are feeling positive, you also have to be realistic, spending time to think through the situation and decide at what point, you will be willing to walk away. I am writing this advice to myself to be better prepared next time.
According to Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher and theologian, “Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day, I walk myself into a state of well-being & walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, & the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill. Thus if one just keeps on walking, everything will be all right.”
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Author Bio: Avil Beckford, an expert interviewer, entrepreneur and published author is passionate about books and professional development, and that’s why she founded The Invisible Mentor and the Virtual Literary World Tour to give you your ideal mentors virtually in the palm of your hands by offering book reviews and book summaries, biographies of wise people and interviews of successful people. Connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.
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