“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas A. Edison

Today’s quote from Thomas Edison is a very good bit of wisdom.

I’ve talked about stamina and persistence before (for example, in Message #151, “Breaking Through the Pain”). You sometimes want to quit just a day before success breaks. But you push on and are rewarded. Other times, you stop. And then you wonder if you stopped too soon.

I have several times been in a business that was losing money and was a single disappointment away from bankruptcy — yet I pushed on and was happy to find success.

It happened early in my career. I was in debt several hundred thousand dollars and feeling very frightened. I was very close to folding the business and taking my losses. My partner encouraged me to persevere. A year later, business was booming. I had made a miraculous personal transformation — from debtor’s prison to nouveau millionaire. That’s an experience I’ll never forget.

Recently, it happened again. A friend’s business was in debt about $500,000. Based on what I knew, I was about to advise him to throw in the towel. The day before I was scheduled to give him the bad news, his dad came to me and almost begged me to “save” his son’s business. He said he knew I could find a solution — that he was getting old and didn’t want to die worried about his son’s welfare. “Please,” he said. “You are the only one I can count on.”

I felt awful. How could I disappoint this man? So, despite the lack of any positive evidence that the business could work, I committed myself to finding a solution.

It was not easy. It took a lot of trial and effort, some out-of-pocket, and a few personal favors. Finally, about six months after that meeting with his dad, the business was solvent. Now, it’s very profitable.

Last night, I was wrestling with a 27-year-old, 6-foot-3-inch athlete. He is extremely fast, very strong, and much more agile than I am. I was rolled up in a ball and could hardly breathe. I started to panic. I almost gave up. Then I remembered something important. I had no idea how he felt. For all I knew, he was feeling worse than I. I took a breath and relaxed a little. “What position am I in?” I asked myself. “How do I get out of here?” I went back to the basics and, move by move, I extricated myself from a bad situation and gained control again. Ninety seconds later, I choked the sucker out.

There is no formula for knowing when to fold and when to keep pushing. But I do have a few rules of thumb:

1.If it starts off badly, stop immediately.

2.If it starts off strong but then sags, keep pushing as long as you can — then push some more. You will probably be fine so long as you relax, get back to basics, and conserve your energy, time, and money.

3. Don’t languish in uncertainty. When you feel as if you are in trouble, assess your options, determine if you still have any good moves left — and then decide. If you decide to quit, quit immediately and don’t look back. If you decide to go forward, do so with vigor.

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