If it’s got a hold on you, Let. It. Go.

Someone just asked me today “…but if you know you’re right, and no one is behind you, when do you give up? And HOW DO YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF?”

I knew what she was talking about because for 20 years I’ve had to let various design ideas, process ideas, strategic ideas go. I let them go in favour of being reasonable, in favour of building long-term relationships and making lasting change over time. I wasn’t just giving in, I was putting my expertise out there and accepting what I could not change. I knew what she was talking about because just recently I had to walk away from something I’ve cared about for a long time, something that I wasn’t in a position to do or change or impact in a positive way — and it hurt.

Honestly, in our business, in ANY business, I can’t imagine a world wherein you can always be right or always get your way. Let’s face it, this is something my toddler is hard at work learning as I write. It’s just not realistic.

You will come across situations where you see a gap and you’re like Don Quixote chasing after that thing: you can’t garner support; everyone else seems blind. You will be in situations where IDEAL and REAL just can’t mesh—for budgetary reasons, for political reasons, for lack of reason it may seem at times. And this is one of the hardest lessons to learn: balancing your idealism with pragmatism, trading in a battle for the war, sacrificing your own ego for the greater team good, etc.

Sometimes, holding on is costing you more than letting go.  Holding on might mean:

  1. You lose trust from your teammates or business partners. They can’t remember the last time you fought for anything other than that one tired agenda, and they don’t want to deal with it any more.
  2. You miss the opportunity to see a bigger picture. You’re picking at a thorn when the rest of the troops are miles ahead, mapping their way through the forest.
  3. You’re just not serving yourself. Your idealism or your desires have got in the way of moving on. All you see is your blinding need to not fail; you’re stuck in a belief that isn’t helping you, your career, or your business.

Good design and good business require the ability to MOVE THE HELL ON. Fail. Fall forward. Resist the urge to define yourself by a single relationship, project, or opportunity. Take up the next challenge, faithful in the knowledge that you learn from any missteps along the way.

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