It requires no effort to look at the broken mess of your latest attempts and to decide that you are a loser.  It requires no skill, takes no strength, and uses no calories to lie flat on your back and say, “I give up.”  Walking away, throwing in the towel, deciding that it’s no longer worth it is the simplest thing.  Admitting that it was a stupid idea, taking all your marbles, and trudging off home is always the least you can do. 

People give up all the time.  How do you know you’re not being a fool to keep on in a task that everyone knows is hopeless?  Why continue the heartache?  Why beat yourself bloody?  You know it can’t be done, so why keep on? Discouragement is the easy setting in the game of life.

As an author, these are the questions that intrude regularly. But then, everyone has them.  They are common to humanity: the student struggling to keep up in class, the new recruit in boot camp, the young woman struggling to learn a new dance step, the athlete trying to improve his time, the pitcher struggling to get his curve ball to work, the accountant pulling his hair out trying to find the discrepancy, the law student taking the BAR once again, the actor still waiting tables, waiting for another audition, the unemployed pounding the pavement and getting pounded for another fifteen weeks.  Every day, we face the spot between the rock and the hard place and every day we have to decide: is it worth it?

Most probably decide it isn’t.  People toss in the towel all the time: they drop of school, they give up their art, stop the music, turn their backs on their dreams. They decide that the cost is just too high.  They need a nap.  That’s what they decide they really want.  Just a nap.

 

A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest—

 and poverty will come on you like a thief

and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:10-11)

 

So is easy what you really want?  Is your goal no longer desirable?  Were your dreams stupid?  Did you know the job was tough when you took it?  Did you understand what you were getting into?  Did you think it was going to be a cakewalk?

Really—what do you want?

            The ancient prophet Jeremiah faced the question, too.  And God had some words for him:

 

If you have raced with men on foot

and they have worn you out,

how can you compete with horses?

If you stumble in safe country,

how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5)

 

            One of the most grueling sports events is the Ironman Triathlon.  A participant must swim 3.86 kilometers (2.4 miles), then, after completing that, he or she must ride a bicycle for 180.25 kilometers (112 miles), and then finish it all up with a marathon: running 42.2 kilometers (26.2 miles).  And the participants must do this in order, without taking any breaks.  Oh—and you’re not allowed to take more than 17 hours to complete the triathlon.  And it takes years of training just to get the right to stand on the starting line.

            Me, I’m perfectly happy doing the occasional 5K (running five kilometers).  I have no interest in the Triathlon—or even doing a full marathon.  In contrast, I have a friend, an engineer with Lockheed, who loves to run.  He participates in multiple marathons every year and has won a few.  He has toyed with the idea of doing an Ironman.  He knows it will be hard, and he hasn’t decided yet if it’s worth it.

            And so we begin to see the key to this whole idea of persevering versus quitting: it comes down to how much you really want a thing.  Running long distances is something my engineer friend enjoys.  For him, all the training and suffering is worth it.

            My wife’s first teaching job was at a small private school.  She became friends with the kindergarten teacher there and they carpooled to work.  Her husband was an aspiring actor.  He attended the California Institute of the Arts and graduated with a master’s degree.  He was very good and we attended multiple plays that he acted in.  After he graduated, he began landing roles in commercials.  But he and his wife had agreed to a time limit: if he didn’t land a television or movie job within two years, then they’d move back to the Midwest where they were from.

            So, despite regular roles in commercials, after two years they packed up and left.  He no longer acts at all.

            Could he have become a professional actor? 

He quit.  Could have doesn’t matter.  It never happened because he quit trying.

There are too many aspiring writers out there who don’t want to write—they want to have written.  Many would like to have done the Ironman; few are willing to do the Ironman.

            Is your goal just a pleasant daydream?  Do you fantasize about the accolades, or the work? Is quitting the simplest thing—or impossible?


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