This is the second in my series on Self-Help Fails. You can view the entire series here: https://stephendiamond.me/category/self-help-fails/.
- Never give up.
- Winners never quit and quitters never win.
- Success comes from persistence.
We’ve all seen these. Similar statements abound in self-help books. Is it good advice?
No. More people have ruined their lives by refusing to quit when they were failing than have succeeded by persisting in the face of failure after failure. We hear the inspirational stories of the few who make it. The other stories are rarely heard.
Wisdom is knowing when to stop attempting the impossible. If you’re training to be a concert pianist and discover you have no talent, you should switch paths sooner, not later. Aim high, sure. But if you find out you’re not making it, change targets before repeated failures push you into bankruptcy and divorce.
This is very different from saying don’t do something you love simply for its own sake. If you love playing the piano and recognize you don’t have what it takes for a concert career, then of course you should keep playing for your own enjoyment and for others. Often, the self-help gurus who say “never give up” fail to make this distinction.
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