We talked last week about the importance of quitting. Now, not paradoxically, we should talk about when to finish.
Mastery is important. It not only makes you a master of something, it teaches you how to learn and it builds confidence since you’ve proven you can accomplish something difficult. But, you’ll never master anything if you quit. No shit, right?
The problem is that it’s always easiest to quit at the beginning, but it’s also best to quit at the beginning. If you know you’re never going to like something, or that you’ll never be good at it, it’s best to waste as little time as possible. But everybody sucks at the beginning of something new. Seriously. Most people really, really suck. If you’re a professional who makes his living doing something creative, most of your work still sucks. That’s just the way it goes. It’s hard to know when your suck is attributable to your lack of experience or your lack of ability.
And so, you should finish at least the first project you start in any field, even if it sucks, unless you are 100% sure you never want to do anything in that field again. If you’re thinking about taking up photography as a hobby, you shoot some film, and in the middle of your first shoot you think “This sucks. I never ever want to do this again. I’d sell my camera for a loaf of bread right now.” Fine. Quit. Don’t develop the film. Cut your losses and move onto your next idea.
But, you’re not allowed to quit if you think “Well, this is harder than I thought. All my pictures suck. I thought this would be more fun.” Develop those shots. Get them printed. Dissect them. Try to learn from the mistakes. Finish that little project.
This will benefit you in four ways:
- You now have a finished product that you can point to. “Ya, I did that.” Even if the final product sucks, you’ll always be able to point to that photo on the wall and say “Ya, produced some photography back in the day.”
- Maybe it won’t suck. You won’t know until you’ve finished the product.
- Regardless of the results, finishing something carries with it some satisfaction. Maybe you’ll discover that, even though it wasn’t as fun as you thought it was going to be, there are some other benefits that you really enjoy. Maybe you get something out of the later steps that’s totally worth the rest of the not-so-fun effort.
- Regardless of the results, the process might expose some other area you are interest in or do have aptitude for. Maybe you hate photography but discover you love nature and hiking as a result of your foray. Maybe you hate taking pictures but figure out you love developing them, or post processing, or design work, or framing, or selling.
Quit when you’re miserable. Quit when you’re incapable. Quit when you know you don’t want to do it anymore.
Finish when it’s uncomfortable. Finish when it pushes your ability. Finish when you’re not sure if it’s for you.