How often do you call it quits on a great idea before you’ve made it happen?

My two young sons set up a lime-selling stand at the end of our driveway this past weekend.  They did quite well out of it, but not without initial sibling drama.

You see, they almost gave up before making the first sale because neither of the boys wanted to be the one who held up the sign to alert passing cars.  Too embarrassing, apparently.

And then I witnessed my older son, Ben, take the lead in a way that belied his 11 years.  He said to his little brother, “Whoever is holding up the sign when someone stops gets three quarters of that sale, and the other person only gets one quarter.”

Argument over.

My younger son worked the sign like a pro.

Here are three questions that leaders ask themselves before giving up on a project or an idea, thus allowing themselves to get more completed than a significant number of their give-up-too-soon counterparts.

Question 1: Is it worth the effort?

My older son, consciously or unconsciously, asked himself whether the lime stand was worth it.  And to him it was, for a few reasons.  Firstly, he’d never done it before and it was exciting.  Secondly, there was money in it.  And thirdly, he was avoiding doing homework – perhaps the deciding factor in the end.

If a project or idea is worth the effort, then it’s worth weathering the challenges that come with it.  Great leaders don’t change their minds quickly.  If they’ve decided something is worth it, it will take serious convincing for them to renege.

Question 2: How can we make this work?

Once Ben decided to continue with lime stand, he didn’t let something like an argument about holding up a sign get in his way.  Instead, he stopped and thought about possible solutions.  Knowing that his little brother would do almost anything for money, it didn’t take him long.

Leaders have flexibility about the journey.  They know what result they want to get, and a glitch in the process doesn’t mean anything other than it’s time to get creative about the how.

Question 3: What am I willing to give up?

Ben gave up 25% of the takings, and as a result the boys probably made even more than they would have if the split was 50/50.  Why? Because my younger son was incredibly motivated by making more money than his big brother, and persisted well beyond the time his big brother lost interest.  What was lost in margin was made up in volume.

Leaders know that sometimes it’s two steps forward, one step back.  Sometimes giving up something now brings even more later.

Your current initiatives

Pick a project you’re working on.  Perhaps one that’s stalling, or not working.   Ask yourself the three questions.

It’s not a lime-stand, I know.

It’s more important than that.