Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Big Ten: 10 - Never Give up

"Never Quit. Don't ever, ever quit. Recognize that stopping now, regrouping to try a new approach isn't quitting. If you quit you'll regret it forever." Rudy Ruettiger.

There is a story of a man named Aron Ralston, a mountain climber. Aron lived for the wilderness, to be out there in the wild, alone and climbing. The more remote the place the better, such was his desire for solitude that he often wouldnt even tell anyone where he was going. 

One day he was climbing in a remote part of the Utah desert, as he put his weight on a lose boulder it came crashing down into a crevice, crushing and trapping his right arm. Miles from civilsation and with only a backpack of equipment, Aron was trapped in that crevice for days.

As humans we are built to thrive in the face of adversity. Our species has survived momentus natural disasters and events including the last Ice Age and we continue to survive in some of the harshest environments on the planet. For modern humans, sometimes the problem is that we just have it too easy.

Of course I don’t mean to trivialise the very real problems and challenges all of us still face. However, modern technology has made it easier than ever to have our basic needs met. For our ancenstors, giving up meant certain death. For many modern humans, giving up simply means staying at home and watching TV.

Often we have so much available to us that it's easy to think if it can’t be googled, home delivered or experienced in a virtual world it’s probably too much effort.

Here’s an alternative way of thinking:

If it can be googled, home delivered or experienced in a virtual world it's probably going to bring close to zero long-term fulfilment.

A fulfilling life is one of dreams and challenges, of work and reward, of set-backs and triumphs. As we go through our lives we have many dreams and we have many challenges. Sometimes life squeezes us from all directions, we come up against brick walls and we can’t see a way forward. 

That dream we have is a dream precisely because it's not easy. Many people came up against those same barriers and give up but its those very barriers that make the dream or challenge worth something. It's overcoming those barriers that makes our life meaningful.

But never give up?

Aron mentioned at the start, tried desperately to free his trapped arm. You may have already seen his story in the film '127 Hours' (the next few lines may spoil the ending if you haven’t). He tried with all his strength to move the boulder but no matter how he lifted, pushed or barged it wouldn’t budge an inch. 

He attached a rope and constructed a pulley system, still it didn’t move. Next he tried chiselling away at the rock but it was too hard. Finally, after more than five days, and on the verge of death from dehydration, Aron took out his knife and cut off his arm. He escaped to safety and is alive today to tell his story.

For a long time I had a problem with the idea of never giving up. It seemed to me that there were many situations where it is better to give up. Maybe circumstances have changed or it has become clear that what we are doing is not going to get results. 

Surely never giving up would be like a fly banging its head repeatedly against a window, then something struck me:

It’s possible to let go of the specifics while never giving up on the intention.

I think that’s a very important distinction. Aron’s intention was to escape. If he had just thought I’m not going to give up on moving this rock, he would have continued trying until he died from dehydration and exhaustion. 

Instead, he never gave up on the intention of escaping while letting go of the specifics of how he would do it. I’m sure when he first became trapped he never dreamed he would cut his own arm off but he become open to the possibility to do whatever it took.

Hopefully we will never be required to take such drastic action but the principle is the same. We probably cannot imagine right now how we will actually overcome some of the challenges we face or achieve some of the things we dream of. 

From my own experience, and I'm sure I'm not alone, I’ve noticed that solutions often come about in a way I could never, ever have imagined.

Whether we are in a difficult situation from which we wish to escape or we are pursuing a dream, the single most important requirement is to never give up on the intention. If we are open to all possibilities as they arise, our determination will take care of the rest.

Image courtesy of Frerieke


  1. Adorei o que escrevestes...como sempre, belas e sábias palavras. Concordo plenamente contigo, e devo acrescentar aqui, que tenho enorme admiração por ti e pela maneira maravilhosa como escreves. Te seguirei sempre, pq adoro ler suas mensagens. Elas me fazem muito bem. beijos.

    31 January 2011 22:59

  2. @patty Obrigado Patty. Como sempre, suas palavras me incentivar para continuar!