In novels and movies, the main characters almost always fight against their ambitious dreams or strong enemies for a very long time and accomplish remarkable achievements. We follow their tough journey towards their goals. They never give up, and eventually they achieve victory.
This is the plot of classic success stories. Not only in fiction but also in non-fiction and autobiographies. There is no such success story where the main characters do not make an effort, or just make a tiny effort, and be successful. If there was a movie like that, it would be a very boring story and would not be a hit and earn money. If a successful person wrote that he did not try hard to reach his goal, he might be considered a genius, but not respected so much, and the biography would not be a bestseller, so I doubt he would describe himself like that.
This is the reason why many of us undoubtedly believe that “our dream will come true if we do not give up.” or “winners are the people who did not give up.” Of course these are good points, but there are other points that we need to consider.
Foremost, we need to be aware that there are two types of “giving up”. One is to give up a goal. Let’s say, you want to be a successful footballer, like the one who shines in the Premier League or at the World Cup. Therefore, since childhood, you have practised football very hard, and when you become a teenager, you move to Europe in order to join the team of a lower league. You could be a starter there, however, you cannot be accepted by a team in the top league. By the time you reach this point, you are in your mid-20s. You think you have done your best, and a footballers’ career is very short, so you decide to give up your dream. Let us call this Giving-up Type A.
The second type of “giving up” is to give up the method to reach a goal. For instance, if you want to be a writer and get your works published, you might send your novel or article to many publishers1. But since so many people are doing the same, you will not get a positive answer from publishers. Then, you give up the original way to be a writer and try a different way. How about participating in beauty pageants? By doing so, you can meet a lot of people and widen your network, and perhaps, you might have some opportunity to write an article about cosmetics or fashion. It might not be the type of article you want to write. But now you are a writer, and if you keep doing it, someday you will be able to get a chance to write the things you want. Let us call this Giving up Type B.
Now you might think Type A is not good, and Type B is good. Well, I do not think so. The example of Type A is actually my friend’s story. Does he regret the choice of giving up his dream? Not at all. Is he miserable? The opposite. He is happy, and now he excels in his new job at an IT company.
By giving up his initial dream at a relatively early stage in his life, he gained a second chance and a second life. If he had kept pursuing his career as a footballer, he might have not been able to become a businessman, especially in Japan, where the seniority system does exist. He could be unemployed if he had not given up. Worse, there was not much chance to be a world-class footballer, and he could have been frustrated every day about the fact he could not reach his goal.
I also know a person who is a professional tennis player, and he is still pursuing his career. He is unhappy and frustrated because he is stuck around the same zone in the ranking in Japan. Unlike football where a lot of club teams exist and 9 players can play at the same time, tennis players are solo. No need to mention that winning a tournament is incredibly difficult, just participating in famous tournaments is very challenging as well, and most professional players will not make it to the court of Wimbledon or the US Open. Last time I spoke to him, he said that he knew a person who could play at Wimbledon at the age of 35 (or something, I do not remember clearly), and he was inspired, so he will keep the faith until he reaches the same age as the player. I said “that’s nice” because it is the line that is what you are expected to say while I thought if he actually does as he said, he might need to be unhappy and frustrated for another decade.
If I remember correctly, my ex-footballer friend was 23 years old when he decided to quit football. Honestly I thought it was a little early to give up when I heard the news. But it is what he did, and by giving up, he is happy now. At least he looks very happy in my eyes.
Movies, novels and advertisements always give us the idea that it is not good to give up. Therefore, we are inclined to think that giving up is not a good thing. Most of the stories we read and hear are narratives to make money. If no one goes to the cinema, the movie cannot make money back, and the film company goes bankrupt. If it is not a great story, a novelist cannot make a living. So, storytellers make a story that entertains readers and audiences.
Plots of “great stories” are similar and only a few in number, and these few kinds of stories are what we want to watch or read. We will read a successful person’s book or their autobiography. No one reads the story of failures, and these people’s autobiographies will never be published. It is because we do not want to read them, and publishers and film companies cannot make money.
Advertisements also encourage the idea that giving up is a bad thing. It is natural because companies cannot sell their products or services if people are giving up so easily. Advertisements of shoe manufacturers will never say that it is a fantasy that you can be a footballer. They might advertise; everyone can improve if you try hard and keep doing it, but if you give up, it is the end, and you are a failure, so giving up is a bad thing. So, keep doing what you are doing, and “buy our shoes” again and again.
However, the world has so many more people who could not make it. 99% of people give up their dreams at some point, sooner or later. In fact, it is so much more than 99%.
On the list of footballers by the Japan Football Association, more than 800,000 players are registered. However, how many are well known? In the World Cup, only 23 players per country are allowed to play. It is a 0.003% or less chance to stand on the pitch of the World Cup. Indeed, not all 800,000 people seriously wanted to be professional footballers from the bottom of their hearts, but they are people who have played football in the official game in Japan within a year, and I am assuming the majority of the registered footballers on the list is school-age children. They should have thought about becoming professional footballers, more or less, even it is for a moment, at least once. And considering football is not the most popular sport in Japan, you might understand the idea I am trying to say.
To give up your original aim is not a bad thing. In fact, in many cases, it is a better decision to give up than to keep doing it. Especially when it is Giving-up Type B, it might bring great results. Actually, the example about a writer that I showed for Type B is my story. I gave up my original strategy, the most common one, to accomplish my goal, becoming a writer.
Also, I need to mention that it is not easy to give up. People often say; “It is easy to give up, so quitting is the last thing you do” or something equivalent. But I strongly disagree with this statement.
Indeed, to start doing something is hard, and to keep doing it is hard as well, and this is true. But only at the beginning. Once a thing becomes a habit, it is easier to keep doing it.2 Some people go to the gym every day even though it is time and energy consuming. Training and practising toward your goals are the same. In terms of addictive things like alcohol or cigarettes, it is very challenging to stop, and many people fail. Gaming as well. Many people think it is a waste of time, but they do it as long as time allows. Keep doing these are easier.
This is human nature and universal nature. All objects obey the law of inertia; matter continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion. And an external force is necessary to change the state. The earth is orbiting around the sun without any force. Even if there is no engine, an object can continue moving and spinning. This is the natural order of things. 3
Quitting requires a lot of force, especially Giving-up Type B. If you have worked towards your goal, you should have constructed many things. And if you apply Giving-up Type B, it means you need to throw away what you constructed in the past, and start fresh for the same goal from zero. If your goal is “building a house”, and you found some faults you cannot fix and modify. In this case, you need to demolish the house and rebuild one from scratch. It will take time, and you might need to repeat some processes and do extra work.
However, it is like fixing an old car. Sometimes it costs more to fix than to buy a new one. Give up the old car, and buy a new one, if driving is your goal. If your goal is specifically to keep the old car, it is a problem. It depends on you. If you can afford the repairs, it is simple. If you have room to put the car, you can still own it as a vintage exhibition. If you do not have both… sometimes we have no choice but to give up a thing that is a lower priority on your list.
To keep doing things is not only easy but also simple. To change or quit, you need to think about it, consider the results it will bring, find the best way from countless options, and try the new thing. If you just keep doing what you are doing, you don’t need to use your brain and make decisions.
Therefore, it is harder to give up, and it is more challenging to give up. Therefore, giving up should be a smart decision. And it is better to give up before you have no other choice except for giving up because it will incredibly upset you and frustrate you. However, if you think deeply and give up by choice, your life can be improved. Even if you keep pursuing what you are doing, the time will come when you have no choice but to quit, like spinning tops must stop at some point. When that time comes, you will not have as many possibilities for the future. The sooner the better.
For the record, I am not encouraging people to give up. If you think you have a great chance, it is better not to give up, obviously. But if you are unhappy or frustrated to keep doing what you are doing, I do think giving up is an option, and it can bring you new life. Giving up is not at all a thing you need to be ashamed of. Some irrational people might tease you, or point at you as a failure, but I do not think you are, and they will change their attitude when you succeed in a different direction by giving up. So, if you give up things after thinking deeply and carefully, it means you are smart and brave.
- In Japan, we do not send our works to publishers, and it is considered rude to do it and editors will never take a look at it unless a person is well-known. Instead, publishers host writing competitions, and you can apply for them (The address of the administrative office would be a publisher, so it is technically “sending it to publishers” as well), and the winners’ works will be published. This is the way you can get your work published in Japan.
- When I was a little girl, I hated brushing my teeth. I sincerely hated it somehow, and teeth brushing was the most unpleasant time of the day. However, now I cannot spend a day without brushing my teeth twice a day. When I was young, I was always scolded if I did not brush my teeth, but now even though no one will scold me, I still brush my teeth every single day, even though physically it takes more energy.
- I spend hours in my bathtub while reading a book or watching a movie. It is hard to get out of the bathtub every day. Many days I stay there until the hot water becomes cold. And the coldness is the “force” for me to change my state, or I would want to stay there for the rest of the night.