How to Know When to Persist, Pivot or Give Up and Pack it In

How to Know When to Persist, Pivot or Give Up and Pack it In

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This isn’t your standard “persevere and conquer” pep talk. You’ve heard it all — ‘Push through, never give up, you can achieve anything if you set your mind to it.’ Sure, resilience is crucial, but let’s be real: That advice starts to ring hollow when you’re up against wall after wall and you experience rejection after rejection.

At some point, you’re left wondering if the struggle is even worth it. Most articles don’t tell you that resilience isn’t just about bull-headed tenacity; it’s also about discernment – understanding that there’s a fine line between tenacity and futility. The wisdom lies in knowing when to dig in your heels and when it’s smarter to pivot. Often, a “no” is not a stop sign — it’s a detour sign that says, “Adjust course.”

Related: Why Saying ‘No’ Can Actually Help Your Business or Startup

The case of the unwavering pursuit

In the mid-90s, my young and struggling advertising agency grappled with the constant challenges of an upstart company, such as personnel, cash flow and client acquisition. We were small but ambitious, armed with a unique approach for helping large companies market and sell their products to consumers through resellers, such as dealers or retail outlets.

Undeterred by our size and confident in our approach, we had our sights set on the big, national players. One of those big players on my radar was Troy-Bilt. For two relentless years, I pursued them with the confidence that we had a unique marketing solution they couldn’t afford to ignore

Given that they were just a two-hour drive away in Albany, NY, I took the liberty of making several unscheduled visits. To say the reception was lukewarm would be generous. At one point, I flat-out asked their V.P. of Marketing if I was becoming a nuisance and should just go away. His answer never wavered: “No need to leave; always good to talk, but we’ve got nothing for you.” Then, two years into this dance, the phone rang. It was them. “Scott, we’re ready to give you a shot.” That shot transformed into a multi-million-dollar annual program that sustained for several years.

Related: 5 Ways to Master the Persistence That Makes a Great Entrepreneur

The psychology of ‘No’: Your mindset dictates your response

Rejection is far more than a bruise to your ego — it tests your emotional intelligence and resilience. Often, what hurts us most is not the rejection itself but our emotional response to it. We ruminate, second-guess and eventually let that “no” settle into our mindset as a prohibitive obstacle. But if we can shift our perception and see rejection not as a blockade but as feedback, we turn the tables.

Mindset matters. A resilient mindset interprets a “no” as a “not yet” or “not this way.” It’s an invitation to revisit your strategy, adapt, change course and charge forward. Your next victory is as much about your mental calibration as it is about the external opportunity.

Related: Never Underestimate the Power of Adversity: How Hardship Builds Resilience

When to push forward and when to pivot

Ah, the million-dollar question: When is a “no” really a “NO,” and when is it a “try again, but differently”? Even the most tenacious of us need to recognize that some doors are meant to remain closed. Perhaps you’re chasing a deal that isn’t the right fit or sticking to a strategy that’s clearly not working. In those moments, the wisdom to pivot is invaluable.

The key here is data and intuition. Collect and analyze data on your efforts. Are you getting closer to a “yes” or further away? Your gut feeling, informed by experience, will often be your best guide. And remember, redirecting your energy doesn’t mean defeat — it means you’re savvy enough to focus on battles you can win.

Related: The Art of the Pivot — 6 Steps to Reengineer Yourself for a Career Change

Rejection is often not about you

We often internalize rejection as a fault in our personality, skills or ideas. That’s rarely the entire story. External factors — economic downturns, corporate restructuring or internal politics — often contribute to that “no” more than you might think.

So, when you hear that dreaded word, take a step back. Separate your personal attachment from the situation to objectively analyze why you were rejected. Was it the wrong time for the company? Were there budget constraints? Perhaps a change in leadership? If the rejection involves factors out of your control, don’t let it weigh down your self-worth or deter your progress. Instead, revise your strategy, recalibrate your pitch, and knock on the next door with renewed gusto.

After you’ve paused to analyze the rejection, knowing full well that many variables could be out of your hands, it’s time to look forward. Start by refining your game plan. There’s an art to taking a “no” and letting it sculpt you into a better, more prepared individual. Pivot your approach, retool your game plan and consider “no” a constructive critique on the road to “yes.”

Now, you’ve got to build some mental muscle. Rejection stings, but resilience is the salve. Put rejection in your rearview, as your focus needs to be on the road ahead. Every setback is just a setup for an even greater comeback.

And please, for your own sake, don’t get tunnel-vision chasing one opportunity. Diversify your approaches; it’s like having multiple lines in the water when you’re fishing. One might not bite, but another will. Keep your connections fresh and your network dynamic. Your next opportunity could come from the most unexpected conversations.

So, as you continue on this unpredictable path, never lose sight of your dream. Every great story — from Edison’s thousand attempts to create a light bulb to J.K. Rowling’s twelve rejections before Harry Potter saw the light of day — includes an anthology of “no’s.” Yours is no different. The ‘yes’ you’re searching for, the one that changes everything, could be just around the corner. And the lessons learned from each “no” along the way? That’s your roadmap, filled with detours that make the journey richer, not just longer, but only if you dare to persevere and the wisdom to pivot when needed.

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