Robert Kurson’s excellent book Shadow Divers is the true account of two weekend deep-sea scuba divers who discovered a sunken World War II German U-boat just 60 miles off the New Jersey coast in 1991.
The book is about the challenges they faced going down to very dangerous depths.
There was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the discovery of this U-boat so close to the United States. It also took quite an effort to retrieve as much as possible from the U-boat.
The project took about six years from beginning to end to complete it, and during that time some people did not survive. The takeaways from the project are summarized by Kurson, and there are lessons he draws from the all the preparation, focus, and dedication it took to complete this massive, complicated, and dangerous project.
I printed out that list of takeaways and I keep it on the side of a cabinet in my office because I find it really interesting to go through it periodically and see “Am I doing these things in my own life, not just my business life but my personal life as well?”
The last thing on the list is “the worst possible decision is to give up.”
I am not a fan of “all or nothing” thinking, so I’m not sure I would apply this to every aspect of my life. But I think it’s true in the context of the things that are important to me.
That said, you never know how close you are to success.
And there are times when we feel like giving up and there are times where we feel like it’s pointless even when we’ve invested quite a bit of our time and our emotional energy and our resources into accomplishing something.
I do think there are times when you should probably stop doing something that doesn’t have a high likelihood of success. In the context that he’s talking about, though, we never know how close we are discovering something really powerful or achieving something really tremendous; and that last bit of effort is often the thing that gets us across the finish line.
If you are working hard on something but not seeing the results you want, consider the idea that you never know how close you are to actually succeeding.
As Kurson reminds us, the worst possible decision may be to give up.