Should You Pull The Plug or The Trigger, and When?

when is whenYesterday I had an 800-word draft written to publish this morning and I hated it.

I kept writing because I thought I’d get somewhere good with it. It happens every now and then: Keep writing until you get to the good stuff. I might have to delete the first 500 words but that’s part of the process.

Last night, it just wasn’t happening but I wouldn’t quit. I carried on, and found myself getting deeper into preaching and cliché; two things I can’t stand. I stopped to take a dog walk and bounced the idea back and forth with Patrick trying in vain to find a better angle; a better way to approach the topic.

I scrapped the post and made a margarita (rocks, no salt).

Maybe some tequila and a plea for help on Facebook would help.

And it did. Discussion ensued, and the question presented itself: How do you know when to pull the plug or to pull the trigger? When is it time to say “when?”

Now we’re talking about much bigger things than a single blog post. It could apply to your latest project, a product launch, a job, a relationship.

I have a friend who is unhappy in her job. She doesn’t know if and when she should quit and launch her own business. Another friend trades in commodities. Every single day she has to make decisions like when to do a trade and when to cut her losses. I watch my husband work hard, really hard, on his startup winery. He conquers fear daily at taking the next step and getting their wine out to the market.

Seth Godin said, “We fail when we give up too soon.”

Kenny Rogers said, “You got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.” (I crack myself up. Daily.)

When should you pull the plug? 

Last Summer, I became unhappy in my job. I’d wake up with anxiety. It was spreading to my personal life and affecting my marriage. No one likes to see their spouse unhappy, nor do they like to be powerless about it. But it wasn’t time yet. Why? I don’t know. Maybe I had more work to do, more experiences to stack up. Maybe I just needed to move through my process at my pace – from realization to execution.

One day, I woke up and “when” had arrived. There had been signs along the way, but not one specific instance that I can verbalize. I knew it was “when” because I was paying close attention. I’ve been through this before and I know when to trust my self-talk (and I know when to tell it to shut up).

When should you pull the trigger?

On the other hand, when is it time to power through? To launch that product? To open your own business? To hit publish?

If we skip back two years to when I was offered the job as chief content officer of Spin Sucks, there was never a doubt in my mind I’d do it. I had a number of obstacles to work through in order to make it happen: I had to talk to my husband because it meant leaving our home for a year. I had to consider my clients and my business and hand them off to other capable hands. I had to move to Chicago for a year.

One night, two weeks before I left, at 11 pm, I had an anxiety attack. It hit me suddenly. “What the hell am I doing? What the hell am I doing?”

I started to hyperventilate. I went outside for a walk. It was six degrees out. I couldn’t catch my breath.

Despite that episode, I did it. I knew it was just pushing me out of my comfort zone. I never faltered on the fact it was a very good idea. And it was.

When is “When?”

A launch (of any sort) inevitably leaves you vulnerable, open to potential ridicule, and possible financial risk. What then? How do you overcome that?

I ask myself about the nature of the fear: Am I afraid because it sucks or I’m afraid because it’s outside of my comfort zone? Can you be honest with yourself and scrap it if it’s the former and move forward if it’s the latter?

Timing the flip of the switch from planning to the proverbial “publish” button is the question only each of us can answer. Is today that day? What are we afraid of? What are we waiting for? Ride the ups and downs rather than fight them.

How do you know when “when” has arrived? Are you trying to pull the trigger or the plug on something?


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  • geofflivingston

    I find when I am confused inside it is not time, and when I am clear it is. Confusion/conflict is that inner voice saying hold your horses!

    Writing, though, sometimes you have to drop the rock. I am going to release a project this year after 19 years. It was time. I realized it was time after reading Amazing Things. It wasn’t time until then. Why? Because I’m crazy and trust that inner voice.

    • Lisa Gerber

      I told my friend who wants to leave her job she doesn’t sound ready yet – for exactly the reason you said. She’s still confused. I told her she’ll know when it’s time.
      And! I can’t wait to see what you’re releasing this year AND! I just HAVE to read C.C.’s book. Especially after seeing how it influenced you. Best title ever.

      • LisaDJenkins

        C.C.’s book is great. I made my husband read it after he lost his job and he’s much clearer on why certain jobs make him miserable and why some opportunities light him on fire. He’s learning to choose and what’s right for the life he/we want.

        • Lisa Gerber

          I can’t wait to read it. my to-read list is very long.

  • Kate Finley

    I’m glad you ditched the other post for this one. I completely get what you’re saying. Completely! I get really excited for people when I hear that they’re in the “restless” stage … in my experience, that means something really exciting is coming!

    • Lisa Gerber

      That’s the thing – and you just have to be able to very honestly be able to differentiate between the fears. I hate it during, but I love it afterwards. :)

  • Shonali Burke

    First, I love this post. Second, I think it’s what @geofflivingston:disqus said, when you’re still confused inside. When I’m in those situations, I try to get to a calm place first. Then I close my eyes and let myself imagine myself making the decision at hand. If it fills me with terror, it’s not a good decision or, at least, it’s not the right time. If it makes me feel calm, even happy, it is. Sometimes it’s not that clear, and frankly, those are the toughest moments.

    Something I have been trying to relearn is how to let go. Literally; because I don’t think I realized how holding onto stress, even though I might say, “I’m not going to worry about it,” can be bad for me… literally! It’s one of the toughest things to do, to truly let go. I’ve been able to do it about twice in the last six months. Crazy, right?

  • Laura Click

    Oh man, have I been there. I definitely know what this feels like – both from the blog post perspective and from my business. Deciding when was the right time to quit my job and take my business full time was the hardest thing to do. It was a huge battle of head versus heart. My heart and gut were ready for a long time, but my head couldn’t logically give the green light. It’s tough balance for sure.

    It’s hard to get out of your comfort zone, but there is a difference between the fear of that and anxiety around something that’s leading you in the wrong direction. I think that’s why we have to trust our guts!

    • Lisa Gerber

      Yes, I love your story about that. A classic example. Eventually, you just KNOW. :)