Knowing When to Fall

From the novice to the elite, every trail runner falls. You’re zipping along, feeling light and quick, skimming over the earth, locked in a nimble rhythm of breath and footfalls, when suddenly SHIT! your toe catches on a rock or a root or just a lump in the ground that you misjudged, and in an instant you’re stumbling forward, and there’s a short moment where you can decide to fight it, try to recover your balance and set your feet under you and recapture your stride… or you perform a millisecond of mental calculations and decide that resistance might make the situation even worse, so you accept what is happening and you go slack, twisting your body to meet the trail with your shoulders, and WHUMP! you’re down and the air barrels out of your lungs.

In life we’re often taught that quitting is bad. We see nobility in those who fight the lost cause, go down with the ship, rage rage against the dying of the light. We’re told that “nobody likes a quitter.” We’re proud of our successes that resulted because “I never gave up.” When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And that’s true.

But let’s be fair to the notion of quitting. Sometimes it’s okay to quit. Sometimes you know the situation is bad and won’t get better. Sometimes you quit your job, or change careers. Sometimes you go out of business. Sometimes you get a divorce.

Just like in trail running, you may feel the collapse coming, and it’s better to guide the tumble before it careens out of control in a way that will only make the injury worse. So you quit and go down willingly, settle for a bruised shoulder instead of a broken neck. Successful people have often quit an effort in the past, knowing that the resources they expend trying to salvage a Bad Thing can divert them from eventual Big Success.

So don’t be afraid — fall down. Because it’s more important what you do afterward. You pop up again, check the damage. You’re okay. Maybe some raw strawberry skin on your palms, maybe beads of blood on your knees, but no big deal. You wipe your hands on your shorts, clean the mud from your water bottle, and start running again. You find the right job, the right soulmate, the right trail to being happy.

Because you knew when to fall.

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