Card of the day: 10 of Wands Reversed— Quitting is not Failing

I was reading the new Freakonomics book (Levitt, Stephen and Stephan Dubner, Think like a Freak, William Morrow, 2014.) In this book, they discuss the “Upside of Quitting.” They make a distinction between stopping and failing. Why quitting or giving up is NOT a failure.

We all subscribe to the Winston Churchill ideal of never, never, never giving up. We hear that for small businesses failing is not an option. Levitt and Dubner discuss why we tend to keep going: we have sunk too much time, money and energy in a project and we would feel like a failure if we stop. So we stay, in a relationship, a job, a project long after we are bored and want to leave it, because to go is to fail. But is giving up really a “failure” and is it such a bad thing?

Sometimes realizing something does NOT work is really a success. Thomas Edison was famously asked, did you really fail 9,000 times before finding what worked in a light bulb? His reply was: we didn’t fail; we succeeded in finding 9,000 things that DIDN’T work in a light bulb.  So you date some men and you don’t like any of them, you are not a failure at men or at life. You are finding out what you DON’T like in a man. You take some courses and find out you are bad at science or at dance or whatever. You aren’t a failure. You got good information about what you DON’T want or what you don’t do well. You just need to change to something you ARE good at, by experimenting, trying out different things until you find one you love.

The WorldTree tarot says that the 10 of Wands Reversed means that you are burdened or overcommitted. You may be trying to take on too many things. Most of us feel this way sometimes. We don’t like what we are doing, so we add something we like better, but we continue the old things too. Sometimes, this is good: if you want to start a new career, you start by doing it part time and see if it works for you, BEFORE you dump the old career.  But sometimes we want to start something new and we can’t, because we won’t give up the old things also.

I believe that to be stuck means that you are trying to hold onto two different things or ideas or life stages and you can’t keep them both. You are pouring energy and time into something you just don’t want anymore, which leaves you little energy for the NEW thing you want to do. So, you must choose.  To quit doesn’t mean you stop doing what you don’t like in exchange for sitting around watching TV and getting fat. It means to stop doing the old hobby while you start a new one that looks more fun, dump (gently) the old boyfriend to make time to look for one you WANT to be with, maybe even–after building up a safety net of money or after figuring out with a spouse how your family can live on one salary for a while–you quit your current career to reinvent yourself and try something else.

On big and monumental things, like a new career, you may have to do it gradually. You can take some classes on the side to see if you would like it. Eventually, even there you have to decide: stay and do this job or move on to the promising new one. You aren’t a failure if you do that, you have just found something you like (or can do) better.

People stay in relationships long after they realize this partner is NOT interested in getting married or just isn’t the right person for them. They need to get out of this relationship, so they can find the right guy, but they have invested so much time already (some tell me 3 years, some 5 years, one told me 11 years) they don’t want to go.  They need to leave, but they think they must admit to wasting all that time. But it wasn’t a waste of time, it taught them valuable lessons about what they DON’T like.

Dropping what isn’t working for you , so you can go in a new direction, try a NEW thing, reinvent yourself is a very scary action, but also very liberating.  No matter how much time/money/energy you have given to something, if you have taken it as far as you can, now you need to let it go. Don’t be afraid of failure, it isn’t a failure you if you figured out what did not work. That, I think, is the message of the 10 of Wands Reversed. Let go and go on!

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