Ending the “I can’t, so I’m going to quit” epidemic


Stepping in mud is never the issue…

I’m writing a lot of words that I hope will someday become a book. Yesterday, I wrote about a time when I tried to do something big, something that was a huge stretch. It didn’t work out the way I wanted, the way I had vision boarded (not to be confused with water boarding).

So I quit. Not all at once, not in a pouty exit-stage-left flounce, but in my heart, I was out of there. Years before I actually put an end to the project. Which pretty much meant it wasn’t going to succeed.

Writing about this from the vantage point of today, I want to reach back to younger Jen, take me by the hand, and say,

“Baby doll, you got a truck load of crappy ideas ruining your show. Sit down, darling. We need to talk.”

Here are a few of my then very stinky ideas:

I had experienced early success with my first book, ergo all my ideas would be similarly wildly popular.

What I wish I knew: how to ask my audience what they wanted & match that to what I cared about. How to stop thinking I deserved more success. Ouch on my story of entitlement.

Success comes fast and with ease or it’s not meant to be. Best then to walk away.

This one stinks to high heaven. What new age manifesto made me think affirmations make a business plan?

When things don’t work, it means I’m talentless and I should go open a cheese store.

Ouch! Where was Carol Dweck and the growth mindset when I needed her? Mistakes and setbacks are a chance to ask, “What do I need to learn? What can I do differently next time?” Period. They are not an indication of a lack of talent.

Do the hard parts yourself. You can have help but not much.

What I know now: learn everything you can, often by doing, about your business/art so you can hire help intelligently. Assess often: what do I need help with so I can focus on bringing in more revenue and developing my skills/services/network? Where can I cut costs that aren’t contributing to my profit or my well-being? Where am I hiring help to “fix” me or my business rather than support services (hugely important – knowing that would have saved me $40,000 bucks!).

Myopic thinking, otherwise known as, “I had this idea, now that’s the way it has to go down. Or nada.”

Now I brainstorm with my Brain Trust. You have one, right?

If you are stuck in any similar crap thoughts, you aren’t in the position to decide whether to continue or quit! You don’t have good data set to make an informed decision (marrying a scientist has its perks). Instead, try:

  • taking action every day (reading, studying, and getting coached to get ready to take action does not count) and track the action you are taking
  • stop doing things that don’t move your project forward, even if everybody else is or you think they should have worked by now
  • telling people about your work/offer/gig/art
  • telling people again
  • telling people yet again
  • asking, “What do I need to learn?” when you fail instead of, “Obviously, I am crap and this is not meant to be.”
  • striking “meant to be” from your vocabulary
  • soliciting honest feedback from a few smart people, being undefended enough to hear what they say, and then brave enough to do what you think is best
  • indulging in self-care that makes you stronger and more resilient (rather than giving in to shadow comforts)
  • not to believe the critical voices that talk crap in your head
  • taking daily action instead of spending more time saying affirmations or visualizing the ideal outcome

Your ideas, your art, your social change movement deserves all you got, and all you got, given time, support, learning, and a growth mindset, is more than enough. Dig in my friend, dig in.



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Masha - June 12, 2014

Oh. My. God. Jen, I feel like you and I are in the same forest chopping wood and carrying water. I so so get this. I finished reading Mindset a few short weeks ago and it’s completely changing the way I approach things.

    jenniferlouden - June 12, 2014

    perfect, so glad you are reading it!!!

aileenreilly - June 12, 2014

I love this. Seriously love it and it’s what I needed to read right now. Quick question though — so we should “try believing the critical thoughts that talk crap in our heads”? Can you expand on the “why” of that? I thought it might be a typo, then no, I must be misunderstanding, but then no, she must mean that. So, is it bc there might be some value to what the critical voice and crap says? How do you determine its value say over its crap?

And then the post says spend more time with visualization than daily action but above it says take action. ?? I’m a little confused by that. What am I missing?

    jenniferlouden - June 12, 2014

    I am so sorry, you can see, I hope, that was a typo, left over from a different version. Confusing, thanks for catching i!!

Suzi Banks Baum - June 12, 2014

Okay then, I will find myself a copy of Mindset. I really appreciate your suggestions Jen and the stories of your experience. I keep hearing my friend Jan Phillips who always says, “If she can, I can.” xo S

    jenniferlouden - June 12, 2014

    it’s a great book!

Nancy E. Gibson - June 12, 2014

“When things don’t work out, it means I’m talentless and should go open a cheese store.” It made me laugh and struck a chord. I think I might have opened a wine (whine?:) store next to your cheese shop Jen. Thanks for giving me the boards and signs to close up shop and move away. I’m slowly, slowly, coming back to writing one day at a time:)

    jenniferlouden - June 12, 2014

    one day at a time is all we need Nancy. What do you pair with a very ripe triple cream brie? 🙂

Carolina Luciano - June 12, 2014

Oh, Jen. Thank you again. I appreciate this so much. Can I give you an internet hug? never mind, I just did 🙂

    jenniferlouden - June 12, 2014


Sandra Pawula - June 12, 2014

I can’t believe how perfect the timing of this article is for me. I’m looking at how I can be more effective so I have more time to play! Of course, crappy thoughts are huge time wasters. And, your practical suggestions like cutting costs and take steps each day to move your project forward are so incredibly helpful. Thank you!

    jenniferlouden - June 13, 2014

    big grin!

Aine Dee - June 12, 2014

So clear, humble, funny and true!

    jenniferlouden - June 13, 2014


Deb - June 12, 2014

“What new age manifesto made me think affirmations make a business plan?” Oy va fargin voy; yes. That was a big part of my derailment back in the early 00’s … no more of that. Tomorrow’s my last day at my day-job and this time, the success I will have will come from so many of the bullet points on your list. Most important? Action. Every day.

Thanks for walking through mud … and still walking. xo

    jenniferlouden - June 13, 2014

    walk on!

JulieJordanScott2 - June 13, 2014

Especially love this line: “What new age manifesto made me think affirmations make a business plan?” Your voice is so crisp and clear, Jen. Popping in here reminds me of not only you, but me, too – – and connecting back to what I know and what I know many of us know and the reminders are always vivid. I see them in magenta primarily.

Thank you!


    jenniferlouden - June 13, 2014

    hey thanks! good to see you!

Valerie Kusler - June 15, 2014

I LOVED this post, Jen. So helpful to have a reminder of the grunt work that is part of any worthwhile venture, and all the reasons not to quit when things get hard. My worst “crap thought” is “I have nothing new to say/add that hasn’t already been said/done way better than I could, so why bother.” This thought gets me nowhere, so I just have to show up and do my part, and keep being open to spontaneous inspiration for ideas and creativity.

    jenniferlouden - June 16, 2014

    your voice and your stories have never been told.

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