Never Give Up with Rob Shallenberger
Every time we try to achieve something, there are two possible outcomes — we either succeed or fail. That is why most people believe that failure is the opposite of success, which is not. Failing is just a possibility; the opposite of success is giving up.
Rob Shallenberger: Welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. This is your host, Rob Shallenberger. Thank you for being here today. This is one of those principles and discussion topics that is powerful. In other words, there are certain times in our life when things may be going great and well, and it’s a nonissue. But there will be other times in our life when we get knocked down, we get hit, we get blindsided, punched, so to speak, and life’s tough. And that’s where Principle 12 of the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders comes into play, and that is to never give up. So, as we go through this podcast today, I’m going to share some thoughts, insights, and a couple of experiences that I hope are exciting and invigorating to you, by meaning, when we do have these challenges, sometimes we need that little pick-me-up, we’ve all been there, and that’s what I hope today will be. It’s not going to be a long podcast, but I’m confident that there will be some tips in here that can apply to all of us and can really make a difference, especially in those times when we may not be at our peak or our high. And this principle — there are two facets to it: business and life. From the business, I’ll just spend one minute on this side of it, and then just shift to life the rest of the time for this discussion. From the business side, there’s a group called YPO. These are presidents of organizations all over the world. Well, there was a study done amongst YPO members who are generally very financially successful people. And on average, each YPO member had had five major setbacks throughout their career and seven major successes. I think of that, and I think, “Well, how many times along the way could that person have given up, thrown in the towel, and said, ‘I’m just done. This isn’t for me?’” Well, there’s a lesson to be learned in there. Five major setbacks, those are probably gut-wrenching times in their lives, yet there were seven major successes.
So, what’s the power of never giving up? Now, I want to be clear on what I’m saying here: pivot, adjust, innovate, make adjustments, never give up. That’s the key. So, yes, pivot; yes, adjust. I’m not just saying, “Keep banging your head against the wall if it’s not working.” But I am saying that we have a dogged determination to figure it out, to get knocked down and to get back up and to figure out a way to succeed. I love what Mark Cuban said. And the gist of it was this: You can fail 10 times, but you only need to succeed once. Maybe you have multiple businesses that fail or whatever the case might be, you only truly need to be successful once. And that’s the idea: maybe failure, maybe failure, maybe failure, and then ultimately, there will be a success that follows. The key is to never give up.
Now, take a look at Elon Musk. You like him or not, it doesn’t really matter. No one can say that that guy doesn’t have this no-quit attitude. I mean, look at SpaceX. What if Elon would have listened to all the naysayers who said it was impossible? Just think of that. Even right now, he has his aggressive vision to go to Mars, how many people are saying, “No, Elon, that’s impossible. You can’t do that.” And between his vision and his no-quit attitude, he just continues to prove people wrong. And I just love that about Elon. Now, that’s the business side of it: pivot; adjust; innovate, yes; never give up, yes. How about on the personal side?
We’ve all been through challenges. Anyone listening to this has experienced different forms of challenges and knows that there are times in life where it’s kind of gut-wrenching. Never giving up, in my experience, is tied directly to hope. I mean, think about that. Hope is one of the most powerful motivators because we know there’s a chance, there’s a possibility that things are going to improve, or that we can accomplish something. You take away hope, and that’s when people really start to struggle. Viktor Frankl wrote about the concentration camps in Austria, Germany, and these different countries. As long as people had hope, as long as people had that spark, they could keep going and endure incredible challenges. As soon as they lost that hope, that spark, usually they died shortly thereafter. So, hope is directly tied to “never give up.” And there’s another aspect of it: whether running a marathon or something more on that line, “never give up” is a mindset. I mentioned this dogged determination to find a way to succeed. That’s a mindset; it’s refusing to stay down; it’s a commitment to always getting back up and trying again and never being fully defeated. I love these quotes, if you think about some of these people through history who really exemplified this principle of “never give up,” you may not have ever known their names if they would have given up on one of the thousands of opportunities they had to do so. Take Thomas Edison — his lab burned down in a big fire, it basically burned all of the things that he was working on. Now, he was in his early 60s and he could have said, “That’s it. I’m done. I’m not starting again from scratch.” Instead, he said, “There is great value in disaster. All of our mistakes are burned up. And thank God, I can start anew.” Number one, he acknowledged his creator, which I loved. Number two, what a mindset. Instead of complaining about losing his warehouse, he number one turned to God, and number two, said, “Wait a second, we’re gonna figure this out.” And the light bulb was invented, by the way, after that fire. So, what a great mindset. How about Michael Jordan? “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s precisely why I succeed.” Isn’t that a great mindset and glimpse into a winner? Again, are any of these people perfect? No, of course not. But what we’re illustrating here is the power of embodying this principle of “never give up.”
I wanted to share just a couple of stories here. One from my own life, one from a friend: the iron cowboy, which some of you may be familiar with. He was on a previous podcast we did. In high school, this is where I really learned the value of this principle. I went into wrestling as a sophomore and had an average season, it was fine. It wasn’t good or bad, iIt was just an average season. And then that summer, I really captured this vision of what I wanted to become as a wrestler. So, my dad really supported that, my parents, and they got behind me, and he happened to know the number two ranked collegiate wrestler at the time and he was just a couple weight classes different from me. So, he talked with him and said, “Hey, would you like a summer job? How would you like to do some private one-on-one lessons?” And he agreed to that, and it was awesome. I met him down at Brigham Young University and we wrestled together three or four times a week, I had these private lessons. And over the course of the summer, I became a really good wrestler, and a lot of it was due to the fact that it was just time on the mat; it was repetition; it was practice and spending the time that any sport requires. And obviously, it was the one-on-one coaching and the lessons. So, by the end of the summer, I was feeling pretty confident about things. Well, in the fall, we went back — now I’m a junior in high school — and they have the trials for wrestling. And I go in, I try out, and I wrestled through the ranks, I beat the guy that was varsity last year. And all these people, all of a sudden, it gets the attention of the coaches and others around, and they’re saying, “Oh, man, look at this guy, he’s gonna win state.” And I started doing these weird mental gymnastics because over the next two weeks, I’d beat everyone I’d wrestle and I’d beat them pretty quickly. And it’s not any form of bragging, it just was. And the coaches are starting to talk about, “Well, you’re going to win state. You’re going to do all these things.” And then these weird mental gymnastics started. And it was the craziest thing because I didn’t know how to handle that. I really didn’t share any of these things with my parents. It was just this internal mental battle. And I don’t know how I came to this weird conclusion, but I thought in my mind, “I have one or two things that I can do here. Either I can continue to wrestle, and there’s a possibility that I’ll fail and I won’t become a state champion, and then what happens? Well, then I let everybody down: my coaches, everybody that has these high expectations. And suddenly, I’m not a champion —” and here’s this weird mental gymnastic — “Or I could quit, and for the rest of my life, I could say I could have been a state champion, but not know for sure that I wasn’t.’” And I’m not even sure if that makes sense to you listen to this, but it was really interesting as a 17-year-old going through these mental — I just keep calling him gymnastics because I don’t know what else to call them. And ultimately, I quit, and it baffled the coaches. They were mad. They came down multiple times and pulled me out of my class and said, “Get back in here.” And I didn’t, I wouldn’t go back in. And for some reason, in my mind, I thought it’s better not to wrestle. And in the back of my mind always know I could have been a state champion than to continue wrestling and then actually not become a state champion, then I know for sure I wasn’t. And I thought the better option is to quit and always in the back of my mind, I’ll say, “I could have been.” Now, isn’t that an interesting fear of failure?
We can always learn things from life. So rather than going back and saying, “I should have done this, and I should have done that.” And I love what my brother-in-law says, “Quit should-ing on ourselves.” Too often, we use that word and it doesn’t lead to anything healthy, instead, what can we learn from that experience? So, as I looked back, and it wasn’t shortly thereafter that my dad and my mom, they really mentored me, “What can we learn from that experience?” And we ended up coming up with a mantra after that, and that was: “When we start, we finish. Shallenbergers don’t quit.” And that became our mantra. So, while I quit wrestling, and that is that is one of my great regrets in life. Having said that, the lessons that came from that, that was where I determined at 17 that never again would I let a fear of failure cause me to quit or not try in the first place, never again would I start something and not finish. So, after serving a mission in Bolivia and doing all these other things in the fighter pilot world, there were multiple times where there was a temptation to quit. But that was our mantra: “When we start, we finish. Shallenbergers don’t quit.” And that was a lesson that came from that. But that’s led to something else that I think is in the back of all of our minds.
If I was to ask you, and just like I’ve done with a lot of people in different keynotes, there’ll be a big crowd out there, and I’ll ask everyone to shout out the answer when it comes to mind. And the question I’ll ask is: What is the opposite of success? And for most people, the initial word that comes to mind is “failure.” Well, no. If we actually analyze it and think about it a little bit, failure is not the opposite of success. Look at anyone who’s been successful, whether it’s Edison, Elon Musk, Michael Jordan, or you, any success that you’ve had, you probably had some failures along the way that you learned from that allowed you to succeed. Just like my wrestling example, that was considered maybe a “failure.” That failure, however, has led to countless successes afterward and the lessons learned from it. So, the opposite of success is not failure, it’s giving up. Or even deeper than that, it’s not even trying in the first place. Because if we have a fear of failure, and that fear is strong enough, then we probably won’t even try. And if we don’t try, we’ve just assured ultimate defeat. So, this idea of “never give up,” not fearing failure, and having the dogged determination to get up is what you see over and over in champions.
I’ll just give you one final example of that in a real-world person. My good friend, James Lawrence, known as the Iron Cowboy, ran 100 Ironman triathlons or Ironman Distance triathlons in 100 days. People thought it was impossible, couldn’t be done. He did it out of his home, it was a course; ran the same course, either forward or backward each day. But still 100 triathlons in 100 days. At one point along the way, they had a big bike accident, and certainly an opportunity to quit in there. Numerous, as you can imagine, hitting-those-wall type moments and opportunities, and everybody probably would have said, “You know what? You are totally justified in quitting. You know what? Nobody’s gonna doubt you or even second guess if you quit here.” And yet he persevered. And what a mindset, that even when you face adversity, even when he faced challenges, snow, rain, he was still out there swimming, running, biking, day after day. And it was the grind because he had the right mindset to grind. And that’s the idea behind this principle. So, it doesn’t matter whether it’s something simple, it doesn’t matter whether it’s something big and challenging, even to the point of someone contemplating suicide: No, we never give up.
So, the question then is, what do we do? What can we do to never give up, especially when things are hard? And that’s where I want to wrap up this podcast. Just a few thoughts for you. And these are questions that you can ponder and you can think about. But the idea is that when challenges come, when life gets difficult, we can lean on these to push forward and through those. So, here are a couple of questions that I invite you to think about and ponder. Think of an experience in your life when you felt like it was tough to go on or you were tempted to quit, see if you can capture a moment in your life where you felt like quitting. What were the feelings that surrounded that experience? Now, from that experience, what was the result of not giving up? Assuming that you didn’t, what was the result? And what can you learn from that experience? So, in other words, as you look back on it and you say, “Here’s the experience. Here are the feelings, the emotions surrounding it, and yet you didn’t give up.” Why? What helped you persevere and push through that? Or caused you to get up again? And then what can you learn from that so that when future challenges hit, you can replicate that, you could go back to that? So, in other words, what you want to do is have several things that you can do next time you find yourself in a challenging situation.
Here are just a couple that I go to, these are some of my go-to’s. Number one: I always start with the vision and not the problem. That’s the name of one of our books. It’s a six-step process, but the title is Start With The Vision. So, I encourage you, when things get challenging, when they get hard, it’s easy to get sucked into the problem. Well, the problem is the exact wrong place to focus our time and energy because where our focus goes, our energy flows. Let me say that one more time: Where our focus goes, our energy flows. So, if our focus goes to the vision, our energy flows towards that; there’s hope there. If our focus goes towards the problem, there’s usually not a lot of hope in the problem and it becomes more of a spiral than anything. So, that’d be number one is I would suggest saying, “Well, let’s step back and start with the vision rather than the problem.” And then number two is to realize: Hey, you know what? Tomorrow’s a new day. We have a fresh start, a clean slate, the sun’s going to come up. It’s a new day. And there’s just great power in that. There’s something nice about starting fresh each day. And the third is to remember this: If you ever feel like you’re alone, that you know you can’t go on, I guarantee you, if you’re listening to this podcast, there are hundreds if not thousands of people that love you, that want you in their life. And I mentioned the word “suicide,” it is heartbreaking when someone in their 40s, 50s, or 60s gets to the point where they feel like that’s an option. Could you imagine how many people would miss you, and how different the world would be if we took you out of the equation? So, I’m suggesting that should never even be an option that comes on the table for us. And if it ever is, man, talk with someone, share your feelings, and go back to our vision and realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of people that would be left with a gaping hole in their lives without you in it.
So, this is a powerful principle: Never give up. Obviously, there’s the business application, where we pivot, we adjust, we innovate; we’ll figure it out, but we don’t give up. And then there’s the personal side, which is just like we talked about, it’s this dogged determination to get up and keep going; it’s to maintain a positive attitude even when things get tough, and say, “Wait a second, things are always going to work out for our good.” And I truly believe they will. If we’re doing the best we can, I believe that all things will work out for our good. Just like my wrestling example, that’s not ideal, I wish I wouldn’t have quit. But the lesson that I learned from that has served me so well for those 30 years afterward. So, everything, I believe, will work out for our good if we’re doing our best.
So, I hope this has been helpful. I mentioned that it would be relatively short and it has been. These are some things to ponder on, think about these things. And the way I’m going to finish is just reading to you five different quotes around this idea of “never give up.” And if there’s someone in your life that you want to share this podcast with, that you feel would benefit from that, I encourage you to do so. Just share it with them, email it to them, whatever you want to do. Let me finish with these five quotes. I just love these. The first one is from Marianne Rademacher, and she said this: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day whispering, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” And then this one: “This isn’t just a battle; this is a war. And in war, you don’t ever back down. You fight till the last man until you’re sure you won’t have died in vain.” I just think, man, in battle, that’s exactly right. How about this one? Robert F Kennedy: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.” Isn’t that powerful? That’s that fear of failure. And then Og Mandino, I just love Og Mandino: “So long as there is breath in me, that long I will persist. For I know one of the greatest principles on success is if I persist long enough, I will win.” And then the last one is this, Pittacus Lore: “No. Don’t give up hope just yet. It’s the last thing to go. When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope.” And indeed there is. Principle number 12 of the 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders is “never give up.” And invite all of us to make this a part of our soul, who we are, so that we have this dogged determination to always get up and face the next day, and go back to the vision and put a smile on our face, and truly take on the mindset that all these things will work out for our good and commit to keep trying, pivoting, adjusting whatever we need to do to persist until we succeed. So, thank you so much for being here. I hope you have a wonderful day and a great rest of your week.
CEO, Becoming Your Best
Leading authority on leadership and execution, F-16 Fighter Pilot, and father