I was giving a talk the other night and, during the question and answer session, a designer described a difficult situation he was facing at his company. After he finished, one of the other speakers told him it was probably time to quit, to vote with his feet. His answer was probably right, of course. I’ve definitely been there a couple of times in my career - exhausted and finding no purchase with my company. That’s how so many tenures at companies end. Frustrated, tired.
At the end of the day, though, it’s not simply being tired or frustrated that leads us to move on. Because, spoiler alert, every job at times will be frustrating and leave you exhausted. The kicker is being frustrated and tired and not believing in your team, the product you’re building or the company itself. It’s a feeling that you can’t change things for the better, or that it’s just not worth the effort. I’ve so rarely seen someone leave a company because they achieved everything they thought they could achieve. It’s almost always because they’ve done the math and realize they’re playing a losing game.
What I’ve come to realize in the past two years is how important it is to find a company and a product worth fighting for. To find a team that is dedicated to delivering the best product they can, despite the bumps, the frustrations, the exhausting moments along the way. Hurdles and failure are totally unavoidable. Having a resilient team around you working on a product you all believe in will make those hurdles easier to clear. They’ll turn failure into a learning opportunity. Great teams working on products they’re passionate about will back you up when you’re exhausted and cover for you when you’re frustrated.
Great teams are the difference between quitting and deciding to go to bat one more time.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that you should quit right now if your team, your company or your product isn’t everything described above. The hard truth is that this sort of environment isn’t an accident. You don’t luck into it (or if you do, you’re really, really lucky). It’s work. It’s hard work. It’s recruiting people who believe what you believe. It’s building a team culture that emphasizes trust and the best ideas over winning arguments. It’s putting those ideas into practice during actual product development. It’s knowing you’re not there yet, but you could be someday. It’s advocating for the future.
So should that person from the Q&A quit their job? Or should they double down and try to build a little consensus and momentum? Only that person knows for sure, but I’ll tell you one thing: you’ll only feel truly fulfilled when you find that product, that team and that company that values what you value. Because even when things get hard, that will be worth fighting for.
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