Popular culture is filed with so much garbage. So often I hear people saying that quitting isn’t an option, or that the only acceptable outcome is to win. Not only is that attitude impossible, it is also harmful. One person cannot win all the time. It never happens. Eventually even the hardiest, the most skillful, fail or are overcome. And knowing when to quit has prevented uncountable human tragedies — it is a basic life skill whether fight or flee.

If you watch any contest shows on television — and there are plenty of them (athletic, romance, food, etc., etc..) — the introduced contestants are always the “best” and they always give 110% (which is actually impossible — you can’t give more than you have), and they are going to beat all the other contestants. By the end of the program you find out that all of the contestants save one have lied — they have all been beaten no matter their cockiness or arrogance.

Why do people think it’s so important to brag in that manner? Why do they insist upon making fools of themselves?

I’m sure you’ll hear some people say it’s all part of the game; that they are psyching out the competition. Personally I think they would be better served by being better prepared for the competition than filling the air with empty promises.

Then there are the people who lack training/experience/confidence who put up a bold front to hide their lack of credentials. Kind of silly when you think about the fact that no matter what you say at the beginning of the contest your actual ability will soon be on display no matter what you say — and if you brag and are taken down you only look the more foolish.

It’s also funny that so many of the eliminated contestants can leave the contest prematurely and still they claim to have accomplished what they set out to do — or have “won” as they are being eliminated from the contest having fallen short of the goal. I don’t get it.

I have pushed myself to the limit a great many times. Fortunately I’m not having to do that a lot anymore, but I haven’t forgotten the strain and the effort it takes to do what no one else thinks is possible. And I have to admit that I have never been a great advocate of the visualization technique — visualizing yourself “winning” or beating your opponent. Believe me, just picturing it in your own mind isn’t going to get the job done if you aren’t ready for the contest. Bravado alone won’t make anything happen. And you can say, “Fake it till you make it” but that only works if the competition is likewise ill prepared. If that really worked the world would be filled with more and more small successful companies instead of more and more multinational corporations. At some point, faking it falls short.

Learn to succeed. Learn to assess a situation. Count your resources. Count the costs of success. And then decide if this is a battle worth fighting, or one you’re better off walking away from in order to return another day for a more successful contest.