Knowing When to Walk Away

What action do you take when you hit resistance to your ideas? Do you regroup, do you pout, or do you walk away? My personality usually demands regrouping and trying again. Occasionally, if the mood strikes, I’ll pout for five minutes, just to see how it feels, then regroup. And walking away isn’t part of my makeup.

However, throughout history, walking away has proved a viable option for gaining acceptance of ideas. One of the greatest walkers was Gandhi. By advocating a totally non-violent resistance to British occupation, Gandhi encouraged followers to walk away from the temptation of physically striking out at their enemies.

Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” (link)

Sometimes, and I’m guilty of this too, we become convinced that the only way to gain acceptance lies in forcing the issue. We confuse walking away with cowardice or quitting. When you are passionate about your ideas, you can become equally passionate about sharing and defending them. But do you run the risk of damaging your ideas if you can’t walk away? Forcing your ideas, forcing acceptance, does not automatically equate to success.

By walking away, Gandhi created a viable option to the historical precedent of violence against oppressors. Over time, Gandhi’s version of walking away has inspired others like Dr. Martin Luther King, Steve Biko, and Aung San Suu Kyi. (source: Wikipedia) He gave life to an idea that helped create a nation. Describing Gandhi, Albert Einstein said,

Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood.” (link)

Between the existence of India and Einstein’s good opinion, I’d say that’s proof walking away can work.

We each have our mentors, our heroes who’ve inspired our ideas and prompted us to action. I believe that if you look at their efforts, you’ll find that sometimes they walked away to give their ideas a chance to take root and grow. It won’t work in every instance, but sometimes, knowing when to walk away might prove the boldest decision you make.



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May 2007
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