We had the good fortune of connecting with Kseniya Yorsh and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kseniya, have you ever found yourself in a spot where you had to decide whether to give up or keep going? How did you make the choice?
That’s a big question that any creative, any business owner, any person in general faces at different points in their life. We ask ourselves this question when faced with a challenging situation – and an internal doubt, tiredness about it.
Some adopt the mentality of going forward no matter what, others “quit when the going gets tough.” But all those are external metrics used to evaluate the behavior. And the real question here is how do you yourself make this decision in the moment.
My answer to that is twofold: ego and sunk-cost fallacy. Let me elaborate.
Part one. EGO
Ego often gets a bad rep: don’t act out of ego, don’t let ego rule your life – yadda yadda yadda.
But ego is a good thing. Ego is responsible for our ambitions, our aspirations, our sense of self and what that self wants to achieve. It becomes a problem only when a decision made by ego leads to negative consequences in our life and when our inability to stop satisfies our ego but ruins something else that is important to us.
That’s why I think the first thing you can do when faced with this dilemma of going forward vs. quitting is to ask yourself whether you are motivated by ego here. And then take it out of the equation if the answer is yes.
But how do you know if you are moved by ego? Rarely is it so obvious that you’ll be like “man am I driven by ego here!” Most of the times it won’t be obvious and the subtlety of it might trick you.
My suggestion here would be to ask yourself these two questions.
1. Will I feel better about myself if I finish / accomplish this?
If the answer is yes, you are driven by ego.
Ego sometimes is about impressing yourself rather than others. Making yourself proud. Proving to yourself that you can do something.
When you are making a decision driven by your heart, your being, it’s usually something where you are already happy with yourself and you want to do this something because.. well, you just want it. There is no “I’ll do this – and it will make me feel better about myself.” You start from the place of being self-content and you do the thing for the thing itself.
An ego-driven decision makes you tie your self-worth to the outcome. You feel like you have to succeed, you have to finish, you have to prove to yourself that you are a person who did that.
And that’s where it might become problematic, as your desire to move forward won’t actually be your desire per se but rather this ego-driven stubbornness.
The second question you can ask yourself is,
2. If I go forward and succeed, is there someone I immediately picture telling about this?
This one is about impressing others. It can be a specific person, a group of people, or even an anonymous someone as in “I’ll make a post on social media about it and people will see.”
Again, nothing wrong about sharing your successes or even wanting to put your achievements on display. But when that and that only becomes your driving force, you might be doing it not ‘for the wrong reason’ but with this intention in mind that has a potential of being destructive. You might be pushing forward despite many things – being mentally or physically exhausted, feeling depleted, resentful, empty. And all for what?
So let’s say you ask yourself these questions and the answer to one or both of them is yes. Now what? Now I would suggest to take that specific thing out of the equation. Pretend it doesn’t exist. We won’t be pushing these feelings away out of shame or lack of self-acceptance, we’ll just temporarily put this thing away. Do you still want to keep going?
Really really ask yourself that and explore what comes up. You might discover other, more dormant motivators that you have in relation to the issue. Or you might feel like those things were the only factors driving you forward.
Now that we looked at ego, let’s look at the other part. And that’s
Part two. SUNK-COST FALLACY.
The definition Google gives you is that it’s “the phenomenon whereby a person is reluctant to abandon a strategy or course of action because they have invested heavily in it, even when it is clear that abandonment would be more beneficial.”
The term originated in the financial world in relation to investments but soon spread out to our everyday life to describe the decisions we make there as well.
For me, it’s a very powerful one. We were often taught growing up that you have to finish what you started, you have to follow through on your commitments, you have to keep your word.
To keep going was somehow correlated with our internal characteristics. I find these statements above to be a pile of BS.
The only thing you have to do in life, the only thing you owe to this life that was given to you is to act in your best interests. That’s it.
Ooh did this make you feel uncomfortable or angry? You might want to explore your codependency tendencies or deeply rooted cultural conditioning.
To act in your own best interest does not mean to say F you to everyone around you and walk over people in pursuit of your goals. It doesn’t mean being unethical. It only means to truly evaluate how what you are doing is good for your life. Because your own life is the only thing you truly have. Everyone else’s lives are in the orbit in close proximity to you, but you are not responsible for them.
So if you are doing something out of sense of obligation, politeness, wanting to not hurt other’s feelings or disappoint them, you are not truly thinking about you but rather trying to manage other people’s feelings and expectations.
It comes true in personal relationships, projects you take on, business endeavors you start, social plans you make.
Now let’s tune out all of that and ask yourself whether this thing you are trying to make a decision about is in your actual best interest.
And if yes, do you feel like you are driven by that and not by the feeling of “I’ve already put so much into this, I got to see it through”?
Have you been losing more than gaining along the way? Remember, the success of something is measured not only by the outcome but by what happens in the process too. So if you feel like you’ve been drained of time and resources but ‘it’s all a temporary sacrifice and once it’s finished, I’ll reap the success’, you have been losing along the way. A mild inconvenience of going through the process is not this. You gotta enjoy what you are doing along the way.
Sunk-cost fallacy is a tough one. It’s hard to cut your losses once you have put in so much. But sometimes it’s what you have to do. Well, not “have to” have to but it might be wise to make it a deciding factor in weighing in the pros and cons of a potential direction.
And that concludes describing the roadmap I use when I encounter situation when I’m not sure whether to keep going or to give up. I hope it helps you in making a decision or two as well.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have been working as a line producer for film for the past 7 years. I always wanted to do film and dreamt of coming to Hollywood, but growing up in Belarus that dream was kind of like if you wanted to go on a spaceship to Mars to colonize the planet: not completely unreal but still more in the realm of sci-fi. But my dream proved to be not unattainable because here I am, doing what seemed impossible.
My explanation of how it all worked out? I think that if you shoot for the moon and truly deeply commit to it, you will get very close to what you are aiming for. And that means not saying affirmations in the mirror every morning, but working tirelessly day after day, sacrificing comfort for a while, staying laser-sharp focused, and most importantly, proactively coming up with new ways and paths to get to where you want to be.
No one will come to you with a roadmap, no one will hand you over what you want in a neatly wrapped package. It’s up to you to figure out how to get to it and it’s your responsibility and yours only.
I am excited about the journey I’ve had so far. It’s been hard but so fun. I am excited about my new goals and dreams. Life is so so short and I want to make the most of it. If I don’t act up on my dreams, who will do that for me?
I think that’s partly what makes me a good producer too. Besides loving what I do and doing everything I touch at a 100%, I get excited when I meet the creatives who have these crazy ambitious ideas and who are deeply committed to implementing them. I am able to recognize true drive. So many times filmmakers meet resistance when pitching their ideas. I like to think of myself as fuel to their fire and I’m always on the lookout for those who are both passionate and have work ethic to see their passion through.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are three people in my life who at different times became my mentors and who I look up to and continuously learn from: Betsy Chasse, Tom Drucker, and Marcia Seligson. The are a living embodiment of what it means to live your life authentically, with integrity, speak your truth, stand up for yourself and others, and have passion and purpose in life. They are all pretty extraordinary human beings interactions with whom leave you in awe and I am truly lucky to have met them on my life journey.
A lot of what I learned about this subject matter came from them, but I would also like to credit these two people: Nedra Tawabb and Todd Baratz. Both are therapists and authors who I read on a regular basis. They talk a lot about boundaries, living your truth, letting go of societal conditioning and norms when those don’t serve us. They both put a lot of emphasis on living your life as opposed to other people’s expectations of you and learning to distinguish what that truly means for you. You can find both on social media where they are pretty active.
Photographers: Cosmo, Konstantin Korobkin