Why I stopped reading a book today.

Broadway BooksIf you’re like me, and since you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you are . . . you’re a “finisher.”  You like to complete things.  You like to cross things off your list.  You like to get things done.

And one thing you don’t like to do is quit.  You started something, so G-d Dammit, you’re gonna finish it.

I’ve always been that way in every aspect of my life, including the little things, like watching a movie . . . or reading a book.  I just have to finish it.  You know what I’m talking about right?  You picked up that book, you decided to read it, you invested money in it (even if you bought it on half.com) and if you started it, then you’ve got time invested too!  How can you stop when you’ve started???

Just the other day I found myself 100 pages into my most recent book (I read mostly non-fiction stuff . . . a lot of books on marketing (here’s a good new one, btw) and business case studies from other industries that I think Broadway can learn from.).  And I suddenly realized I couldn’t even remember the last 30 pages.  This book wasn’t teaching me anything new.  It wasn’t entertaining me.  It was just taking up my time, and preventing me from getting to the bottomless electronic stack of other books I have waiting patiently for me on my Kindle.

Despite all that, every instinct in my Type A, slightly OCD in the best/worst entrepreneur kind of way, told me finish that effin’ book!  “Maybe it’ll get better, Ken!  You’re already in this far!  You can’t leave anything undone!”

But then, something happened.

I realized that I had already spent a few hours on this sucker so far . . . and it was going to take me a few more hours to finish it (maybe even longer, since it was Lincoln-like boring).  And I thought, in the same few hours, I could pick up download a new book, and it might teach me something new that could improve my business, my shows . . . my life . . . that much sooner!  This one wasn’t going to do it.  It was only delaying me from getting where I wanted to go.  It was holding me back . . . which is the opposite of what an entrepreneur wants, right?  My own instincts that make me a good entrepreneur were also preventing me from going forward.

It’s essential from time to time to put a book down and move on to the next.  Same is true in the stock market.  When you’ve got a loser, sell it, take what’s left, and buy something else.  Real estate?  Yep.  Anything you invest time and money in, like, oh, I don’t know . . . developing shows?

A Producer’s time is limited.  There are only so many shows you can have on your plate.  And when you’ve got a project that isn’t entertaining you, that you aren’t learning from, and that you don’t believe in as much as you did when you started, then you have to put it down, just like I did with my book.  (By the way, same is true for Writers, Directors, Actors, you name it.)

You can always pick it back up later if you’re inspired, but for now, if something isn’t working, put . . . it . . . down.

It’s hard, I  know.  Your time, your money, your emotion is in that sucker.  You chose it!  You don’t want to be wrong.  You want to believe!

But there’s something more rewarding out there for you.  And you owe it to yourself and to your career to have the time to find it.


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  • Patrick says:

    Thank you Ken! This seems so simple and yet it isn’t; certainly not for those of us who feel like “losers” if we don’t finish something or see it through to the end (even if it taps our resources and keeps us from ultimately finding accomplishment in whatever it is we do). I’ve been bogged down with two projects of late (one is an arts ed program I’ve had for years that used to be wonderfully successful and now just isn’t) and a play I wrote 12 years ago that is happening and then isn’t and then happening and then isn’t. Your post today couldn’t have been more poignant and spot-on and it certainly made that light go off over my head. Thanks for the example and sharing the practical wisdom of letting go and moving on.

    • Fred Landau says:

      But Patrick, the two projects you have don’t feel like the same thing to me. I’d imagine that when you decide to stop pushing a specific play because no one is coming forward to put it on, you’re affecting only yourself. But presumably an arts-ed program shutting down affects the lives of several (maybe many) other people who built the way their lives proceed, made decisions for their own lives, based on its existence. Yes, there’s responsibility to yourself, and when it’s only affecting yourself, by all means go based on how you alone feel – but once other people have relied on you, it seems you can’t go based just on that gut feeling, does it? (I don’t have the answer, just wondering if it’s that easy to analogize the two.)

  • Appropos to an aphorism I made up:

    One who persists succeeds or becomes wise.

  • richard rizzo says:

    Ok,so I have bought tickets shows that have gotten some very good reviews. My wife and are are sitting there bored and while we can appreciate some of the acting, the sets, lighting and costumes we look at each other and ask if we really wanted to stay for the second act. If either one of us or both of us wants
    to leave we do. Time is more valuable than sitting through something that does not engage us. So why finish that book or play or film that bores you?

  • Ellen says:

    I enjoy your Blog Mr. Davenport. That said, I don’t finish books all the time. I have walked out of movies too, albeit rarely. There have been a few plays I would have walked out on if there had been and intermission (in one), and the other I was a guest of an investor.

    A Broadway Musical Revival that won awards, made me furious and one I love, love, loved(sadly) closed in a week. Nothing meets everyone’s taste. So, like you say since there are no guarantees, do what you love…

  • john Sweeney says:

    Just like your blog about walking vs waiting, instinct is great – but judgment (based on experience) is also valuable

  • George says:

    I had a similar exprience reading the technical books I need to keep up with (in the profession that still pays the bills) and I could not put it down w/o falling behind those in my field (who I have toi keep up wit’)

    I would read a manual… go back a week letter and retain almost NOTHING of what I read???

    So I started highlighting in coloured pens – Yellow “I read this….” Green “details/syntax thaat I may need to come back and find…” Orange “concept/procedure” Pink “Warning – problem!” Blue “Major Concept” and I have recently added “Purple” as a Major Concept – but unproven… debatable… gottta think about it some more i.e. Blue and Pink.

    Now my books look like Ted Turner got a hold of ’em…


    I retain a LOT more (esp concepts) and – when I have a “problem” I skim for “Pink” and if I forget the syntax I skim for “green”

    It woiks for me!

    But I agree with the overall sentiment… Life is too short to waste ones time with half baked ideas, concepts, fluff or stull meant for “Trivial Minds”


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