Prompted: Quitting - Smart or Lazy?
Deciding when to quit and when to keep pushing.
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Quitting is letting go of things (or people) that are sucking the life out of you so you can do more things that will bring you strength.
- Osayi Osar-Emokpae
Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.
- Lance Armstrong
Quitting - Smart or Lazy?
A common refrain in American culture is "never give up". In the face of difficulty quitting is seen as the easy way out. We idolize perseverance because it shows us we're capable of more than we thought and pushing past our limits helps us learn and grow stronger.
Arguments in favor of quitting are equally as common. We see people like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of college and built companies that reshaped the world and it's difficult not to romanticize quitting to follow your dreams. If we're not passionate about something, we're encouraged to quit and do what makes us happy instead.
The trouble arrives when we’re not sure if quitting is simply giving up or if it’s a calculated choice to pursue a better opportunity.
Unfortunately, these decisions often live on a continuum. On one side, quitting is the optimal and easy choice, and on the other perseverance is the optimal and easy choice. In the middle somewhere, there is a line that marks the tipping point between the two options.
Reality presents us with situations that are very close to this line making it difficult to know what the “right” choice is.
Perfectionists have a very hard time with quitting and often stay in jobs or relationships longer than they should because quitting feels like losing. They're trained to keep pushing no matter how tough it gets and usually, they're rewarded with great results, but sometimes it's much better to cut losses and try again.
On the other hand, there are a group of people who are excellent quitters. At the first signs of discomfort, they jump ship. Sometimes they’re leaving a bad situation, but it makes it difficult to foster growth and enjoy the spoils of perseverance.
Broadly speaking we might say perfectionists can benefit from quitting earlier and more often and quitters could benefit from additional perseverance, but the dubious gray area remains.
The best we can do is a serious review of our options. We can consult mentors, make pro and cons lists, journal, and talk through options, but a clear-cut choice will rarely follow. We’re left flipping coins or throwing darts to make our decisions, but that’s alright.
Not every choice will be easy, but once we choose we have to commit. Humans are remarkably adaptive and as long as we make the most of our decision we usually make it to the other side just fine.
Where are the current inflection points in my life where I could give up or double down?
Do I lean towards being a perfectionist or an early quitter?
Are there any decisions where I should commit to an option even though I’m not sure what the “right” choice is?
A short book investigating the “extraordinary benefits” of quitting and providing a framework for when to quit and when to keep pushing.
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you next Sunday.
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