It’s often viewed as noble to be determined.
“Never Quit!” is the mantra of Generals, business gurus, and marathon runners. You’ve probably heard it said so many times that you might think success is simply the ability to keep persevering, no matter what.
You see, quitting on a goal that isn’t working out is not all bad. It frees you up to pursue other goals, it releases you from the burden of constant failure, and the weight of an unrealized dream. There is a tremendous opportunity cost in beating a dead horse, and the price may include your self-esteem, physical health, and important relationships.
So let’s talk a little about how to quit like a winner.
My Never Ending Story…
(I promise it’s not that long)
When I was 17 I became an Amway distributor. I was excited about the opportunity and I really enjoyed the attention I was getting from rich, successful people that I looked up to. It was a positive, motivating environment, with seemingly endless riches to be had.
Except for one thing.
I sucked at it.
Almost everything it takes to run a successful multi-level marketing business can be delegated or automated. The three things that you pretty much have to be good at, are contacting prospects, meeting one-on-one to introduce them to the opportunity (and have a thick skin to take a lot of rejection), and mentor people once you finally find some to sign up. Do these three things well and I’m still convinced that you can make boat loads of money with Amway.
The problem is (or was), that I HATED contacting prospects and I was terribly fearful of one-on-one conversations with strangers. Since then I’ve overcome some of these fears but they are still not my strong suits. ( I still hate talking on the phone with a burning white-hot passion.) For over a decade, I banged my head against a wall, sacrificing money, time, and a ton of mental energy on something that I would eventually quit anyway. It put a strain on my marriage, finances, and regrettably, I feel like I missed out on some of the most amazing time in my kid’s lives.
I’m sure there are those who would tell me that if I would have just kept going, success might have been right around the corner, but I can assure you, not for me, and not with that. I wanted the end goal (I still want a version of that goal) but I was a terrible fit for the business.
I have no regrets about my experiences within Amway or the mentors that I was involved with. But I think I could have gained all that I was going to gain from them in about a third of the time. In other words, I should have quit about 5 years in.
Indefinitely delayed gratification.
One of the success principles that they often taught, was the concept of “delayed gratification”. This is a very important lesson but they underplayed any hint at finding balance in your life. Many times, delayed gratification is used as some sort of character litmus test. The longer you’re willing to work and suffer, with no reward, the better you are.
It’s true; delayed gratification is often a necessary ingredient to accomplish a worthwhile goal. Like I’ve said before: to pursue excellence, you have to be willing to suck sometimes. However, knowing when to quit is just as important (maybe even more important) than mustering endless reserves to achieve a goal.
I think the “positive” side of goal setting is over emphasized. Rigid goal setting is necessary if you’re trying to launch rockets to Mars. But for personal progress and most situations in our lives, rigid goals are a dogmatic approach that leaves many of us feeling insecure and depressed. I’m here to tell you; you can quit on a goal and not assume that failure as your identity.
“Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.” -Lance Armstrong
This is stupid. First off, pain may actually leave you with a permanent disability. This applies to your psyche as well as your body. It might be good advice in the midst of the Tour de France, but in life, it is just not that applicable to living a happy existence.
Second, quitting doesn’t necessarily have to be permanent at all. Sometimes you need to stop, take a step back, and give yourself time and energy to grow. Quitting today doesn’t mean you can’t try again in a few years when you’re older and (hopefully) wiser! And with that new perspective, you might just look at the old goal as a waste of time compared to your current life!
Opportunity cost vs. Sunk cost
Sunk cost fallacy is staying with something because you feel that your investment put in up until now will be wasted if you quit.
Opportunity cost is the time you are wasting now and in the future, investing in something that is of less value than something else you could be doing.
You can look at these two ideas like an equation:
If Opportunity costs > Sunk Costs = Quit
If Opportunity Costs < Sunk Costs = Keep trying or Continue to Reevaluate
It doesn’t matter how much time, energy, money, hope, or planning you’ve put into something. If you could be making better progress somewhere else, then you should.
How To Plan on Quitting:
Set regular intervals for reflection and check-in on your progress. Has it changed significantly from your last check-in? If you are asking yourself the same questions every time you analyze your progress, you are likely in a rut. You need to either change how or what you are doing completely. I don’t mean work harder. I don’t mean improve. I mean completely change your approach or ditch the vehicle altogether.
When you set regular intervals for progress checks, you better have some way of measuring it. Otherwise, you’ll be at the whim of your emotions of the moment. You may feel like quitting when there is tangible progress. Or, you might feel renewed determination to continue, even when there is no progress, or worse- you’re going backward.
- Win or Learn.
Any plan to succeed at anything should include a robust effort to learn and acquire new skills. This not only increases your chances of success, it also means you are winning no matter what. Even if you quit on your current plan, you have grown and you now have new tools you can take with you to your next adventure. If you are learning, you can’t lose! Go ahead and fail. Take your lumps. Learn from them. Apply your growth to the next thing.
Benchmarks can be measured in acquired resources. Even if you aren’t getting closer to your goal, you may be gaining knowledge, relationships, or physical resources and assets. If this is the case, it may be worth it to stick it out for a while. You may need to focus on intangibles to really understand your progress. Amazon lost money for years before making their first profit, but they had a plan and they expected it to take years to get there. Just don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re making progress when you aren’t. If you think you can make better connections, learn more, or find more tangible progress somewhere else, quit.
Be proud of your failure. You were intelligent enough to move on and pursue a better use of your life. Burning the ships may be a good war strategy when you’re trying to convince some poor peasants to kill or be killed, but life is not a war. Having a plan B doesn’t make you less committed, it makes you intelligent.
Cost vs. Reward.
The sense of achievement you feel from overcoming huge obstacles is greater than something easily won. This post is not a plea to choose the path of least resistance, but having a plan to quit can be a valuable tool for motivation, examination, evaluation, and execution. And it might just save you from a life of self-inflicted burdens.
I wrote this article back in 2014 but didn’t publish it until June 2017.
I didn’t have a plan to quit LiveAllYourLife.com, I quit my “accident”. By always being too busy and distracted. Dealing with urgencies that were largely the result of me trying to keep a business on life support. I should have quit that business long ago. One good thing about making mistakes is that you usually get the chance to make them again! So after 14 years of struggling with owning a small training gym, I finally sold it to a couple of my clients. I quit (essentially).
Funny thing though- I still work at the gym that I founded. But now with far less stress and much more time- allowing me to refocus here at Live All Your Life. The vision I had for the gym is now becoming a reality because the new owners have the resources to make it happen. Ironically, it took quitting to see the dream come to fruition.
If only I had taken my own advice sooner!