When to Quit?

From this post.  Advice not only for work — but also for other things in life too…

[ ] Winners never quit?

This move-on point is what bestselling author Seth Godin calls a cul-de-sac in his book The Dip: A Little Book the Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). He says when you hit a cul-de-sac (French for “bottom of the bag,” meaning “dead-end”), it’s time to quit. This sort of advice is quite unlike the winning and failing quotes we hear so often in our society, such as:

  • “Quitters never win.”
  • “Thomas Edison failed more than 1,000 times before he invented the light bulb.” (Others actually produced incandescent lights before Edison. He did create the first practical light bulb and an electrical system to support it.)
  • “Boom, crush. Night, losers. Winning, duh.”—Charlie Sheen

It’s all about winning, and winners never quit, right? Well, that’s not entirely accurate. “Winners quit all the time,” writes Godin. “They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

[ ]

But what about those countless stories of famous people who overcame adversity and rejection, never losing sight of their goal? A few examples:

  • The Alfred A. Knopf publishing house rejected books from Jack Kerouac, George Orwell, and Sylvia Plath.
  • Before Disneyland and Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney started a company called the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation that filed for bankruptcy when financial backers pulled out.
  • Stephen King received 30 rejection letters for his first novel, Carrie. His wife pulled it out of the trash and encouraged him to submit it again.

Not to mention the Vincent Van Goghs, celebrated posthumously, but never receiving recognition in their lifetime — yet Van Gogh never quit painting. We kind of love these stories, don’t we? They’re inspiring. But they don’t necessarily translate into practical advice, unless you’re okay with being a penniless painter who struggles with anxiety and mental disorder. I’m going to guess that most GRS readers don’t fall into that category.

[ ]

Winners are strategic quitters

No one wants to go down on a sinking ship or stick around because they’re complacent or afraid to quit. Maybe you’re out of money and you’ve sunk too much into a failing project. Maybe you’ve lost interest. Maybe you picked the wrong venture and simply don’t have the talent. Ouch. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s sometimes true. We aren’t all capable of being prima ballerinas or NBA superstars — what is your goal? Have you had any indication that it’s attainable?

On the other hand, reactive quitting and serial quitting won’t get you anywhere in life. You also can’t quit every time a situation is uncertain or difficult, because as Godin points out, most things that are worth doing have dips. How do you know if you’re cutting out too early? He says to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you panicking? Don’t quit when emotions are running high. You should always decide to quit when you are calm and thinking rationally.
  2. Who are you trying to influence? Influencing one person (your boss, for example) is often harder than influencing a market (such as potential clients for your start-up). Figuring out your audience can shed light on your potential for success.
  3. Are you making measurable progress? With any goal or task you set out to accomplish, you’re in one of three positions: falling behind, standing still, or moving forward. This is true of careers, relationships, and finances, to name a few. If you’re not moving forward even to a small degree, or at least standing still with some forward progress imminent, it’s time to think about your strategy.

Quitting doesn’t necessarily mean ending a relationship, turning in your two weeks’ notice, or abandoning your business because sales are slow for a couple of months. You also can quit a tactic or a project. Sometimes quitting just means refocusing or finding a new approach. But rather than seeing it as a failure, quit strategically and realize it’s an opportunity for greater success, or identify a dip as a dip and lean hard. [ ]


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