One of the most stupid words of wisdom that we so often try to rally behind is “winners never quit.” The fact of the matter is that winners quit all of the time … they just quit early and before they’ve wasted a bunch of time and energy down a dead end.
Now I’m all for rallying behind a cry for persistence. I learned very early in life and in my career that “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” In any sort of athletic training I’ve done, it’s often the case that you’re only getting fitter and stronger when you push yourself when you don’t think you’ve got anything left to give. The first 8 leg squat repetitions don’t do that much for you, but the final 2 … when it really hurts and you want to quit … is where you make all your athletic gains. This is also the case in mental exercise. Plugging away isn’t making you any smarter, but pushing through a tough problem gives you the experience and mental gain. Seth Godin talks about this as pushing through “the dip.”
But there comes a time when pushing through this dip is useless. There’s nothing on the other side of the dip that you are trying to gain. You may as well have quit before you even entered the dip.
It seems counter intuitive, but it’s often TOUGH to quit. You often hear that quitting is easy. I think a lot of the time, it’s exactly opposite. Some of the toughest decisions I’ve made is to quit! Why is that? I think it’s a combination of 3 things:
– There’s always uncertainty. Maybe you shouldn’t be quitting. Maybe the other side of the dip is fruitful.
– I really don’t want to be known as a quitter.
– Quitting usually hurts someone else … and NOBODY likes to hurt anyone.
Winners are able to recognize these three things and quit before they start, or shortly after. It’s risky, it may hurt someone, and people may see you as a quitter … but you’ll have a lot more time and energy to spend on something actually worth while.