Why quitting is key for success
Embrace uncertainty to grow
We start many new things in our lives, e.g. schools, projects, hobbies and jobs. Everything we begin will, at some point, come to an end. Habitually starting and quitting things is rarely fruitful. However, to open ourselves to new opportunities, we often need to quit something that takes our current attention. Contrary to popular cliches such as never give up and quitting is for losers, quitting is a necessary skill for long term success. This post suggests why and proposes a quitting framework.
Why quitting is necessary for success
Finding our purpose and passion is outside the scope of this post. However, for personal fulfilment, we should identify and focus on intrinsic (personally meaningful) rather than extrinsic (outward oriented) motivators.
Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion. - Simon Sinek
Driven by our survival instinct shaped during much of our evolution, we tend to focus on near term urgent matters at the expense of longer term important ones. Our lives today are a consequence of decisions we made 5 years ago. Similarly, the position we will be in 5 years from now is dependant upon the decisions and actions we take today. To grow, we need to periodically assess our current position and embrace the uncertainty that comes with change. This uncertainty represents the gap between our current situation and a potentially happier future. It’s a journey we have to take time and again if we want fulfilment.
Quitting can benefit us in multiple ways:
Able to focus on something else of great potential value
Extend our capabilities, e.g. learning a new skill
Rest and re-energise
Be open to as yet unknown opportunities
Notable people who quit university to focus on their fledgling ideas include, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Clapton.
There are times when quitting is the best option and that it is often better to quit early rather than to stick with something that is not working. Quitting is often the best option because it allows you to move on to something better. Failure, by contrast, is when you continue to do something even though it is not working.
This framework will help determine if you should quit something or not:
Explore why you are thinking of quitting. Is it because you are primarily finding it really hard or are you unhappy?
If it’s hard then is the challenge worth the potential reward? If yes then stick with it, otherwise quit.
If you are unhappy then do you think you could take action and it would be worth the effort to get to the point where you are happy? If yes then stick with it, otherwise quit.
I started a part-time 3 year MBA. By the time I had successfully completed the first year, I was in a new job, had relocated and was starting a family. I decided to quit the MBA to free up time to focus elsewhere, including upgrading an apartment. It was the right decision, at the right time.
Big decisions are hard, but they should not paralyse us from taking them. Certainty is often an illusion. If we wait for near certainty then we will not make the decision to change. The status quo still has consequences.
We are emotional and often quite illogical beings, driven by instinctive, subconscious thinking. Smart decision makers, psychologist David Dunning suggests, think in probabilities. Rather than ask, will A or B happen, they consider what is the probability of A or B happening, 10%, 40%, 80%? When faced with making a choice between various options they seek relevant information, weigh it up then make a mathematically based decision, e.g. 51% is good enough. We will not always be right and that’s fine. Life is much richer for trying and learning from new experiences. How to Decide by Annie Duke (poker player) provides a wonderful guide to the subject.
Why Quitting is Important for Success by Steven Bartlett
The Dip (Animated) by Seth Godin
Hamilton College Speech by Peter Tiel
Make Time post by Phil Martin
This post suggests that strategic quitting is a key skill. Next Sunday’s post suggests alchemy is alive and well.
Until next Sunday, consider if you are on the correct road and if you should perhaps take the next exit.