Last week, fresh off the Egyptian jet lag, I spoke for a group of small business owners in MN. Afterwards, somebody walked up to me and asked me a question that I’ve never been asked before:
How do you know when to quit something?
A FANTASTIC question that is loaded with complex answers.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an expert in this area (I don’t know many people who are). Books have been written about it– notably The Dip by Seth Godin–but there is no definitive “formula” for when to quit.
Still, here’s a summary of my thoughts, in four parts:
In my humble opinion, most people quit too early. They encounter the inevitable resistance of a worthwhile pursuit and decide they’ve had enough. You’ve probably heard me say, “There is no failure; only feedback,” and as long as you have this mentality, you’ll see yourself as always moving closer to success…regardless of what mistakes and mishaps have happened along the way.
How much skin do you have in the game? Whether it’s a book, business, relationship, or athletic pursuit, the more time and energy you’ve put into it makes it harder to quit. You don’t want to feel like you’ve WASTED something for nothing. Or you don’t want to disappoint others. The question to ponder is, what could I focus on and accomplish in the future if I reallocated this time and energy?
For many of us (me included), quitting something is a blow to our identity.
We struggle to separate ‘I quit something,’ from ‘I am a quitter.’
And there is a big, BIG, difference. The former is what you did, the latter is who you are. I hate to burst your bubble, but you’ve quit something before. So have I. So have all of us. It doesn’t form our identity as a quitter, and it can be freeing to admit you strategically quit something than to keep trying to beat down the brick wall.
Perhaps the most important question to ask is, “Does this ‘thing’ still fill me up?” There is nothing honorable in sticking with something that is destructive, time-wasting, toxic and unfulfilling. It’s quite the opposite, actually. It’s your life to live. What do you love? What matters to you?
If you have thoughts on when to quit something, please let me know. There is certainly something to be said for persevering and doing what you said you’re going to do, BUT there is also a time and place for going in a different direction.