One of the things I’ve done really well in my career is quit.
Even just saying that feels wrong, like I’m violating some code of business ethics. We all know that to be successful you need to work hard, show up, be consistent and stick it out.
But do you? What if part of the key to success is knowing when to quit?
Knowing when to quit doesn’t negate working hard or showing up consistently. Those things can be true and it can also be true that quitting is sometimes necessary. But I think our rejection of quitting is so much deeper than business, I think this is an idea that has been ingrained in all of us from childhood.
I’m a mom…I get it. When I sign my girls up for something new, to give them new experiences, I expect them to give it a fair shake. We’re walking through this right now with dance and horseback riding lessons. My middle daughter wants to be a ballerina. What kind of mom would I be if I didn’t let her at least try? But here’s my expectation: she needs to commit to sticking out of the session. She knows in advance how long the session is so she’s aware of her commitment. If at the end of the session she doesn’t want to do it, she gets to quit! And we all see it as a win! But I don’t think this is the norm.
We live in a society that values dedication and determination and often, that means we can’t quit. In fact, being called a quitter is an awful thing to be known for, but have you ever stopped to figure out why? What’s wrong with being a quitter? I turned to trusty Google to find the definition of quitter to see if it was negative as we’ve made it or if it was more neutral. Here’s the first definition that popped up: a person who gives up easily or does not have the courage or determination to finish a task.
Yikes! Someone who gives up easily and does not have the COURAGE or DETERMINATION to finish the task! Criminy…no wonder we do everything to avoid this label!
I’m definitely a quitter. I try many things and I quit a lot of them. In fact, I quit all of them eventually. The thing is, most people wouldn’t define what I do as quitting because they’re viewing it from the outside, and perception versus our experiences in it can feel very different! When you’re in it, it still feels like quitting even when you accomplish your goal. Here’s the biggest problem with the previous definition…when do you know if a task is complete? Oftentimes, we don’t determine or define the task at the beginning, so we don’t even know what the task is.
Many of you have heard my story about my experience in the direct sales industry with my first company. My goal was to make $1M dollars. I did that and like a light switch, I was done. I stuck it out for years because I viewed leaving as quitting or being irresponsible, but I eventually left the company. I quit. Maybe even as you’re hearing me say that you’re thinking to yourself, “you didn’t quit, you just walked away after you achieved the goal”, but let me explain. When you build a company to the point that you’re earning a significant income, walking away from that doesn’t make sense to most people, including those closest to you. In this case, my husband.
The thing is – whatever the “task” is, you need to know when it’s complete. So if you’re going into something new, define the task right away.
For my girls, trying out different sports to see if they like them is the task. If I’m investing in a one-day camp, a four-week session or an entire season, they are expected to stick it out (within reason of course). The task is to play, to try, to experiment. They may feel like this task has been completed at the end of the commitment, or they may want to experiment more and sign up for something again.
Think about it…if quitting isn’t even on the table, we won’t try new things. We would only try new things if we knew we’d like them or we knew we’d be good at them. And how will we know that if we don’t allow ourselves to try?
Before we move on, I want to prove to you what a big quitter I am and why I think it’s
been absolutely essential in my journey:
Maybe you think the term ‘quitting’ is too strong or not entirely accurate. The other
things we say instead of quitting are transitioning, pivoting, season change, time for a new adventure, retiring, hanging it up. What do you call it?
The thing is, whatever you call it, it doesn’t make it any easier and often our experience going through it feels like quitting. Even when we’ve accomplished our goals — whatever they are — it can still feel like we’re quitting or giving up early. This is important to talk about because in order to try new things and allow ourselves to experiment, we need to give ourselves permission to quit. If you prefer to call it something else like “transition”, be my guest, but know that it will feel like quitting and some in your network may criticize you for quitting.
Yes, that actually happens.
Whenever I’ve come to a period in my life where quitting is the right next step there have been similar signs:
So what happens when you feel this way? Obviously with the list above you’d think
someone would just quit but the reality is none of the above symptoms just happen overnight. You’ve probably experienced some or all of these things when something in your life has had to come to an end.
You literally feel sick about it. But it happens so gradually that you just learn to live with it, right? I’d be willing to bet that a lot of us are living in silent misery with all of the emotional, mental, and physical symptoms, but we have started to think of it as our “new normal”. It’s not easy to fight those feelings, especially when you have people in your life who are feeding into the insecurity — the little part of you that still thinks maybe quitting isn’t the right thing to do.
It takes an incredible amount of courage to speak up for yourself and recognize when a season has passed or when something is no longer serving you. If you’re struggling with the HOW (How am I going to get paid? How am I going to sell this business? How do I even start?), find someone in your life who has walked a similar path and ask them to help you objectively think through all of the things that are swimming around in your brain. If you are going to allow yourself to experiment in life and try new things and try to find the thing that lights you up and gives you purpose, know what the task is, but always give yourself permission to quit. Just because you’re starting something new, doesn’t mean you have to do it forever.
If this has resonated with you and you feel like you’re on the edge of moving onto the next adventure, ask yourself “is my heart still in it?” If your heart isn’t in it, it’s probably time to walk away.
And if you need an extra kick, join me in reading/listening to The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. Think of it as a virtual book club! In the book, instead of asking “What will make me happy?”, Mark says a better question is “What pain am I willing to endure in life?” For me, I am willing to go through a little bit of pain every day in service of reaching my biggest goals. Growth doesn’t happen in comfort. So what pain are you willing to endure in order to have the life you envision for yourself?
Please know that it’s okay to walk away, it’s okay to quit. Your biggest criticism will come from those who haven’t mustered the courage to do it themselves in an area in their life that’s causing them great dissatisfaction. So give them grace, give yourself grace, and keep moving forward on your path.