“Winners never quit – and quitters never win” is a popular and well known proverb, believed by many. Yet is it really true that “Winners never quit”? And is it truly the best approach to never quit at all? In this video I will try to prove to you that winners actually quit all the time, and what matters even more – the importance of embracing this different mindset.
The idea that winners quit all the time is well argumented in Seth Godin’s book “The Dip”, where Seth recommends not only to quit, but to do it often. Don’t get me wrong – the idea is not to quit everything all the time, just because you feel like it. Or that quitting everything that’s possible – will somehow magically make you succeed in your goals. There is an art to being a quality “Quitter” and it’s all about knowing when to quit and when to stick. But let’s first begin with understanding why quitting more often than people normally accept – is actually beneficial.
Seth Godin – Author Of “The Dip”
First of all let’s point out the flaw of the belief that quitting is an absolutely bad thing, a point, which a couple of simple questions help establish: “What if what you are doing doesn’t have the potential to succeed by any means?”. Or what if, what you decided to pursue does not suit you individually and you end up working against yourself? Regarding the first statement – some people would argue that anything can be successful as long as you put in the work, but while it sounds cool – it’s not really true. If you will decide to make a hole in a concrete wall by banging at it with your head, and you won’t be successful at it after the first 10 times – will “not quitting” really work here? Or if you will decide to cut a metal bar with a fork – does “not quitting” apply here?
Truth is, some projects and endeavors just do not have the capacity to succeed, no matter how hard you try. Of course, one option would be to search for new solutions – for example to use a metal saw instead of a fork, which would do the job, but aside from the importance of adapting and changing the means in which you are trying to achieve your goal, basically by not succumbing to Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity – “Doing the same thing over and over – while expecting different results”, you also have to ask yourself – is it really worth cutting this metal – AKA. achieving this goal to begin with.
I started off with a bit of exaggerated examples, but let’s choose one which is a bit more down to earth. You decide to become the best singer or golf player in the world at your 40s – without any prior formal training whatsoever. If you are sane and know enough about these two fields, you will know from the get-go that this is a likely impossible thing to achieve, unless you will use cheats of some sorts, but let’s not get out of hand. Yet what, despite that, you are a dedicated practitioner of the belief that “Winners never quit”? Not even considering an option to quit may leave you stuck at pursuing a goal which is impossible to achieve, and as a result wasting a tremendous amount of time and energy, instead of investing it in a better, more productive, realistic and suitable area. And while the example of deciding to become the best at singing or golf (or both) when you’re 40, is still a somewhat blunt example – the choosing of various projects and goals which are not realistic, or worth pursuing, are more common than you may think.
Are you being heroic by not quitting?
Deciding to try out some heroic endeavor and not quitting for a while – isn’t necessarily the end of the world. It can be a healthy, valuable and sobering experience of understanding your limitations, while learning from your failure. But to achieve this learning experience – you still need to decide to quit somewhere down the line. In many cases – the earlier you do it, the better – since you lose less time, which you can then invest in more worthwhile areas. Meanwhile you will find various “not quitters” stubbornly pursuing dead-end goals, not quitting, convincing themselves that “only losers quit” and as a result, miss other valuable on more worthwhile opportunities. As you see – true winners quit all the time – but also, they quit the right things – at the right time.
Quitting isn’t losing or failing, instead as Seth Godin puts it himself: “It is strategic quitting, in a conscious decision you make, based on the choices that are available to you. If you realize you’re at a dead end compared with what you could be investing in, quitting is not only a reasonable choice, it’s a smart one.”. Now though, we are faced with the question of knowing when quitting is the right choice, and when it’s not? Luckily, this subject is also explored by Godin.
Understanding “The Dip”
To understand the art of quitting correctly, it is also important to introduce Seth Godin’s concept of The Dip. The Dip – is the understanding that most worthwhile endeavors or projects Will be challenging, and at times, especially at the first stages – for a while will feel stagnant – and as if going nowhere. This creates somewhat of a dilemma, in the realm of quality quitting, since it means that at times, both potentially successful and hopeless projects, may seem like dead ends. So how do you know which one is which? The first thing that Godin suggests, is to ask yourself if you are panicking.
Quitting impulsively and at the heat of the moment – is usually a bad idea. If you will quit every time you will panic, because at the moment things seem to not go well, or you will momentarily consider that another project is better, you may end up being – as Seth Godin describes – a serial quitter, who spends a lot of time in the line at the supermarket. In his books he describes the provided example in this way: “There is a strategy of picking the shortest line in a supermarket while scanning the other lines, by switching lines every time if a shorter one appears. The problem with this strategy is that every time you switch the lines, you’re starting over. In search of a quick fix, you almost certainly are wasting your time and you most definitely waste energy jumping back and forth. It is as the entrepreneur-wannabe who is on his sixth or twelth new project, as he jumps from one to another, and every time he hits an obstacle, he switches to a new, easier, seemingly better opportunity.”. Keeping cool and not deciding to quit at the heat of the moment or panic – is the first key to knowing when Not to quit.
Ask yourself if you are panicking before quitting
The second suggestion Seth Godin gives is to ask yourself what sort of measurable progress you are making. This question applies more for situations when we Should quit, but we don’t. Too often we get stuck in a situation where quitting seems too painful, so we just stay with it, choosing not to quit because that – is easier than quitting. As Godin says: to stick with it in the absence of forward progress – is a waste. If there is no progress whatsoever, it may very well be an indicator to consider quitting. Having said that – it is also important to choose the right milestones of measuring your progress and not demotivating yourself unnecessarily.
The offered solution is to ask yourself what sort of measurable progress you Are making? Too many times we make the mistake of looking at the wrong measurements. We compare ourselves with the best from the get-go and measure our success by the wrong milestones. For example, if you are trying to start a YouTube channel, a much more difficult endeavor than most people imagine, you may think – my favorite YouTuber has 100k subscribers and gets at least 10k views per video. If I won’t be getting at least 10k subscribers and 1k views on each video any time soon – that means it’s not worth it. Then, you release a video which gets only 30 views. The next one – 35. The one after – 40. You think to yourself – my channel is clearly not worth it – I am not getting even a hundred views per video. But hold your horses. You are wanting too much too soon and this way – you’re missing the incremental growth which Is happening. In the provided example, you are getting 5 views extra with each video – that – is progress which is worth noting. It may be an indicator – that if you will keep going, sooner or later – this incremental growth may very well become exponential. What matters – is that you Are experiencing growth, and that is what is important to see as a good enough reason to keep on going.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try new tactics and solutions, to see if something will work better, but as long as you see progress, even if little, you do stay in the Same project, endeavor or direction, without panicking and starting to bunny hop to the next one, with the first chance you get. In Seth Godin’s words: “Your commitment to the market needs to be unquestioned – it’s much cheaper and easier to build your foundation in one market, than to flit from one to another until you find a quick success.”
Questions to ask before deciding to quit
There are also a number of other question that Seth Godin suggests to ask in considering whether quitting is the right solution:
- Is my persistence going to pay off in the long run?
- I need to decide now “When should I quit”, not when I’m in the middle of it, and not when part of me is begging to quit.
- If I quit this task, will it increase my ability to get through the Dip on something more important?
- And also: if it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.
There are definitely more points to explore, but I will continue to further explore the phenomenon of the Dip and the art of quality quitting in my other, future articles, but I hope that this one brought more insights and better understanding that in reality winners don’t practice “not quitting”, instead – they are very good at quitting the right thing at the right time and sticking to the things which are worth sticking through.