Winners are Quitters

by Shaun R Smith on April 19, 2011

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Successful people quit all the time. They just quit the right things at the right time. We were told when we were young that winners never quit. In truth, quitting can be the most powerful and effective action to move you forward in certain circumstances.

In Seth Godin’s short book called The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit and When to Stick, he describes three possible scenarios for any project, business, relationship, etc.  You could be in a dip,  meaning that you were growing and you’ve hit a plateau that needs additional effort, resources, skills, and/or relationships to push through.  The situation could be a cul-de-sac, which takes effort to keep going, but it’s never going to be any better than it currently is. Or you’re going down a cliff: it was great at the beginning and it’s just going to get worse and worse.

Of course, the challenge is to be able to tell them apart, in the moment.

The situation could be a prospect, a romantic relationship, a product, a business, an employee.  Remember your time is a completely non-renewable resource.  So every moment you spend falling down the cliff or circling the cul-de-sac is time you lost in pursuit of the goal of growth and achievement.

Godin mentions that stories of entrepreneurs pushing through to success usually involve persistence in a market sense – often with adaption and response to prospects and customers’ input.  Rarely does persistence/hounding pay off on the individual level.

The mythology of not quitting is fed by survivor bias.  The winners are the ones who write the books and get the publishing deals.  And drama and struggle sells. Americans especially love a Horatio Alger story. But the wisdom that could be gleaned from those who persisted all the way down the cliff or who didn’t give up but spent their lives futilely circling the cul-de-sac is lost because their stories are never told.

Don’t quit in a dip – push through. But don’t give up your time, money, and energy to the cliff or cul-de-sac.

Photo by: Ashley Kyd
Book link to The Dip is Amazon Affiliate Link

{ 1 comment }

Mary White April 20, 2011 at 7:00 am

Great post and excellent book (thanks for recommending it; I keep it on my desk). You have a powerful sentence in this article: “Remember your time is a completely non-renewable resource.” Wow, is that the truth and a good reminder. Thanks!

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