5 Questions About Quitting

quit final image

I just finished a novel where a rookie cop was the heroine. Throughout the book, as scary people tried to do her harm, she kept herself going by repeating a phrase she’d learned as a child:

No medals for quitters!

Quitter. Ouch. Who wants to be called one of … those!? Doesn’t “quitter” just drip with negativity?

Lazy! Unreliable! Untrustworthy! Bum! Sloth!

Are these people bums and sloths?

  • The 9-year-old who, with hurt feelings and a bruised ego, walks away from a game with friends or siblings.
  • The teenager who, burned out on athletics, drama, dance, and piano lessons (pushed since age four by performance-driven mom and dad), screams ENOUGH!
  • The college student who drops out before getting that piece of paper the hiring gatekeepers demand.
  • The employee who leaves an organization he/she no longer believes in.
  • The dreamer who discovered dreams don’t pay the bills—so they got a job.

Sloths! Bums! Right? 🙂

But seriously, if we believe quitting is bad and stick-to-itiveness is good, does that mean we can never change our mind, undo a decision, or “move on”?

What if we’re not very good at something? Wouldn’t remaining committed to perpetual failure be just another form of the insanity definition we’ve all heard too many times by now?

What if we’re not very good at something? Wouldn’t remaining committed to perpetual failure be just another form of the insanity definition we’ve all heard too many times by now?

Yes, loyalty and tenacity are strengths, but never forget:

Any strength taken to an extreme becomes a weakness.

Where is it written that we can’t or should not ever quit?

Let’s ponder 5 critical questions:

The QBQ! book’s message is personal accountability—is it “unaccountable” to quit?

Our last blog was about keeping promises. Is quitting the same as breaking a promise?

When is it okay to quit? When is it not? Share examples from your life.

Honestly, how did you treat someone who quit when you thought they shouldn’t?

What should parents teach their children about quitting?

Please choose a question or two and leave a profound thought below. And if you’ve read this far, you really should follow through and comment because you wouldn’t want to be accused of being a … quitter.

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61 Responses

  1. ENOUGH! My parents always wanted me to complete forms and give feedback. I quit. (PS – I know it wasn’t profound, but since you injected some humor, I thought it was OK to attempt some myself)

  2. LOVE THIS POST. I needed it today. I’ve been in a job that I started 5 months ago and although I’m a great employee, I’m under a very oppressive boss and she hasn’t really created a great learning environment, although I’ve tried to learn and grow and become better. I have realized now it’s just not going to happen due to our chaotic mix of personalities. I earnestly wanted to succeed. But I have to know when its time to leave it behind and return to what I know. It’s not to say that I couldn’t learn to be good at this. I could. But this isn’t my opportunity at this time. I’ve fallen off the bike so to speak and picked myself up a few times with this current position I’m in and it’s not improving. So I am eagerly searching for another position and recognizing it’s better for me to leave now while things are in somewhat of a positive state rather than stay, have things grow increasingly worse, and leave in a negative state. I think leaving a situation, job, etc. is not an easy choice due to our background of being raised not to be quitters. I think you really need to think about the reasons why you want to leave. Is it hard? If it’s hard, that isn’t always the best reason to give up. But if there are many factors at hand working against the successes, then perhaps it’s a good indication that in order to maintain wellness in health and life, it’s time to move on. And no one can tell you that. You have to determine that for yourself. As well, you should not worry about what others think. You do what is best for you and if it gives you peace of mind, that’s really the most important thing. Worrying about what others thinks only clouds judgement, wastes time and adds more stress!

  3. In business, if someone is no longer productive, valuable, etc. it is time to start thinking about quitting. For a leader, if you no longer add value to your team because you are negative or burnt out, it is time to start thinking about quitting. We have many leaders in place that believe they need to stick around until retirement or out of pure loyalty, but may not be benefiting thier teams any longer. That will always do more harm than good. Know when to say when.

  4. My husband recently quit a very lucrative job. He found himself in a place where he no longer had passion and purpose for the work that he did. He could have stayed, continued to collect a paycheck, done a good job, and been unhappy. Many people questioned why he would walk away, or be a quitter when he was so good at his job. In his case, he felt the accountable decision was to leave, head held high, reputation in tact and look for a new position where he could renew his energy and passion. I personally think the brave decision he made to quit was the best decision for our family, for his health and ultimately for the company he left. I also think this is a great lesson to teach our daughter. Have confidence in yourself, be happy in the work you do, pursue your passions!

  5. True Entrepreneur?
    I once owned a business that had done very well and was now struggling. Seeking advise one day from an older businessman I admired he told me this… He said, Paul, you are an entrepreneur. You see opportunities where others don’t. You have a vision when others are in the dark. You feel victory when others haven’t even started. As an Entrepreneur you know when to “get in”, but a True Entrepreneur knows when to “get out”. It was time to get out and go to the next opportunity. It was not quitting, it was the evolution of a True Entrepreneur!
    Now, (25 years later) I find myself again in the same spot, asking if I need to “get out”…but quitting never entered my mind. There is a difference.

  6. We taught our kids that if they committed to play a sport, then they were committed to the team for the season. After the season ended then they could reassess if they wanted to participate in that sport again.

  7. A little more than a year ago, my daughter decided to stop volunteering for an organization she had been voluteering at for a little more than 2 years. This was due to some personal reasons, mainly because she was unhappy with the way she was being treated, and I backed her decision. The director was furious; she definitely let me know that I was teaching my daughter to be a “quitter” and asked how could I do such an awful thing. (The director actually was a friend of mine!) I can happily report that my daughter has gone on to get a job that she has been at for over a year now, and is much happier now. She has dealt with difficult co-workers and *has not quit*! What she has learned is to trust her own instincts; when it is not right, it is OK to move on to bigger and better things!

  8. I firmly believe knowing when to quit or when not to quit creates your own ‘luck’, or ‘lucky break’. I follow my instincts and have never regretted it, even though it has left others dumbfounded equating me to a cat with nine lives. I am happy and have done just about everything I have ever really wanted to, and met a lot of great people along the way.

  9. Several years ago, a top serviceman in our utility company accepted the position of supervisor of our newly created central dispatch group. It seemed a perfect fit, since he was an integral part of the team to set up dispatching. About six months into his new job, however, he realized being a supervisor was not what he wanted to do. He went to his current and previous managers, and was able to return to his previous job, where he was much happier. I admired him for taking the risk and trying something different. But instead of staying in a job he knew he wasn’t suited for, he had the courage to “quit” what he knew was the wrong thing for him. I love this example.

  10. When is it okay to quit? When is it not? Share examples from your life.

    In my life I have always found a problem with every boss or company I have had, and for the most part, have quit rather than try to learn or change the situation (this is pre-QBQ of course). The attitude that the grass is always greener on the other side prevailed, and was usually incorrect. Most of the issues I had were not due to some fault in the company, but rather in my immaturity as a person or as a professional (or both). It’s difficult to admit even now, but despite all my life experiences, I still had a lot of growing to do as a professional.

    But, on the flip side, there is a time to say enough is enough. When you practice QBQ day in and day out, but the issue is system wide, you are rowing upstream using a spoon instead of a paddle. I’ve reached a point now in a job that I’ve held for the longest period of time in my career. I’ve practice personal accountability, given QBQ to my boss to read (that didn’t make a dent…) and tried to rally my co-workers into the land of QBQ, but the problem lies beyond the scope of my influence as a professional and as a person. You can only go home beaten so many times before you don’t want to go back anymore. The situation actually reminds me of the scene in Office Space with the two Bobs – “Why Peter, it seems that you’ve been missing a lot of work lately…”, to which Peter replies, “Well Bob, I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it…”. It saddens me that I couldn’t fix the situation, but there are some things that even QBQ can’t fix.

  11. As the president of my own personal services corporation (Me, Myself and I) that happens to employed full time by another corporation, I have no problem with sticking to my personal development plan. Occassionally, I do find it difficult to follow other’s lead when there seems to be little or no planning behind the curtains. When the leader lacks leadership skills, I believe you must make decisions to either (1) help them develop those skills, (2) accept a life of chaos or (3) quit that place and do a better job of interviewing the next customer for your personal services corporation!

  12. If one has clear priorities, quitting can be easy and guilt free. When sticking to something that is a low priority interferes with achieving high priority goals, it is time to quit. For me, it was quitting a job that had evolved into something that would take me away from my wife and children for months at a time. It fit my priority of family but may not fit somebody else’s priorities. Being secure in my personal priorities helped me to shrug off criticism from others who had different priorities for “my life”.

    Children are a different story. They need to learn about loyalty, commitment, and integrity. Still, when a child is miserable or begins to feel like a failure because they are stuck in something they don’t like or don’t have skills to do, it is time for a responsible adult to help the child make the decision to stay or quit. The older the child, the less input from adults.

  13. Some of the toughest times to know when or when not to quit is with respect to your kids. I think I’ve just realized my son isn’t driven to out do or be the best at some things; he just wants to try it and have fun. I’ve only recently just started to enjoy his humble, playful personality and not worry about his “competitive” nature. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. In reading the initial perspective provided, it struck me that there are really different “levels” of quitting. If I quit my job, I may be doing so to take an opportunity to increase my earning potential, level of responsibility or taking a clear next step in my career development. So while I may be quitting a singular task, I am not quitting on my overall goals and objectives. From the original story, what I read in the “no medals for quitters” quote was, “only those that persevere toward their goals get rewarded”. That’s just not as “catchy” and likely the reason I’ll not be an author anytime soon.

  15. John, I graduated from Cornell in Dec. 1971. I was a backup QB and played with Ed Marinaro. Our last game at Franklin Field in Philadelphia Mark Allen got hurt 5 minutes into the game and had to leave the game. I came off bench and played best game of my career in front of 40,000 fans and we won Ivy League championship first time in history of Cornell football. I was presented game ball!!! We won 41-13!! I was 6 for 6 in passing. So exciting!!! The value of Perseverance!!! Don’t Quit because you are not playing! I coached my kids on this and they all are doing well in life!!

  16. I don’t like the word QUIT — but I was refreshed by the concept that was shared by Arianna Huffington — 1. Finish things: Reduce your baggage and the mental weight you carry. Arianna: “Did you know you can complete a project by dropping it?” from an article “Redefining Success — Lessons From Arianna Huffington’s Thrive”
    I’m not a Quitter but there are Projects in my life that would be better dropped than taken to an illogical end.

  17. Such an interesting and valuable topic John. I find it interesting because in your book you really highlight the importance of learning to quit blamming. I think of all the phrases that were said to me as a child…”quit pointing fingers”, “quit saying everything you are thinking”, “quit acting as if the glass is half full.” If we really think about it, the word quit is associated with so many positive things.

  18. Nice note today John. As a owner of a recruiting firm for 23 years, we talk about this all of the time. The simple answer is quitting can be a very intelligent well thought out decision or it can be our inability to effectively manage our working skills, relationships, our “feelings” of discomfort, or how we exercise self-control.


  19. Thank you for this timely article, as I was recently discussing this exact issue with a close friend. One point I’d like to add is to not forget about what opportunity you might be opening for someone else. Someone from church had been catching a lot of slack for “quitting” a position she had volunteered in for a while. However, that presented the opportunity for someone else to fill that spot, which turned out to be the best situation for all involved. Shutting one door for yourself may open it for another.

  20. Interesting topic. I just quit looking for work… after finding myself unemployed for nearly five months. Looking back, I should have quit my previous job and found another one, or just taken several months off from work, as it had me s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d out. My life was out of balance. For 40+ years, I had remained focused and headstrong, believing work was the responsible thing for me to do to meet the needs of myself when I was single, and then my family after I married. I am grateful for the jobs I’ve held over the years. I was the sole bread winner for my wife and our four children, however, my sanity, heart and being had grown weak from the daily grind. I needed rest. Still do. Here’s to hoping I have not jumped the gun by returning to work (I started my new job yesterday). I now see quitting, if done right, as an imperative part of life, as it can be the positive process of choosing the path that more fully serves our highest good. You may recognize the following words to a song by Kenny Rogers: “know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to run.” How true.

  21. Great Post. I’m working on being a better quitter. I’m glad you and other leaders are talking about it more. Quitting is just another word for changing. We don’t like change so we villainized the word quit. Everytime I eventually quit something, I say I should have done it a long time ago.

  22. When is it good to “quit”? When the idols I am chasing are getting in the way of a divinely inspired life, it is time to “quit” chasing false idols and “start” following God’s plan for my life. If we all did this, then “quitting” wouldn’t be so hard! Quit chasing, and start following Him!

  23. My parents wanted me to get that “piece of paper”; graduating from college. I was a dreamer. I didn’t want to go to college, but did what I was told.

    I quit (after years of college and never getting anywhere) three weeks before my finals because I wanted to follow my dream. I’ve never looked back.

    I taught my daughters there were other options than traditional classroom learning in college; trade schools; online classes, learning abroad. Funny enough, they both went to 4-year college. Go figure.

  24. I quit nursing school part way between LPN and RN. I hit a brick wall and couldn’t go on.
    I now work as an LPN in a dementia unit and love every minute of it. I was meant to be here at this time and place. Sometimes you have to quit something that isn’t working to be in the place you were meant to be.

  25. Interesting. I just finished “Think Like a Freak” and they discussed the same topic. I think there is a time to quit in everyone’s life. Definitely one must put careful thought into the decision and the ramifications of that decision, both directions, continue on or quit.

  26. I think that it is harder to “quit” than it is to stay where it is not right. We all become comfortable or anxious about the big world out there or think things will change if we stick it out but ultimately we have changed internally so quitting is the best answer in order to move to a better place. After all…if caterpillars did not change we would not have butterflies!

  27. I took Spanish all 4 years in high school. In the 4th year I was disappointed in the curriculum, as we were being taught how to analyze poetry and such instead of learning how to have a conversation. The teacher was also “mean”. I decided to drop the class and became an assistant in another teacher’s class. The teacher (whose class I dropped) called me a “quitter”. I’ve never regretted it, but the phrase has always bothered me.

  28. Sometimes for your own sanity you have to quit. You can not enable, fix or shoulder the responsibility for situations anymore. Period.

  29. Several years ago my wife and I had planted a church. We started off with a great team and with our small numbers we made a great impact on our community. However, we really did not start growing. After 3 years the wife and I were having to do more and more. We knew then it was time to move onto something else. We made the decision to close the church. – Sometimes leading means you know when to quit.

  30. I think the decision to quit must be well thoughout so that they do not become regrets. There are times when “quitting” is the smart move and you will know it because it feels right and as time passes you still feel good about that decision.
    There are times when things get tough and you quit, while in the moment there is relief, over time regret sets in and the realization that you could have worked harder or differently and would have not needed to quit. It is not a simple answer and deserves a lot of consideration. Because regret does not feel good either.

  31. As a Father of an 8 year old I believe that it is important to teach my son the importance of finishing what he starts. This value of seeing things to the end that we have instilled into everything we do as a family and as individuals in the family was challenged this last football season. My son wanted to play football so we signed up, started practices 3 nights a week and a game on Saturday morning and we were there for every snap. I am extremely proud of my son as he showed the dedication and drive of a true competitor, he gave it all that he had at all times on the field and gained the admiration of his team mates and of the coaches. He was not the fastest kid on the field nor was he the biggest but he showed that non of that mattered as long as you work hard and give it all that you got. With all that said we were over half way through the season when I asked him a question that I never envisioned myself asking, I noticed he was not all that excited about practice so i asked him if he was interested in playing anymore. He answered in a way that i could tell was to satisfy what he thought I would want to here so i let it go for a day or so then I asked him with a more specific question. I started out by laying out were he was in his education endeavors (which he has a couple of learning opportunities to overcome having dyslexia) and the fact that it is important to do our 30 minute learning program on top of his school home work. And believe me fitting all that in while practicing until 8:00 o’clock 3 night a week was tough to say the least as his bed time is 8:30ish. So after painting the picture that he was all to familiar with I asked him if he wants to continue playing out the remainder of the season or he could transfer his priorities to his school work in other words “QUIT” playing football,but i like to refer to this situation as realignment of priorities. Anyway he listed to me intently as i laid out his options and assured him that this would be a decision that he would have to make for himself and that whatever his decision was I would be completly behind him and proud of him whichever way he chose. He looked at me and said “Dad I want to think about that” and I said of course take your time and let me know what you decide when that time comes. It was about 22 hours later when he came up to me and said ” Dad I think I want to focus on my school work and not play football anymore” And as any proud dad would respond with of course I am so proud of this really tough decision that you have made, now we need to go up to the field and let your coach and team mates know whats going on so we did and he did. The coach was understanding but asked if it was because he was only in the game for 3 snaps of the ball on game day and I said no ( even though the 7 1/2 hours of practice a week equaled about 3 minutes of actual playing time) this is a decision that makes the most sense for his educational development, so we thanked him and walked away with our heads held high. Now that’s an 8 year old’s story of personal accountability to which i am proud to be the father of.

  32. In an effort to be concise, like the QBQ Tips, we can paint with a broad brush. The quitter example #2 troubles me. We in higher education do much more than give out a piece of paper the hiring gatekeepers demand. Higher education should and does teach critical thinking skills. I’m not suggesting or even advocating everyone needs a liberal arts degree; however, I am suggesting that there are valid reasons many businesses want employees with college degrees. UC Berkeley Cnancellor Dirks has a lovely essay on the value of liberal arts degrees: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/01/29/the-true-value-of-higher-ed/

    Jon Acuff’s book Quitter is a fun resource how to turn quitting one thing into building another which I think was the point of this week’s QBQ tip.

    Quitting isn’t always a bad thing and that was the point of the Tip.

  33. In my last job, I put up with a crazy amount of stress as the company (due to a poor financial situation) was essentially downsizing by torturing people until they left. Time after time, I witnessed the owner/CEO screaming at people. One guy was pushed to resigning after being diagnosed with clinical depression. A woman chose to leave after being hospitalized related to stress. I was taken to a restaurant and screamed at in public by the owner/CEO because I had confronted him about talking about me behind my back. Leaving for me was a choice not to put up with it anymore and to take a stand against poor treatment. I should have done it much sooner. Life is too short to put up with that.

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