Quitting can look very attractive. I should know. I quit my official 9-5 job almost two months ago. Once in awhile, I wonder if I made the best decision—not out of any particular love for the previous job, but due to my distaste for quitting. Many of us are raised with the adage that “winners never quit, and quitters never win.” In general, I hate quitting anything. If I only pushed a little harder, then I’d succeed.
Yesterday, I got a better handle on why quitting isn’t always a negative when I attended a session of Seth Godin’s “The Dip Tour.” (Pam Slim does a great write up.) Seth focused on how quitting can be a good thing—as long as your goal is to get out of a Dead-end or a Cul-de-sac. One of the most obvious points he made, but an easily overlooked one, is that we’re all quitters at some point. For example, few people who took ballet as kids are still performing.
Seth tells the story of how Enzo Ferrari quit the successful Alfa Romero racing team in 1948 and started building Ferraris—not the most obvious decision—in post-war Italy. Enzo Ferrari (“The client is not always right.” (link)) faced a Dip and he pushed through it, establishing the internationally recognized Ferrari brand.
Not Quitting Churchill Style
Not quitting and staying your course, pushing through the Dip, can be an equally big decision. During World War II, Winston Churchill stared down Hitler across the channel. When he took office as Prime Minister, he addressed the House of Commons, making it very clear that quitting wasn’t an option:
“You ask what is our policy. I will say, it is to wage war with all our might, with all the strength that God can give us, to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.
You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory however long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival.” (link)
Even after the Germans swept through France, pushing England troops to the Channel, Churchill kept pushing:
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!” (link)
Despite Hitler’s relentless march across Europe, Churchill kept England free and democratic, efforts that made England the foundation of the Allied strategy for waging war in Europe.
To Dip or Quit
Quitting is hard. Not quitting can be even harder. But Seth did offer some ways to tell the difference between a Dip and a Dead-end.
- Panic: If you feel panic, it’s a Dip, something you can push through. Feel nothing? It’s a Dead-end.
- Influence: Trying to gain attention and influence people? If your ability to do so increases, you’re pushing through a Dip.
- Progress: If measurables exist, you’re moving through a Dip. Can’t measure your progress? You’re facing a Dead-end.
We’re not all Churchills standing against invading armies or Ferraris designing legendary sports cars. However, we all face battles that force us to ask the question, “Do I quit or push through?” There’s a difference between quitting for a purpose and quitting out of fear. The same applies for pushing through the Dip.
Ultimately, yesterday’s event made me understand that I need to be engaged in projects worth my time and energy. The same applies to you. Going nowhere, beating your head against the wall accomplishes nothing. Now is the time to figure out how to go around, go under, or go over the wall. The wall is no longer your objective. It’s what’s on the other side that counts.