I’ve been to a few conferences lately that have mentioned “grit.” It’s the new term for perseverance. I totally get it and I’m a fan of perseverance. Some of these same events have conveyed that the opposite of perseverance is quitting and therefore, a bad thing. That I don’t agree with.
I assume the implication is you shouldn’t quit even when things are really tough. On the surface, I agree that a single day of inconvenience or rough waters doesn’t justify quitting. But I wouldn’t imply quitting is necessarily a bad thing. If you’re beating your head against the wall, day in/day out…yes, you should consider quitting.
Over the past few years, the business world has come a long way in embracing failure. It’s OK to fail at something and learn from the experience. For that reason, I say it’s time we embrace quitting. There are many famous and successful quitters in history – people like Bill Gates, Ray Kroc, Howard Stern, Jeff Bezos and Michael Bloomberg. If you want to learn more, check out Seth Godin’s book about quitters. It’s called “The Dip.”
Now in fairness, I’m sure these comments about grit and perseverance weren’t meant to be taken literally. They were probably meant to encourage people to keep trying (i.e., to persevere). But here’s the problem…sometimes, you should give up.
I feel awful when I listen to people tell me stories of how their boss is narrow-minded and unreceptive to change. They want to do more for the organization but their boss won’t let them. They’re looking for help and assistance in making their boss understand. Honestly, I’m not sure that’s the answer. Will your boss have an epiphany and all of a sudden start listening to you by your will alone? I wish it were that simple.
Deep down inside, I think these folks know the answer. They need to quit. Unfortunately, they see a whole bunch of motivational quotes that talk about quitting being a bad thing. They assume their career will be scarred for life as a ‘quitter.’ Truth is…sometimes you should give up and quit.
And that’s a good thing.
More importantly, it might be a bad thing if you don’t. There might come a time in our personal or professional lives when the best option is to walk away. The important part is knowing when.
Some people walk away too soon. At the first sign of difficulty, they toss in the towel. This can leave people with the impression they’re not tough enough – or you lack grit.
Some people quit too late. Yes, there is such a thing. They keep hoping change will occur so they stick around. Meanwhile, everyone else has seen the writing on the wall and made other plans.
Others don’t quit at all…and potentially get hurt in the process. They stay in bad situations because they don’t want to be called a “quitter” or they stick around out of loyalty.
The key to successful quitting is knowing when it’s time to step away. Do you have to try to get your point across when you know you’re right? Yep. But you also have to be honest with yourself about what’s happening around you.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying that your goals and the company’s goals aren’t in alignment. If you come to the realization that your boss won’t change, you can start looking for that next opportunity. That alone can offer some relief.
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And let me add that quitting is not failure. If you‘re outnumbered at work with people who don’t listen to you and make what are (in your opinion) stupid decisions, then you need to ask yourself honestly if you can really single-handedly change the place. If the answer is no…then quitting isn’t failure. It’s actually smart decision making. Go focus your energy in a place that truly appreciates your talents.
There are moments when quitting is absolutely the right thing to do. We shouldn’t tear people down by stigmatizing the important art of quitting. Figuring out the right reason and the appropriate moment to quit is harder than anyone realizes.
Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby