Dr. Stan — CFO for a non-profit in Chicago — takes issue with the idea that quitting is always bad and he wants to share ideas about how to become a successful quitter.
Quitting is simply giving up on something. You can quit going to the gym or quit a bad relationship or quit eating certain foods. You can quit just about anything.
It’s easy to see from these examples that quitting isn’t always bad, but he takes it a step further. He believes that the winners-never-quit fallacy prevents people, and sellers, from finding success.
Sometimes we have to quit things, and sometimes it’s even desirable to quit things. In fact, we should be quitting things all the time.
Dr. Stan got the idea from his son, who is a Marine Corps officer. As he approached the end of his tour of duty, he called his dad one day to say he was considering quitting. He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue being a Marine Corps officer.
Dr. Stan’s advice at the time was to keep going. He pointed to the benefits, the prestige, and the opportunities it would provide. His son, who was 23 at the time, would be able to retire at 43. These were the things he thought were good. Eventually, he rethought his response, and he told his son that he should quit if that’s what he really wanted.
Based upon that experience, he came up with the concept of “quit shaming,” or embarrassing people because they quit things. We tend to look down on people who divorce from a bad marriage, or who quit a job that isn’t working out, or who quit an investment. We sometimes even hide the fact that we quit because we fear the pushback.
When Dr. Stan was young, a guy offered to sell him a VHS — which was new technology at the time — for $200, where it typically sold for $600. Stan bought the VHS only to find that the box was full of bricks rather than a VHS. He was devastated to lose all his money.
In order to replace the income, Stan stole things. He eventually went into the Marine Corps himself, where his petit theft ended in a court-martial, with Stan losing his stripes. He knew he had to quit making those same choices. In the end, he gave up stealing and earned his law degree.
Every human being goes through a growth process that demands that they give up things along the way. In fact, seasons of life sometimes lead us to quit things. Take, for example, Arnold Swarzenegger, who gave up body-building for acting, and then gave up acting for politics.
Our life cycle often causes us to give up things, but some people can’t disengage from the things they are doing because they are emotionally tied to them.
The point isn’t to quit altogether because something isn’t working out. Instead, make a course correction. Do the next right thing.
In order to be successful in life, you have to create new things and new goals to replace the things you gave up.
The biggest challenge for people who need to disengage from things is emotional trauma. If you’re going to quit, acknowledge the negative emotions. Recognize that some people will try to embarrass you, so you must develop a plan forward. The negativity will be less impactful if you have a new plan in place.
We have a problem disengaging from things. Researchers conducted a study called the Jigsaw Puzzle Study in which they studied two groups who were tasked with completing a jigsaw puzzle. One group completed the puzzle, while the group was intentionally interrupted. Researchers discovered that the group who completed the puzzle was happy, while the other group spent twice as much time thinking about the puzzle.
The human brain is hard-wired for completion. When we give up something, our brains are hard-wired to complete that circle.
Times you shouldn’t quit
- Don’t quit because things are hard. If you struggle to sell your product, don’t quit. Continue working, and push through those struggles to become a better seller.
- Don’t quit because you haven’t succeeded yet. The get-rich-quick concept isn’t realistic, and your success could happen next month.
- Don’t quit because you covet your neighbor’s success. Never compare yourself to someone else’s performance. It’s ok to gain inspiration from your neighbor, but don’t quit because of it.
How to quit
Interestingly, most people don’t struggle to continue on a given path because that concept has been drilled into our psyche. Ninety-nine out of 100 people will advise you to keep going. Dr. Stan’s work focuses on those people who want or need to give up something but they struggle to disengage. He teaches them how to make that break.
One of his clients struggled with her weight and her husband belittled her for it. She didn’t want to give up the relationship, partly because they had a business together. She feared that people would question her decision to quit, but eventually, she got a divorce. Once she gave up the business and the marriage, she lost all the weight and her confidence soared.
Abandon a deal
For sellers, this could appear as a deal that you’ve invested so much time in that you’re hesitant to walk away. Even when your gut tells you that it will never close, you continue investing your time and resources into it because you’re emotionally tied to it.
The sunk-cost fallacy refers to the tendency to make decisions based upon what happened in the past rather than making decisions based upon the outcoming you’re hoping for. The fact that a deal didn’t work out in the past has no bearing on what might happen in the future. We often make decisions because we’ve spent so much money on something.
Ringling Brothers had been in business for 146 years making all kinds of money, but last year they went out of business. They had been sued by animal rights activists and the company wouldn’t give up the use of animals. The company was emotionally invested in the use of animals, despite the fact that other groups like Cirque Du Soleil hold wildly successful circuses with no animals.
Blockbuster should have quit using VHS and moved to DVD or streaming. The company should have engaged in new technology, but they had invested so much in their inventory that they couldn’t disengage.
You should not be prevented from giving up things for fear of other people’s opinions. Don’t let anyone else stop you from changing course. Always make the decision for yourself. Do not fail to disengage because of what others might say about you.
“Winners never quit fallacy” episode resources
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