When Do You Let Yourself Quit?

A photo of a wood floor with the word "nope" written on it in white paint
Photo by Daniel Herron.

Normally, I find Seth Godin to be brimming with pithy wisdom. But judging from Tuesday's post, I guess this week is about sharing things that sound smart, but I think are wrong, wrong, wroooooooong!

This is from his book DIP:

“If you’re going to quit, quit before you start. Reject the system. Don’t play the game if you realize you can’t be the best in the world.”

Why on earth would you limit yourself to only doing things you can be the best at IN THE WORLD? For many people, that would mean they must do NOTHING. Or maybe pick something so obscure and niche that nobody else is doing it, regardless of whether they enjoy it, because they are the only one doing it so now they are both the best AND the worst in the world at it.

Is that what you want? HUH???

Listen, if trying to be the best in the world is really motivating to you and helps you be all that you can be, go for it. But I'm not sure how you can really aim to be the best in the world without constantly comparing yourself to others, which sucks the joy out of everything.

He also implies that quitting after you've started is a bad thing to do, and I reject that, too! Knowing when it's time to walk away can be a powerful, empowering thing.

Elsewhere in this book, he says that when you are ready to quit, that means you have nothing to lose and can lean into the problem so hard you fall right through the other side. That the stress of the moment is NEVER worth quitting something with long-term potential.

So basically, it doesn't matter how much you suffer, just keep suffering. For what? Potential! Who cares if you emerge on the other side and realize that the result is NOT worth it???

Listen, there are some circumstances when this is the right advice. If you're trying to write a book or start a business and you just have to push through a wall of "I don't think I can do this" to get through, then push your way through that dang wall!

There are many circumstances, however, when this is terrible advice. Here are a few:

- When you are in a relationship that isn't working but has potential.

- When you are in the middle of a physical challenge and will literally break your body by continuing.

- When doing so turns you into a monster that nobody wants to work with or be around and you lose your colleagues/friends/marriage.

- When your overall mental health at stake.

Here's my counter-advice:

Start whatever you want to start. Try to be realistic about your skill level, how hard you want to work at it, what success looks like, and when it might be reasonable to quit.

If it's an activity or project with a "finish line," try your best to finish, even when it gets hard. If at some point it becomes clear that finishing is no longer worth anything to you, then feel free to walk away and devote your precious energy to something else.

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