Don’t Quit

churchill

This is the seventh in a collection of newspaper ads from United Technologies that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. The link to the original ad is at the end of this post.

This week’s ad is about not quitting, about never giving in. It even quotes from one of Winston Churchill’s famous speeches:

“… this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

I am glad that Churchill added the phrase “except to convictions of … good sense.” I am also glad that Churchill did not use the phrase “quit”, but rather “give in.”

I’ve written before about what I consider the difference between quitting and walking away. Walking away is a realization that what you are currently doing may not be helping you achieve your dream, your life’s purpose, and as a result making a conscious decision to change the path you are to help you achieve your dream. Quitting is giving up on your dream.

Seth Godin has also written about this:

 “Part of what it means to be a creative artist is to dive willingly into work that might not work. And the other part, the part that’s just as important, is to openly admit when you’ve gone the wrong direction, and eagerly walk away, even (especially) when it’s personal.”

Sometimes, however, we get so caught up in the details of what we are doing, that it often takes a trusted third party to suggest that maybe we should be doing something else entirely.

Seth Godin also wrote about this in one of his posts where he notes the difference between a copyeditor and an editor who is your partner:

And the editor who is your partner will tell you that the chapters are in the wrong order, that you must delete a third of what you wrote, or perhaps consider writing for TV instead. This kind of editor is the one who will tell you your time is better spent doing something else entirely.”

I realize there are hundreds of stories of successful entrepreneurs who ignored everyone’s suggestions to quit, to try something else, but kept going and eventually became successful.

I am also quite sure that there are just as many stories, if not more, of entrepreneurs who ignored such suggestions, kept going, and never met with the success they hoped for. Those stories aren’t as inspirational as the success stories, and so they often go unnoticed or unpublicized.

As a result, there is an almost heroic status applied to individuals who persevere against all odds and become successful, and a stigma attached to those who “quit.”

How much better off would those individuals who kept plugging away and never achieved their dream have been if they had “pivoted” (to use a popular phrase these days), if they had walked away towards some other venture where their grit and determination would have been put to better use?

Another issue associated with quitting or walking away is that many people get caught up in the sunk cost fallacy, and think that they need to recoup everything they have put into their latest venture. Such thinking leads to poor decision making.

Reading today’s United Technology ad also brought back memories of my first swim coach, Todd Ellis. I was about 9 years old, and I tried to do everything Coach Ellis told me. Like many coaches, Todd was into motivational techniques, and it was through him that I first came across the poem, “Don’t Quit“. I had the poem memorized within a couple of days, and many of the words have stuck with me over the years.

I can still recite the opening lines:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will, 
when the road you’re trudging seems all up hill…

I was big into the motivational stuff at an early age, and read all of Tony Robbins’ books as soon as they came out. (I’ve actually just started his latest book on Money). 

I even remember Coach Ellis telling us once that the word “can’t” should not be in our dictionary, so I dutifully went home after practice that day and crossed it out of my dictionary.

So the idea of not quitting has been ingrained in me for along time, but over the years I think I’ve become more aware of how best to utilize my time and efforts in order to achieve certain goals.

And so while I completely support the notion of not quitting, sometimes it just makes good sense to walk away (note how I cleverly combined both Churchill’s and Godin’s words!)

Here is the 1980 United Technologies ad that inspired this post.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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