Winners Know When to Quit

Twice in the last week, I’ve had people say to me, expecting agreement,

Winners never quit. You know that, right? You’ve won a world championships, founded several companies, earned a Ph.D. You never would have done that if you quit.

I would like to go on record with my opinion.

That idea that winners never quit is complete and total bullshit.

I have accomplished a lot of things in my life and it would never have happened if I hadn’t quit other things.

  • I started out as an Urban Studies major. I quit that and got a BSBA in business instead, where I was required to take Calculus and a couple of programming courses, market research and took an elective in statistics … all of which sparked my interest in software development, statistics and mathematics, which led to the career I have now. If I had followed the never quit mantra, I’d probably be a city planner.
  • I had a job as an industrial engineer that I liked a lot. I quit that to take a job teaching computer classes in the corporate training department, because I wanted to live in the same city as my second husband. Then, because I really didn’t like that job, I quit it and got a Ph.D.
  • I quit the marriage to my first husband and I am 100% certain that both he and I are much happier as a result. I certainly would not have had The Perfect Jennifer, Darling Daughter Number Three and The Spoiled One if I had stayed married. I doubt I would have gotten a Ph.D. or started a business.
  • I quit competing in judo after I won the world championships. I had other things I wanted to do in life – have more children, get more education, start a business. I ignored everyone’s advice that I would regret it forever if I did not stick it out four more years and go to the Olympics. They were all wrong. I have not regretted it for one second.
  • I quit my full-time job as an Associate Professor and moved to California to marry The Invisible Developer and start a business.
  • I quit in the middle of a research grant to take a job that paid me a lot more money. Then, I quit that job for one that paid even more THEN, I quit that one to work for a university that paid diddly squat but gave free tuition to my children. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for Darling Daughter Number One to attend a university that costs slightly more than buying an entire small town, nor for Darling Daughter Number Three to train for the Olympics, nor The Perfect Jennifer to attend graduate school.
  • Then, I quit the university because, did I mention my annual salary was approximately diddly squat?

If I hadn’t done that all of that,  I would never have co-founded Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc., never founded The Julia Group, never co-founded 7 Generation Games, never written grants for tens of millions of dollars that paid for college scholarships, tutors for high school students, substance abuse counseling, vocational rehabilitation, development of online courses and educational software.

I’m pretty certain that everything I accomplished in life has come about because I DID quit a lot of things when they were no longer rewarding, productive or the right choice for me.

Yes, there are people who give up at the first sign of difficulty, and this is a mistake.

There are also people who go down the wrong path for far too long.

In fact, you cannot pursue an infinite number of opportunities. It would be nice if a new opportunity presented itself exactly when you had finished the previous one, if there were no dead ends and never a need to make adjustments in plans, but that’s not how the world works.

There is also the possibility that quitting is not final – but that’s a post for another day.

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  1. If only the story of our perceived failures was told we all would look like complete losers, but ALL of the most successful people in the world have quit, failed, or changed course at one point in their lives leading to much greater things, much higher mountains.

  2. I have never heard anyone tackle the idea of “Winners Never Quit” in such a logical & convincing way. Your examples were perfect.

  3. A possibly more correct statement, that may not be bullshit, is that continual winners never quit trying to achieve what they think (and continue to evaluate) that which they think they should be doing.

  4. I don’t believe you ever quit. You simply move on and add to what you have learned and experienced. I have been amazed how years after “moving on” to different endeavors that things that I have learned years before have come in to play.

    I believe that our mind is like a computer. Everything you have ever experienced stays with you in your minds file. Even if you trash it it still remains on your brains’ hard drive and can be recovered.

    To quit means to give up. Your mind doesn’t allow you to give up.

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