4 Reasons Quitting Makes You A Winner

Never, never , never, never give up

-Winston Churchill

I’m usually a Churchill fan, but this quote isn’t so great.

Why not?  Follow this advice and you’ll end up in the same place you started!   Ridiculous.  I prefer another Churchillism instead:

If you’re going through hell, keep going!

Don’t stick around–get the hell out of there!

“Quitters never win!”  It’s true.   Quitters don’t win that game, but that doesn’t mean they can never win.   It’s a tactic to win in the future.  Your goals are important– get rid of your time sinks to focus on what matters.   Deciding to quit is scary, but it’s usually turned out well for me

Quitting gets a bad rap.  The Freakonomics Duo talk about the upside of quitting here.

Am I saying quit every time things get tough?  Absolutely not.  The rewards for perseverance need be worth it, though.  Losing fat is tough, but being lean feels amazing.   Learning  something new is tough, but the personal growth is satisfying.  Conquering anxiety or fear is tough, but nothing feels better than becoming a better person.  Similarly, the burdens and joys of mentorship and giving back are tiring, but they’re rewarding.   

The key is to quit when you realize there is no upside to what you’re doing.   Emotions and ideals can cloud our judgement in these things, but if something is hurting you you should quit!  Moral superiority or macho points don’t count for much if you’re unhappy.

Here are 4 reasons you should consider quitting frustrating or useless commitments, and why it could change your life:

Reason #1: Quitting frees up time and money

Building anything meaningful requires time and money.  Commitments don’t always involve money (though some do), but almost always are time intensive.   Take a look at how you spend your time.   Take note of demanding commitments you have.   Could be a side project, a fraternity, a weekly meetup for drinks or sports.  It might be a relationship.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I enjoy this is?
  • If not, is it making my life better in some other way?
  • What would really happen if I stopped?

I was the treasurer of my fraternity until September 2011–one of the top positions.  I spent over 10 hours per week on Frat life.  I don’t regret anything, and I’m still friends with many of my brothers, but as soon as I stopped enjoying my position I decided to quit.

You might think it’s selfish to quit when ‘the going gets tough,’ but frat life isn’t a commitment like parenting or marriage to be toughed out.   It should be fun.   It costs money.   But worst of all, it was very time intensive with meetings, meetings, and events involving plastic handles.    I quit abruptly and some people were angry, but they got over it.   I didn’t apologize.

When you quit, you shouldn’t apologize either.  You’re just ensuring your limited time on this planet is not wasted.

Back to fraternity land.  It worked out well.  The brothers got a new treasurer who was more excited about his job than I had been, and I saved $750 in dues.  Most importantly I reclaimed countless hours I would have spent in meeting, judiciary boards, and stressing.   I’d do it again.


Reason #2:  Quitting Keeps You Focused

Many people believe they can juggle multiple commitments.   I’ve met a few who claimed they can.   In reality, they are rare.   Most people do better by limiting their goals and attacking them with a vengeance.     Quitting will help you get good at things instead of becoming mediocre at many.

Cal Newport advocates ruthless elimination of un-neccesary classes or commitments in a smart, motivated college student’s schedule:

He realizes that the relationship between reward and skill level is not linear, but, instead, exponential. A corollary of this truth: being excellent at one thing can yield significantly more rewards than being good at many. Even though the former requires much less time than the latter.

Getting really good at one thing is far more valuable than being okay at many.   Professional athletes make millions while amateurs and decatheltes pull in zero.  It’s hard to hunker down and commit to being good at one thing, but it’s the right decision.  Experts are valuable; novices are worthless.  How has putting “good communicator” on your job application worked for you lately?  People seek tangible skills, professional and personally. You need to get those.

If you have too many things going on, you won’t be able to focus.  If you don’t focus, you won’t get good.   And we already talked about what happens if you’re not good.   Quit something now and focus on what you’re good at.


Reason #3:   You Won’t Procrastinate Anymore

Having multiple commitments is deadly because you can blame failures on your overloaded schedule.   It’s a convenient excuse and people will usually give you the benefit of the doubt.   But you’re reading this post because you want to win.   Winners don’t make excuses, they win.   And when they don’t win, they don’t BS around about it.

Procrastination is seductive, but taking action is the right course.   Tim Ferris once pointed out that people tend to overestimate what they can do in a short time period, but underestimate what their long term results.   Fat loss, for example, requires time and rewards starting now. You probably can’t lose 10 pounds tomorrow, but you’d be surprised what changes take place over a year.

What can you do?  X out some stuff that you hate and then you won’t be able to blame your failures on too many things to do.   Crunch time, baby.


Reason #4:  You’ll be happier

If you think powering through adversity is always the best or most manly thing to do, you’re mistaken.   Endurance is one thing, masochism is another.  Toughing out bad situations can build character, but sometimes you need to cut your losses.

My first two years of college I dual majored Engineering and Economics.  Initially I aced pass the math and science courses, but then Physics for Engineers and Integral Calc came along.   I had a miserable Fall 2010 quarter and had only C’s to show for it.  Would I plod along with my nose in the book, become a shy engineer, or choose a different path more suited to me?  Quitting is shameful, right?

Nope, I quit engineering.   I’ll let someone else who enjoys doing complex math and pulling way too many all-nighters handle it.  Quitting engineering was one of my best decisions.  I realized that my attention to detail isn’t always strong.  You don’t want me building your bridges.


I encourage you to take the leap and start trimming your unnecessary and stressful responsibilities.   Stand up for yourself.   Only you can ensure your time and resources are your own.  Eliminate commitments or obligations that don’t nourish you.


What have you quit in the past?  Do you regret it?  Was it the right decision?   Is there anything right now you want to quit?   Sound off in the comments section.

One thought on “4 Reasons Quitting Makes You A Winner

  1. Pingback: Long Term | The John Neil Conkle Approach

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