Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q if for Quitters

Football coaching legend Vince Lombardi once said, "Quitters never win and winners never quit."  This has become something of a mantra in our culture where quitting is often seen as the equivalent to failure.

To borrow a word from the Japanese: "BAKA!!!"1

Vince Lombardi was the coach of the Green Bay Packers.  His was a position of authority where his players gave their all, much like a general rallying his troops to fight a final battle.

The challenge with this approach to "quitting and winning" is that we give up all of our personal power to adhere to it.  What if you were one of Lombardi's players with an injury that could become very serious (ending your career or forever altering your quality of life) if you kept playing?  In Lombardi's culture, if you were able to play then you went back in the game.  What if you were sitting at a blackjack table, losing hand after hand, and the dealer insisted, "Quitters never win and winners never quit."  Would you continue to gamble or would you follow your intuition and step away from the table?

I truly believe that hard work, discipline, and perseverance are important traits.  Just because something isn't fun or because we don't achieve immediate success in it is not a reason to stop trying.  Theodore Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech is my personal mantra and a perspective that I remind myself of on a regular basis as I strive to reach my own dreams.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 
I'm stubborn to a fault and the idea of quitting anything is as appealing to me as drinking a large glass of the Ebola Zaire virus.  But I've quite numerous things along the way - simply because choosing a different direction for myself was the right thing to do.

The key isn't to mangle Shakespeare and ask ourselves, "To quit or not to quit?" but rather to stop and ask, "Who holds the power in this situation?"  For instance, "Am I staying at my job because it's advancing my career, I enjoy the work, or because it's a stepping stone to the career I want for myself?"  If so, tough it out even when it's nearly unbearable.  In that scenario you're still in the driver's seat.  Just because the road is hard doesn't mean that it's the wrong road to go down.  If you hate your job and it's doing nothing more for you than offering you a paycheck, then the employer holds the power - not you.  While standing up in the middle of your shift and walking out is one way of quitting, actively looking for a new position that meets your goals and needs and submitting resumes on a regular basis is another.  Quitting doesn't have to be a rash process - and if you're in control and hold the power for yourself in most cases it shouldn't be rash.  Pick your direction, plan your journey, and simply take that first step.

Personal power is hard for most people to define.  If you asked them, "What do you want out of life for yourself?" most people aren't able to give you an answer that contains anything more than a few broad themes.  If you asked the same person, "If you imagined the perfect best friend, one who loved you, encouraged you, and supported you, what they want for you out of life?" the answers slowly begin to come forth.  Personal power isn't about filling every moment with sunshine and rainbows; it comes by finding what you want out of life and continually adjusting your course to bring your life (your job, your relationships, your hobbies) into alignment with that.  Some things will fit into it; some things won't.  Taking a job waiting tables doesn't have to mean that you want to go into the restaurant business - it can simply be a way to help you finance college and the career that follows your degree.

If life were a river, we will occasionally find our boat stuck on a sandbar, caught between rocks, or stuck in a whirlpool.  Quitting doesn't mean that you've failed; it means that you've done what was necessary to get yourself moving again.  The key is to compare the situation you're in (or the direction you're headed) with what you want out of life.  Does it bring you closer or farther away to your goals?  If you're not sure, be patient and watch; not everything in life moves quickly.  If you're headed in the right direction and the road is tough, be tougher than the road.  However, if you find yourself moving farther and farther away from the life you want to live, it's time to do something about it.  Don't think of it as quitting - think of it as being brave enough to stand up and do what you know is right for you.  The easy and wrong choice is often found simply by following the crowd. It takes a certain kind of bravery to blaze your own trail.

And sometimes, we need to quit in order to put ourselves in position to win.
1. Japanese word "Baka" means idiot, fool and stupid, everything along those lines. (from Urban Dictionary)


  1. Thank you Jeffrey! Excellent again!! :)<3

  2. Brilliantly put - I agree with all you have said here (and have learned a little Japanese along the way!)

  3. Sound philosophy there, thank you, Jeffrey!

  4. All I can think of as I read this..Stop the world! I want to get off! :) Thank you for opening up a perpective. I will be thinking about a" true to me" definition of wining.

  5. More wonderful insight from a wonderful, caring person! Thank you!!

  6. That's an incredible perspective. I love it.

  7. Thanks, everyone! I'm taking care of three family members (two kids and an adult) with monster colds at the moment... AND laying out my next novel so we can ship it off to the printer, so I'm not around much. But I wanted to touch base (Toby, Karla, Paula, Wendy, Raven, and Paul) and say, "Thank you for dropping by!" :)