One of the sayings that I keep as an affirmation is: “A man isn’t finished when he loses. A man is finished when he quits.” I change it in my mind to “person” rather than “man” as I believe it applies equally to both genders.
I believe the saying is true in many situations and in the way the message was likely intended: Hang in there. Keep trying. Never give up.
But this post is about a slant on the saying that I hadn’t thought of until a few years ago: Sometimes quitting is the right answer. Sometimes a job, relationship, or situation is so awfule that even after doing everything that one can to make it work, the only remaining sane option is to quit. I have been in jobs, relationships, and businesses like that.
I had a business that I’d started in 1988 that had quite a number of exceptionally rewarding years. But it was a hyper-cyclical business. Despite having hundreds of Clients, literally business could drop 95% in a month and stay at heavily reduced levels for years (such as during the dot com bust). It was either feast or famine. During the famine years I kept perservering, and that served me well during normal business cycles, but during the dot com bust and Great Recession–very atypcial business cycles–perserverence became very harmful to our financial situation. So harmful in fact that when the economy began to improve I was so mired in debt from trying to keep the bussiness alive that even average years no longer produced sufficient revenue to keep the business going.
I’d been foolish to hang on so long. Like I said in earlier posts, I’m a slow learner! The flip side of the positive trait of perserverence, when taken to an extreme, is sometimes merely ego- or habit-driven stubborness. I eventually wised up and closed the business.
That decision to quit provided the closure that I needed to begin healing financially and to move on to founding my current far-less-cyclical and much more enjoyable investment management business in 2003.
So, while I believe that in most situations quitting should be a last resort, I no longer automatically rule it out as an option.