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I Quit (And Why You Probably Should Too)

by on October 30, 2018 4:45 AM

Recently I read an article titled, “5 Times When You Should Probably Give Up” by National Speakers Association (NSA) Hall of Fame member and bestselling author Mark Sanborn. Mark is one of the 20 top speakers in America who make up the exclusive Speakers Roundtable. Several years ago I also read his book The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary and it resonated with this “ordinary” Joe aspiring to lead an extraordinary life.

So, this guy Sanborn knows his stuff. Being a practicing “Pragmatic Passioneer,” I reached out to Mark on LinkedIn to let him know how much I enjoyed his article and why I agreed with his common sense advice. To my delight, he responded immediately and we had a brief back and forth, which concluded with some great advice from Mark about how I could improve my own professional speaking business.

I must admit that when I first read the title of his article, I was a bit puzzled as I immediately thought back to my days as an athlete and a coach.

“Winners never quit and quitters never win”

“If you quit now you’ll always be a quitter.”

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”

Don’t we sports-minded folks just love to speak in absolutes without context or perspective? 

After reading Mark’s article it made me think of advice I have received and experiences I have had in my own life. So I decided to do a deeper dive into the idea of when quitting could actually be a positive action.

Now don’t get me wrong. If you are working on a personal or professional goal or you or your teams are down in an athletic contest, the perspective changes. These circumstances call for grinding it out, finding a way to achieve your goals and never giving up until you reached a hard deadline or the scoreboard clock reads “0:00.”

However, in our journey through our lives and careers, when life-altering decisions need to be made, there can be a big difference between persistence and perseverance. Blindly persisting (i.e. not quitting at any cost) can sometimes lead to frustration, futility, and ultimately failure. Perseverance (i.e. resiliency) is when you realize there are better options to making a more informed decision and achieving your ultimate goal. A “pivot” or “taking a step back” is not the same as quitting. Sometimes it’s wisdom. It’s pragmatic. Sometimes it is just common sense.

 When Persistence and Perseverance Diverge

Sir Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain during WWII and one of the greatest orators in history, is quoted most often for this saying, “Never, never, ever, give up.” While he indeed has uttered those exact words, they were meant in the context of fighting for the very existence of his country during World War II.

A more appropriate Churchill quote for our Pragmatic Passion purposes is:

“Never give in - never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

Churchill added the pragmatic exception that it is sometimes necessary, and practical, to cease an effort due to matters of law, honor, and common sense. Looked at another way, “Never, never ever give up” means to keep trying and never stop working for your goals, even if you need to be flexible and pivot when you reach dead ends. There is no shame in taking one step back sometimes to gain two steps forward. Persistence, taken too far, is the equivalent of stubbornness and can lead to futility and great disappointment, even depression. It takes a very strong, mature person to look in the mirror and recognize their limitations.

So let’s do a thought exercise. Sit down with a piece of paper or your smartphone and make your own list of things you should probably quit such as:

  • Unhealthy habits like smoking, overeating, binge drinking, or excessive cursing.

  • Hanging out with bad habit enablers and negative influencers.

  • Procrastinating, especially when it’s something you promised to deliver that will help others. 

  • Beating yourself up, especially over little things.

  • Hitting the snooze button over and over again. 

  • Going along with the “groupthink” or “mob mentality” because you lack conviction.  Bobble heads rarely make a difference.

  • Saying “my vote doesn’t matter” and get out and vote.

  • Trying to force your opinion on others.  State facts and let others use their critical thinking skills to make up their own mind. 

  • Spending all your time on electronic devices and letting social media dominate your life.

  • Putting off that doctor visit to check out that lingering pain that takes joy out of your daily life. It could turn out to be something serious, even life-threatening, that could be easily fixed.

  • Stop going to the doctor for every little pain you think you have after you read an article or saw some infomercial for the 100th time.

  • Ignoring your “gut feelings” because many times your own intuition is correct. 

  • Being bitter. There is a difference between being right and being effective. Oh boy, have I done this one to myself on more than one occasion. Hardest thing in the world sometimes is to let go of the mistakes of your past. Just let it go.

  • Being a coward and find the courage to do that life-changing thing that is holding you back from having joy in your life. Go start a conversation with someone you think you’d like to go out with on a date. Apply for jobs that you’d love to have, even if they are a stretch. Don’t sit back with regret because you didn’t want to risk getting rejected.

  • Being afraid to fail. When I was in sales, doing fundraising, or recruiting players as a coach, you heard a lot more “no” than “go.” Well it’s better to hear “the quick no” to something you aspired to do than to get “the long no.”  

  • Pushing your kids to chase your dreams and not their dreams. How many kids have been pushed beyond reason to the point of abuse by overzealous parents living vicariously through their child?

One thing you shouldn’t quit? Believing in you! Believe that you have the power within to develop the courage and confidence to make better decisions and choices. Dream big. Keep it real. Get it done.

I have made my list of things I should give up. Quit procrastinating. Make your own list right now, and start quitting your bad habits today.


Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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