The World Needs Better Quitters
When I think back on my childhood, there were several pieces of advice that every adult in my life seemed eager to pass down:
1) Always tell the truth.
2) Hard work pays off.
3) Never Quit.
They often elaborated on the third: "We're not the kind of people who quit" or "Quitters never get anywhere."
It was always possible to rectify a lie with the truth. To push ourselves to work harder after resting periods. But quitting cut deeper. It didn't only speak to failed logic or less than stellar actions; it reflected a person's character. And worst of all, it was final. "Once a quitter always a quitter."
For most of my life, I carried around this badge of no-quitting honor. I followed through on everything and only bowed out during socially appropriate renewal periods. I finished out every season and completed every class.
Then when I was 23, I quit my job.
Later that year, I quit another job.
At 24, I quit another job.
And most recently, just after 26, I quit again.
Despite the encouragement from loved ones and friends, I felt tarnished. I'd quit so many things in, what felt like, such a short span of time that I didn't know how I'd ever regain my work ethic. I carried shame on one shoulder and guilt on the other.
Until quite recently.
I was on a run the other day. The same run I take every Saturday morning. I start in the West Loop, run along the riverwalk and end just by Millennium Park. And for whatever reason, on this particular day, running the same trail I run every weekend, something felt different.
I stopped just near the end, looking out on the lake, and for the first time in years I felt content. Content with where I was, content with who I was, content with the choices I had made.
I'm not a millionaire and I don't have "proof" that every decision I've made has served a purpose, at least not yet. But what I have found is that, more times than not, staying put out of duty doesn't place us anywhere closer to the life we want than acknowledging a poor fit and opting for a clean break.
Perhaps, the lesson our parents always wanted us to learn isn't that quitting, in and of itself, is shameful or repugnant, but that quitting for any reason other than growth— e.g. fear, doubt, discomfort—probably isn't reason enough.
Life is long. We will start and subsequently quit many things along the way. There are some things I've quit too soon, and others I'd go back and quit sooner if I could. And yet, I have to tell you, I have never regretted quitting for the sake of new knowledge and richer experiences.
Leaving isn't easy, especially when there are a number of unknowns on the other side. But all in all, the world deserves, no needs, better quitters.
Quitters who admire comfort but are not held back by it. Quitters who ask "why not?" when silent acceptance is far easier.
Quitters who keep this world interesting, enlightened and full of opportunity.