Quitting Is an Essential Skill
Why you can’t be successful unless you know when to give up
I come from a small town where 95% of the community practiced the same religion (I was a five percenter. AMA.). At 19, members of this faith are sent far from home to act as missionaries for two years. They can only communicate with family on Christmas and Mother’s Day. For men, going on a mission is essentially a societally imposed requirement (women also go on missions, but to a lesser extent, and it’s not “required”). And coming home early is a stain on a person and their family name. It’s the scarlet letter.
I have some friends who say their mission was one of the most important experiences of their lives. I also have a handful of friends who thought they wanted to go, largely due to family and social pressures, but got out in the field and hated it. Many of these guys did the “gritty” thing and stuck it out.
But a couple of these friends did the most un-gritty thing ever. They came home early, social consequences be damned. They faced rumors and whispers and way too many awkward conversations with family and community members. But in doing so they also freed themselves of a life story they didn’t want to be a character in. All of them carried that energy forward, learned a lot about who they are, and have ended up far happier over the long run. Some of my friends who stuck it out, in fact, got home and continued living a life they weren’t entirely sure of and now regret that period of their lives.
Quitters win more than we give them credit for.
Grit vs. quit
Most of us are familiar with the pitch of grit. Academics say it’s composed of “passion and persevere for long-term goals,” or basically just picking something you want to do and sticking with it. It’s billed as the secret to success. As grit researcher Angela Duckworth said in her popular 2013 TED Talk, “One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.”
The grit idea boomed, I think at least in part because American culture loves underdogs but doesn’t exactly celebrate quitters. The grit ideal allowed us to toss aside IQ and innate…