Jake LaCaze

Quitting can be a great option

LaCazes never give up.

I cringed when I heard my son once mutter those words. Some people would have you believe that I should have poked my chest out with pride and then yelled out Hell yeah! and head butted him in my excitement. Instead I told him that quitting can be a great option. He raised an eyebrow at my crazy talk, but I was sincere.

I thought back to early 2008 when I was selling cars (or at least trying to) in Ruston, Louisiana. I was a horrible fit for the job. I was too anxious and insecure when dealing with people. I don’t get excited about cars; I see them more as expensive depreciating tools rather than prized possessions. I don’t know the difference between a 5.4L engine and a 2.7L engine; hell, I don’t even know if those are actual engines.

Throw in the fact that I was selling cars in the height of the Great Recession when automotive financing was hard to come by, and it’s not hard to see why I was eating a lot of ramen and chicken nuggets during those days.

I could have stuck with it. I could have gritted my teeth and plowed through until I figured it out and became the car selling king of Ruston, then Louisiana, then THE WORLD. Or I could go another path, when someone offered me a job in oil and gas abstracting, which is what I did. In this scenario, quitting was the right option.

Some people gravitate to absolutist statements like the quote opening this blog post because such quotes are simple. They don’t require much thought once you’ve memorized the words and have gotten the rhythm down. They seemingly clarify the world and all its challenges.

If only life could be so simple as to navigate via a handful of sayings…

Perhaps this obsession is greatest on LinkedIn (or at least within my network), where I am bombarded with posts assuring me that attitude is everything and hard work always pays off. Sure, there’s some truth to these statements, but I have problems with their absolutist nature.

And then there’s my crown jewel of a pet peeve: the advice to never give up.

Barf. How short-sighted.

As I’ve already stated, quitting can be a great option, a point Seth Godin makes in his book The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). Godin says sometimes we have to grit our teeth to get through the dip, that lull we may find ourselves in before we climb our way out to greater success. But sometimes we may find ourselves in a perpetual dip because we’re dedicating our time and effort to the wrong thing, such as getting our VCR repair business off the ground.

So often we hear stories of entrepreneurs who stuck with it despite the odds, but we forget that many of them quit other projects before their successes. They did not stick with the losing projects. Instead, they carried the lessons from their failures to new adventures. In Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein argues that variety of experience can be a great asset, and sometimes that variety is acquired through quitting and moving on to new projects.

On his various podcasts and blogs, Scott Galloway has repeated the point it’s better to fail early than late. The sooner you fail, the more time is on your side, giving you more chance to recover and find success elsewhere.

This line of thinking isn’t anything new. People knew this centuries ago, as pointed in the September 19th entry of The Daily Stoic (See below.)

The September 19 entry of The Daily Stoic September 19 entry of The Daily Stoic

Flexibility and adaptability are just as valuable as grit and determination.

The point of this post is not to argue that we should quit at the first sign of difficulty. I do not seek to counter an absolutist statement with another absolutist statement. Only a Sith deals in absolutes, as Obi-Wan Kenobi tells us in his own absolutist words.

The point is that quitting can be a great option. But how do we know when it is a great option and when it’s not? Welcome to the fun of being human, an exercise in navigating through endless uncertainty.

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