“Over? It’s not over! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”– Bluto. Animal House, 1978
I am a quitter. There. I said it.
I was a freshman at a small private college 21 years ago. This college had three or four “fraternities” and a few “sororities”. These organizations were not the big organized jobs, but rather small local groups that survived the ages, much as they were 30 years ago. I wanted to belong, so I joined one. Hazing was unregulated and unchecked. I did not like the people. It was ridiculous and it was not me. So I quit. This was not well received. I was a bit unpopular with my former friends to say the least and it was a very small campus. It was one of the hardest and one of the best things I ever did.
So when do you quit and when do you stay? In retrospect, here are some thoughts:
1) Quit when you feel like a phony. If you are involved in something that you don’t like, don’t believe in or it makes you feel fake, then quit. Trying to be something you are not makes you miserable and people see through it. Acting should be reserved for the theater, not for your life. Being a phony sucks the life out of the real you.
2) Quit when it takes more courage to quit than it does to stay. It is a lot easier to just ride it out, but staying in a situation that leads you away from who you want to be is destructive. Defection is scary, but it makes you unafraid of your identity. It makes you close the chapter on what holds you back. It is like jumping off the diving board. You can’t take it back.
3) If the only reason you stay is because of fear, then quit. I waited to get beat up. I waited to have rotten fruit thrown at me at the dining hall. I waited for some sort of personal property damage while I was in class. It never came. The people who were so upset at my departure had less courage than I did. Many of them probably wished that they joined me. The possible negative impact is always greater in your mind than it is in reality.
4) Quit if you feel like the only reason you are staying is to keep friends that won’t like you if you quit. When you quit, your real friends arise. I had several friends at school that surrounded me with strength. They were people who loved me and stood up for me. When you make an authentic decision, authentic people are attracted to you. Real friends emerge and bond in ways surface friends can not.
5) Quit when you can’t make an impact any more. When you are in a situation and you are fighting a lonely battle with no hope of changing things for the better, why are you still there? You will just be frustrated. I have a bit if news for you. If you can’t make an impact any more and you are frustrated, you are standing in the way of others.
When should you not quit? Don’t quit to teach someone a lesson. They wont learn it. Don’t quit because it is hard. All good rewards come from things that are hard. Don’t quit because you are mad. You will be the only one mad.
Quit when it is not you. Quit when the situation is not productive any more. Quit because you are a better person because you are not doing that thing any more. Something better awaits you and you will never have it if you don’t quit.