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Add Quitting to Your Strategic Toolkit

Yep…I said it. Quitting may be the most under-utilized resource in your organization.  And I’m telling you to add it back in rotation. Dr. Julia Keller’s book entitled Quitting: A Life Strategy (2023) goes into great detail about how grit and perseverance has been put on a pedestal in our American culture and quitting is deemed as the “forbidden fruit.”  Work hard. Don’t give up, no matter what. Quitters never win. Success comes to those who work hard. Think bigger, work harder. Go the extra mile.  Do any of these sound all-too familiar? Are they parked on a poster on your wall?

I’m not saying we don’t need to work hard. The real question is…are we working hard at the right thing?

A friend of mine once told me one of the best pieces of advice she ever received was “Learn to say NO to the not-so-good things so you can say YES to the best things. And then don’t back away from your NO.” She said it taught her that her time and talents were valuable and deserved to be devoted to the best options available. Over several decades, it has saved her from lots of mistakes, regrets, and wasted efforts.

That’s why I think we need to reframe quitting. Quitting is learning to say “no” to something that isn’t working so we can say “yes” to a better option. Sometimes, we don’t want to quit because we think if we just work harder or longer, things will change or start working. But all too often, they simply don’t. We need something new. Let me put it this way. Let’s say you have a car with a beautiful paint job, a tank full of gas, four new tires and a V-8 engine…but the transmission is broken. You can sit in your driveway all day with the engine cranked and your foot on the gas, but you’re not going anywhere. And you might be able to install a new transmission, but if the car is 20 years old, is it worth the investment? Maybe it’s time to give up on that clunker and get another vehicle. 

As Keller so eloquently states, “perseverance isn’t always the best strategy.” Quitting doesn’t mean that we are a complete moral failure – it may mean we are using our brain and moving in the right direction. We are letting go of whatever isn’t working so we have time to devote to something that will. But that can be hard to recognize and accept. Sometimes, if we are really honest, we hear our inner voice say we need to quit, but we ignore it. As a result, we can get overstressed, burned out, injured, or…insert your favorite bad outcome. If that describes you, take some time to consider if it’s time to quit. 

Don’t worry…I’m not recommending you quit whatever and then just binge mindless TV and eat cheese curls all day. That’s a recipe for bigger pants, not success. I’m recommending you consider quitting X (job, project, idea) and then pursuing Y (your alternative job, project, idea). Often times, we need to “think beyond the quit”…and that, my friend, is strategy. Strategy involves hard work paired with the right goal, and that always leads to success.

Let’s make sure we’re all working hard at the right thing, and if not, let’s QUIT. Better options are out there.

Stay Sharp, 

ISI Consulting

Holly Hayes, President & Founder
ISI Consulting

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