Quitting for the Win!

People don’t think of me as a quitter, which is funny, because I think about quitting all the time. It’s probably my number-one threat.

Just ask my husband. He’s the one person on earth who cannot avoid me when I’m in a mood, mostly because we live together. This is one of many under-appreciated perks of marriage.

Quitting a job, quitting a task, quitting the cats and their never-ending litterbox dramas, quitting this blog, quitting marriage, quitting my company, quitting writing, quitting cleaning the GOD-DAMN-HOUSE (sic) – all things I have threatened to do, more than once, and usually with hand gestures.

In fact, I’ve come to think of not-quitting as the bravest thing I do most days of the week. If only because I choose to not-quit in the face of what seems like damning evidence that I really should.

Not being a traditionally religious person, I don’t walk around appealing to the heavens when I strike out. There’s evidence us dithering humans could use a little faith to avoid killing sprees.

Still, some (ironically Protestant) part of me thinks that’s a weak tack. Go figure, right?

Also, I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I wrote a very heavy-handed poem once about god. My principle beef with him at the time? The fact that he didn’t talk back. Yeah. So you can see why I’ve avoided that bandwagon so far. Spiritually, it’s a famine in here.

I say that partly in jest but also, a little bit, in despair. We all have dark days, some darker than others – I’m a notorious depressive myself, aggressive on the surface, but scratch a little, and I’m apt to tell you tall tales of misery and woe. But nobody wants to hear that crap – seriously. Not even a therapist! We’re just not individually that interesting, except maybe to our patient families. We can’t all be Tony Soprano. (Much to my dismay.)

It turns out that a big part of life, and a very big part of owning a business and trying to be gainfully self-employed, is figuring out how to not quit stuff when all you want to do is go back to bed FOREVER.

Example: I recently neglected to mail a tax payment on time and got pounded with a penalty that was 250% of the original payment I owed. I went from black to red in a heartbeat that month, and all because of a clerical error. Glaarrgle. Cue rant about America, fiscal conservatism, and tax law. Boooo-ring!

Of course, I paid the difference, because that’s just what you do. You don’t quit. You don’t even fight, necessarily. So much of being successful, so much of not falling apart, is just buckling down and doing all the dull and quotidian tasks that make up some 80% of our waking hours.

You really have to choose your battles wisely, too. There are people out there who are game for forming their own tax-evading compounds and figuring out the nitty-gritty legalities of secession, but I’m just not cut out for that. I’m more interested in staying up past my bedtime and pouring drinks before cocktail hour, you know? That’s my battle at the moment, small but important. That, and paying the bills.

When I think about quitting, I’m usually just having a knee-jerk reaction to some small catastrophe, like the tax penalty I mentioned. And while I’m sure the cats would appreciate it if I would find another way to work out my anxieties, going around and fist-pumping the air while yelling “I QUIT” really gets me juiced. Just threatening to quit makes me seethe with madness. And rather than actually quit, I tend to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to preemptively solve that catastrophe so it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN. It’s ass-backwards, but it works.

I don’t always succeed, and that’s OK, too; I think a lot of my personal innovation comes from frustration. Maybe if I didn’t threaten to quit, I’d never do anything differently or try new things. I would just sit around like a lump, complacent and bored.

True, I might have more friends, but I can’t imagine what I’d live for if everything resolved itself satisfactorily all the time.

The drama of making your own goals happen, and happen well, is endlessly satisfying to me. I’ll go from crying on the couch to launching a new internal business idea in about 10 minutes. Hell, writing this made me feel better about my day already, and I haven’t even folded the laundry yet.

(And there’s always room for laundry innovation…)

But I can’t be the only moron out there that teeters between extreme doubt and boundless enthusiasm as I make painful errors in my career and in my life. How do you avoid quitting? What’s your secret?


  • I think about quitting stuff too. One thing that keeps me from quitting is my loved ones telling me not to — then there’s the added threat of disappointing them, in addition to myself, and whoever else I’ve made commitments to.

    I also think it helps to set up tentative endpoints for projects. If you start a new project and plan to do it “forever,” when it starts to suck, you can be tempted to just scrap it. But if you set out to do it for a year, say, then you’re more likely to stick to it through the bad spot, by telling yourself, “Just nine more months …”, “Just six more months…”

    And then, sometimes, you just have to quit.

    • Elisa, I agree. The weight of disappointing a loved one is especially hard to counter, and although I kid about my husband’s role in all this, having him around to make eyes at me when I threaten is incredibly helpful.

      So too are deadlines. And when all else fails, actually quitting… there are times when quitting is the best possible solution. Figuring that out isn’t always easy, though.

  • Lindsey, this is so honest and real. I thought I was the only person who did this! I definitely benefit from having someone see me overreact. It makes me realize the insignificance of the issue at hand and move on quickly.

    • It’s nice to know we’re not the only crazy ones, right? I truly think this is part of the process for some people, a way of working out difficulties and learning to move past them. Glad this connected with you, too.

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