Category Archives: Quit

3 reasons why “Never Give Up” is really bad advice

Ever seen one of these little “inspirational” images on facebook or linkedin? They’re are all over the damn place :)

Not only is this kind of advice vapid and simplistic (and frankly it annoys the crap out of me), I believe that it might ultimately be doing us a major disservice.

Here are 3 reasons why “Never Give Up” is really bad advice.

1: Sometimes giving up is just the right thing to do

TinaKibergI’m reminded of the story of the world famous opera singer Tina Kiberg.

As a child, Tina was a competent violinist and spent her free time practicing and practicing. One day she participated in a violin contest and realized that she would never be more than a mediocre violinist and that she also enjoyed singing more. She gave up the violin, took up singing and became a leading international opera singer.

If she had seen quitting as always the wrong thing to do, she might have been stuck as a run-of-the-mill violinist. Her courage to give up is what allowed her to become a world famous opera diva.

Now try to guess what these somewhat successful people have in common: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Tiger Woods, Reese Witherspoon, John McEnroe and John Steinbeck?

Yep, they all dropped out of Stanford.

Ever heard that ”Winners never quit and quitters never win?” What nonsense!

Look at pretty  much any successful person and I bet their past is littered with things they did at one time and then gave up.

Sometimes you’ve got to stick with something, even through tough times. But sometimes you have to have the courage to give up. And you have to be open to the fact, that sometimes giving up is the right way forward.

2: Powerful psychological biases already make it hard for us to give up

There are a number of cognitive processes that systematically make it harder for us to leave existing situations and move on to something new – even when we’re miserable with the status quo.

Just off the top of my mind, here are some cognitive biases, that conspire to keep us stuck in bad situations:

The sunk cost fallacy
When you’ve spent a lot of time/money/focus on something, it becomes very hard to walk away from it. People think “I’ve invested so much in this already. If I quit, that will all have been wasted.”

The ambiguity effect and the status quo bias
People tend to select options for which the probability of a certain outcome is known, over an option for which the probability of that outcome is unknown. Example: “I know my current situation is tough, but I know what I have. If I give up, I don’t know what I will get.”

Loss aversion and the endowment effect
Once we have something, we hate to lose it. Things we don’t have yet, don’t carry the same value.

Given these cognitive biases, it’s already hard enough for us to give up, which might help explain why people stay stuck in bad jobs, bad marriages,  abusive friendships etc. We don’t need the added burden of simplistic “Never give up” advice making it even harder for us.

3: Society attaches a stigma to giving up

And yet, in the face of all this evidence to the contrary, society stigmatizes people who give up. Quitting is seen as weak, as a lack of passion or as personal failure.

As I see it, “Never give up” is easy to say and therefore gets repeated a lot. It’s still not true and that makes it tremendously bad advice.

I think it makes more sense to tell people to know why they do what they do and occasionally evaluate if it still makes sense to be doing it. There should be zero shame in giving up a fight you can’t win or in dropping a goal that no longer works for you.

Quite the opposite – it’s the sign of a strong, mature mind to have the courage to reevaluate what you’re doing and either choose to keep doing it or to choose something else.

So the next time you see someone post one of those “Never give up” type images on facebook, be sure to tell them just how wrong (and potentially harmful) that type of advice can be.

Related posts

Leading with happiness: How Thyra Frank created Denmark’s happiest nursing home

Thyra Frank is a leadership legend in Denmark.

In 1988 she became the leader of a troubled nursing home in Copenhagen called Lotte.

She had no budget to change things but with lots of heart, a deep commitment to helping others and a healthy dose of common sense, she turned it into one of the happiest workplaces in Denmark.

In this funny and moving speech, she shares how she created a nursing home where the staff loved to work and where the residents were healthier, happier and lived twice as long as in other nursing homes in Denmark.

Our new study shows bad work days are too common and what causes them

Almost 2 out of 3

Everyone has bad days at work – those really frustrating and stressful days that we just want to be over. But how how often do we have bad work days and what causes them?

Our brand new survey of over 700 employees worldwide shows that bad work days are disturbingly common and reveals some of the main causes.

See the main findings here - it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

 

Have you ever quit a crappy job? We want your story!

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We’re preparing the next International Quit Your Crappy Job Day for March 31 2016.

As part of that, we’re going to create an e-book on quitting and as part of that we want to hear your story of quitting.

Have you ever left a crappy job voluntarily? What did that job do to you? Why did you leave? How did you do it? Then what happened? Did you regret your decision?

Write a comment below – we would LOVE to hear your story.

The most basic freedom is the freedom to quit

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Bernie deKoven points to this fascinating article by Peter Gray that examines quitting. Here’s an excerpt:

We like to think of human rights in affirmative terms, so we speak most often of our rights to move toward what we want:  our rights to vote, assemble freely, speak freely, and choose our own paths to happiness. My contention here, however, is that the most basic right—the right that makes all other rights possible—is the right to quit.

He looks at our freedom to quit i.e. work and relationships and show how important that is.

Gray points to hunter-gatherer societies as the origin of our freedom to quit:

As anthropologists have repeatedly pointed out, band hunter-gatherers are highly mobile.  Not only does the whole band move regularly from place to place, to follow he available game and edible vegetation, but individuals and families also move from band to band.

Because hunter-gatherers don’t own land and don’t own more personal property than they can easily carry, and because they all have friends and relatives in other bands, they are always free to move.

People who feel oppressed in their current band, and who find no intra-band route to overcome that oppression, can, at a moment’s notice, pick up their things and move out, either to join another band or to start their own band with a group of friends.

Fascinating stuff that has applications in all aspects of life – especially at work. As I’ve often pointed out, many people stay way too long in jobs they don’t like. Here are some examples:

 

How to get out of an unhappy job

Quityourcrappyjob

I just got this amazing email from “Lauren” who’s been stuck in an unhappy job:

Just wanted to send a note to say THANK YOU for your team’s wonderful work. It has inspired me greatly over the years, and last week I finally did something about my crappy job, with the goal of having it settled before International Quit Your Crappy Job Day!

I have the usual range of excuses for keeping the job way too long: “It’s not THAT bad, is it? Maybe I’m just oversensitive.” “It’s stable for the most part, and this economy is crappy. Really, who needs passion or purpose when there’s stability?” “I’m afraid it will wreck my career if I deliberately leave a management position.” “The pay is pretty good.” “I love my coworkers too much to ditch them.” “I should be able to tough it out! I am a warrior, descended from Celts and Vikings! I have lived through far worse than this! Weakness is not an option! RAAA!!” Blah blah blah.

To add to that list: my job, despite all of its down sides, has offered a great deal of schedule flexibility and I get to work from home often. This is pretty powerful; I have a young family, and I have been very grateful for the ability to stay close and cultivate a beautiful home life for so long while still working. Because of this, I was more than willing to keep shouldering a lot of responsibility and work hard at odd hours, and I kept that balance pretty successfully for several years.

But things took a big turn downhill a couple of years ago in the job. In a nutshell, there are bad ethics going on in the levels above me, and I am not able to make peace with that. I’ve also got a seriously passive-aggressive boss who finds it easy to disregard people who don’t agree with him. There is simply nowhere for this job to go but backward, no matter how hard I work. It’s all been tearing me apart for too long, and straddling two worlds — one gorgeous, one awful — has exhausted me beyond my limit at last.

My partner told me a few weeks ago that he doesn’t want me to cry at dinner anymore when we chat about our work days. (I hadn’t even realized I was doing it.) He’s been so patient and so awesome through all of my angst; it finally opened my eyes to the fact that no matter how well I think I’m hiding it, my stress DOES affect my family (duh!), and it is not fair to them. That did the trick.

I told my boss last week that I want to step down from management and join the team I’ve been leading, and asked for conditions that are yet MORE flexible and amount to fewer hours. Negotiations are still under way, but it looks like this will go through, because I have many skills that are unique in the organization. There will be less money, but I’ll be able to stay close to my family, and I’ll still earn a paycheck and get back to building my creative portfolio. I’ll also have more bandwidth to look for my next job, if the new arrangement doesn’t work out better for me. (I had been looking lightly for a while, but just couldn’t drum up enough energy to do it for real, along with being a good manager and a good mom and a good partner and everything else… it contributed to the feeling that I was trapped in this dead-end work situation.)

Now I am navigating “stages of grief” as I prepare to step down after many years at this company. There’s a lot of relief, but there’s also fear of what will happen to the people I’ve been looking out for. I’m also feeling that the bulk of my efforts — not to mention my ethics — have been unappreciated all this time, and that I sorely overestimated what this job could really be. Naturally, I feel a bit foolish, even though I thought I had good reasons for investing as much as I did for so long. Anyway: all of these things confirm that it’s absolutely time to make this move, and I’m having no second thoughts, but in some ways it’s still a little more painful than I thought it would be.

Anyway — thank you again. Things are going to get better. Spring is here, and there are so many adventures ahead.

If any part of my tale of woe might help inspire others, you are very welcome to share it; I ask that you stick a fake name on it, if you don’t mind. I would be delighted if some of my coworkers read your website, but would rather not be found out personally :)

Thank you again!

Kudos to Lauren on having the guts to get out of an unhappy work situation!

 

Top 5 Myths About Quitting Your Job

Quityourcrappyjob

I’ve been pretty unhappy in my job for quite a while now. The workplace is fairly stressed, I feel completely unappreciated and I can’t really see the purpose of most of the work I do.

I want to get out of there but whenever I discuss the idea of quitting with my friends and family, I get the same reactions: “Are you sure that’s the right thing to do? Surely your job can’t be that bad. Maybe things will get better.”

My parents were worried how I would provide for my family and basically called me selfish for not just sticking with it. One friend even warned me “quitting will look bad on your CV.”

Quitting  a job you don’t like is a tough call and it’s made tougher by some very persistent myths. These myths create a social stigma around quitting – which is silly because quitting is perfectly natural. In fact, 10-15% of us do it every year.

These myths keep us stuck in bad jobs and give bad leaders and toxic workplaces much more power over us than they would otherwise have. Let’s change that. Here are the Top 5 Myths About Quitting.

Myth #5: Quitting = failure

  • “Don’t be a quitter.”
  • “No one likes a quitter.”
  • “Winners never quit and quitters never win.”

Do any of these sound familiar? According to traditional thinking, once you’ve started something you should never quit and if you do it’s a clear sign of failure.

I say that’s completely wrong and sometimes quitting is exactly the right thing to do. I’m reminded of the story of Danish opera soprano Tina Kiberg.

As a child, Tina was a pretty good violinist and spent her free time practicing and practicing. One day she participated in a violin contest and realized that she would never be more than a mediocre violinist and that she also enjoyed singing more. She quit the violin, took up singing and became a leading international opera singer.

If she had seen quitting as always the wrong thing to do, she might have been stuck with the violin.

Also, try to guess what these somewhat successful people have in common: Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Tiger Woods, Reese Witherspoon, John McEnroe and John Steinbeck?

Yep, they all dropped out of Stanford.

Truth #5: Sometimes quitting is the way to success in something else and staying = failure.

Myth #4: Quitting is the easy way out

You quit your job? Well, I guess you don’t have what it takes to succeed. Too bad you couldn’t hack it and chose the easy way out.

Some people see quitting as a sign of weakness. I say that’s nonsense. In fact, the easy thing to do is to just keep mindlessly going into that job you hate day after day, year after year. It may be horrible, but you know what you have and you avoid the uncertainty of making big life-changing decisions.

Quitting on the other hand takes guts.  In fact, quitting a workplace that is toxic or getting away from a boss who’s a complete jerk can be a downright heroic act.

Truth #4: Quitting can be a courageous (or even heroic) act.

Myth #3: Quitting is selfish

How can you be so selfish and quit your job? You’re letting down the workplace, your customers and your coworkers. Also, think of your family – how are they going to manage if you quit?

Wrong.

If you don’t like your job, you’re doing no one a favor by staying. When you’re unhappy at work, it tends to affect everyone around you through a phenomenon called emotional contagion and there’s a good chance you’re making your coworkers and possibly even customers less happy.

As for your family, maybe they would be happier if you didn’t come home from work every day tired and frustrated. You might even set an example for your kids. A member of the audience asked me this at one of my speeches last year:

If you go into work day after day, year after year,  and really hate your job and come home stressed and angry – what are you teaching your kids?

Truth #3: Quitting is not inherently selfish.

Myth #2: Quitting is risky for your career

If you quit your job it’s going to look bad on your CV and your career will take a hit.

Yes – and staying for years in a job you hate and that is slowly wearing you down is going to be AWESOME for your career.

This myth completely ignores the career risks of staying in a job you hate. In fact, the longer you stay, the more you lose the energy, motivation and self-confidence you need to advance your career.

Truth #2: Sometimes quitting is the best thing you can do for your career.

Myth #1: Quitting is a last resort

Sure you can consider quitting, but you should exhaust all other options first. You only quit when everything else has failed.

For people who believe this myth, quitting is the very last option. It’s what you do once you’re too broken and exhausted to possibly stay on at your current job.

That makes this potentially the most dangerous of the myths listed here, because it means people stay in bad jobs until (or past) their breaking points.

Truth #1: Quit when it’s the right thing to do – not when it’s the only option left.

The upshot

Whenever a friend tells me they’ve quit their job my instant reaction is always “Awesome! You made a tough career decision. You took initiative and decided to move away from a bad job or into something even better.”

I say we start celebrating those who quit their jobs for the brave, motivated and proactive individuals they are.

Your take

Did I miss any myths about quitting? Have you encountered any of these in your work life? How do you react when someone close to you talks about possibly quitting their jobs?

Related

How to be a workplace rebel

My speech from this year’s Meaning Conference in Brighton just went live. It’s 11 minutes long and you can watch it right here:

I personally feel this speech was pretty rough – it is the very first time I’ve spoken about this particular topic and it shows. But I’m very passionate about inspiring more people to say “NO” at work and will be refining this message further.

The web site I mention in the speech is live and you can go on there now and get a ton of tips on quitting your job.

Quityourcrappyjob

March 31 2015 is International Quit Your Crappy Job Day

Too many people stay for too long in jobs they hate. An estimated 20-25% of employees hate their jobs and wish they could quit tomorrow.

This is bad for you. Being unhappy at work can destroy your career, your health, your family and your private life.

Quitting is an option and often it’s the best option. That’s why we’re declaring March 31 to be International Quit Your Crappy Job Day.

We’ve created a web site for it, where you can test yourself to see if it’s time to quit and get knowledge and inspiration to actually do it.

Visit InternationalQuitYourCrappyJobDay.com.

Know someone who’s miserable at work? Share the site with them and maybe that can inspire them to move on to something better.

Quityourcrappyjob