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Winners Know When to Quit

“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” – one of the worst pieces of advice there is (according to many successful entrepreneurs, investors, authors and others). It's not that winners never quit, rather they are smart about when to quit; they are strategic quitters.

This morning I finished reading an excellent little book by Seth Godin titled, The Dip. In The Dip Seth talks about three states in which you may find yourself:

  1. The Dip
  2. The Cul-de-sac
  3. The Cliff

The Dip is the long slog before starting and mastery. The cul-de-sac is where you're stuck and going nowhere. The Cliff is when you're about to crash and burn.

People love starting things – a new job, a new relationship, a new project. The “honeymoon” period is a well-known phenomenon. But the honeymoon ends, and things start to get hard, and when things get hard you may be entering a dip.

The Dip is a place where, if you expend a bit more energy, you can end up on top and be richly rewarded.

 

(Image courtesy of Ben Nadel)

This can be applied to businesses, jobs, relationships, pretty much anything in life.

Being in The Dip is a good thing – it pushes you to keep going, to continue on, and to become a master of your universe.

But how do you know if you're in The Dip or a cul-de-sac? Both can give you the feeling you're going nowhere and can be frustrating. If you're in The Dip you need to keep going, however if you're in a cul-de-sac you should probably quit. So how do you know?

Three Questions to Know If You're In The Dip

Seth provides three questions you can ask yourself:

  1. Am I panicking?
  2. Who am I trying to influence?
  3. What sort of measurable progress am I making?

Pick up a copy of the book to learn more about those questions, however let me provide a bit of strategic advice…

Planning to Quit

When things were going south with my first business, an IT services firm (back when you could actually make a living having one) I panicked. I tried to get into all sorts of other businesses, none of which panned out. I lost focus on my core business, lost a lot of money, and ultimately had to close up shop.

I had no plan for what to do if and when things went wrong.

Before starting, winners determine under which conditions they will quit, and when those conditions arise they act accordingly.

For example, I have three conditions under which I will quit a job and get a new one:

  1. I am not increasing my skills as a developer.
  2. I am not learning any new technologies.
  3. I have to force myself to go to work everyday because I no longer enjoy being around my coworkers.

If all three of those conditions are met I am in a cul-de-sac (and knowing myself headed for a fiery cliff) and I look for a new job. If two out of those three are met I have to weigh the pros and cons of staying versus leaving.

Before you start something new write down your criteria for quitting. When things become hard, pull our your criteria, ask yourself the questions to determine if you're in The Dip or not, and then either put in more energy or quit.

Two More Questions To Ask Before Quitting

The three questions that Seth puts forth are good. If you're like me and want an easy decision matrix then check out these two fromĀ Chris Guillebeau:

  1. Is what I'm doing working; am I finding success?
  2. Do I still believe in the mission?

Here's my answer key:

  • If 1 = yes and 2 = yes: You may want to keep going.
  • If 1 = yes and 2 = no: Quit
  • If 1 = no and 2 = no: Quit
  • If 1 = no and 2 = yes: Keep going! You may be in a Dip.

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