“Don’t throw the bat down,” I said.
“I quit! I can’t do it and I never will,” Tyler grumbled.
“Sure you will, but not if you quit. How are you ever going to get better if you don’t keep trying,” I pleaded.
“Forget it. I can’t do it,” he said while skulking away.
Well, I thought, we’ll let that one go for now, but I certainly won’t quit teaching Tyler that quitting is no good. Every parent, of course, faces the challenge of teaching their children to turn frustration into focus, to transform failure into persistence that yields success.
And don’t we all love the payoff of such eventual success, when little Tyler finally smacks the ball and beams. “I told you you could do it!” I happily yell.
But as they get older, and as we get older, we learn that life is not so simple, that quitting has some nuances which, occasionally, make it the right thing to do. I got to thinking about the concept of quitting this week when the second industry executive I’ve known for a while decided to step down, step aside, take a break, quit, or whatever you want to call it. In both cases, I emailed the individual, off the record, asking why. In both cases, it turned out there were pressing personal issues that made the continuation of their day jobs, at their present pace and level of commitment, no longer tenable.
The important thing to remember here is that these decisions were freely made — there was no voice from on high laying down the law, no mysterious writing on the wall instructing them what to do. They could have pressed on, listening to the words their parents drilled home about “never quitting,” etc. They could have kept pressing for the summit with little chance of getting back down (I happen to be listening to John Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air”.) They could have shirked the duties that were calling them away from the workplace and lived with the regret that may have plagued them ever after. They could have tried to keep all the flaming balls in the air with the result that nothing was done well and no one satisfied.
But they didn’t. They essentially said, “I’ve got other things I need to take care of right now, and even if it takes a long time for me to get back to this height, I need to go. There are people I owe; there are things I cannot leave undone.”
And upon what calculations might such decisions lie? Perhaps it’s a simple as, “If I don’t do this, I won’t like the person I see in the mirror very much, and I must look at that person for a very long time to come.”
And so, through such observations, we see, we learn, and we are reminded that the workplace is an important place — a big place in our lives, but not the supreme place. Not the place we must give paramount consideration when all done. There is the home, the family, the loved ones who we adore, care for, and who we owe. If left unpaid, these debts claim nothing less than our peace of mind, and that is the highest of prices.
And so, this week, I was reminded that, sometimes, quitting is the bravest thing you can do. In due time, I’ll try to teach this to my sons.