When To Quit - Notes from Top Performers
Summary from Tim Ferris Podcast
Quitting is commonly thought of as a bad thing but can actually be hugely useful and knowing how and when to quit is a skill in itself. Early and often can be best. During this episode, Tim gets some of his favourite quests to give their insights into the process and best strategies for working out when is the right time and wrong time to quit.
Seth Godin — (Author of The Dip)
When you start a business you need to expect it will get hard, nothing is easy, that’s why not everyone is uber successful. Even the most successful companies go through really hard parts called, ‘the dip’. To be a success is to keep working through these hard moments where other competitors fall away or take it easy. To practice grit and resolve and learn to truly dominate your industry.
But some paths also go down dead ends. The earlier you recognise this and give up the less time you waste and the faster you can change to working on something that can be successful.
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to understand the differences and quit as early as possible on dead-end ideas and be relentless and keep going on ideas that are just going through a dip. This is very easy to write down but actually doing it is much more confusing and harder to navigate than implied. I guess you need to read his book to actually find out any of these strategies…
Everything has a half-life.
Even when things are at a peak and feel like they couldn’t possibly go bad. That might still be the time to quit.
Brands, tv shows, businesses etc.. Can be going awesome. But sometimes canning them can be the best option. You don’t want to over mine a good thing.
Some of the best TV stop at only 1 or 2 seasons. Many businesses peak and don’t sell because they expect to get further. But then they go downhill as new factors mess things up. And a few years later they are at 10% the value and going nowhere. (Yahoo…)
Some things maybe reach a plateau whilst using a lot of your own creative effort. If you aren’t feeling a sense of progressing forwards maybe its time to quit. But often if you’re in a difficult place in business or in developing a skillset this feeling comes along at the point when you are closest to making it a bigger success. If you are a really good chess player you might feel you hit a wall in improvement. This is likely the point you should try harder and become a great player!
But of course, these are mainly all very obvious with the benefit of hindsight. How do you know when you are in a boom or coming towards a bust if everything around you says you are in a good business? Learn to take a step back and analyse from an unemotional standpoint.
- Maybe you’ve invested a lot of time. But do customers like what you have built?
- You are building a good idea with a partner who is causing issues. If he is only going to cause more issues down the line is that a pain you want to go through. If you could start again with a partner you enjoy working with every day would that be better? Do you need to tie yourself to the first partner just because you’ve had a few successes together so far?
- Are other personal factors going on right now that are going to get in the way of executing on your business idea. Maybe quit and come back when u can do it properly.
- Set up metrics and positives and negatives around each scenario and think it through properly.
Any hard thing will come up with a lot of rejection and failures. That is a fact of life. You need to work out what your priorities are and what are your biggest dreams and chase those wholeheartedly.
When considering to quit ask yourself:
- How much do you really want this?
- Is not achieving this dream worth the benefit of not dealing with rejections on the path to get there?
From this you can better assess the difficulties you face and the most sensible plan, ‘Fight the battles that make the most sense and don’t use your energy on things that don’t benefit you and your goals’.
She is a firm believer in the power of passion and that success can be found by working towards your dreams summarised nicely in the quote, ‘If you are doing what it takes to make your heart sing. Never ever give up’
When to quit a job or a business idea?
We often romanticise persistence but it is not always useful, ‘If you don’t get what you want its because you didn’t really want it or didn’t understand the full price. So in some cases, it can be embarrassing to quit and admit that you tried to do something you hadn’t thought about fully, but unexpected stuff happens and you should always make the most reasonable decision with the facts you have available to you.
When to quit
- If the cost is too high
- If you are doing something because you think you owe it to someone
- If you aren’t enjoying it and don’t love what you do
When to persist
- If it’s just an obstacle in the way of something you really want → never give up
How to quit
- As soon as possible. Sunk cost fallacy
- We recognise the cost we have committed so far
- We don’t recognise the opportunities we are passing up
How to persist
- If you know you shouldn’t give up. Connect it to a dream or a mission that is bigger than yourself and work harder.
Or of course maybe pivot
- Maybe the exact mission isn’t correct but still working in similar setting will lead to what you want
Chase Jarvis — Creative Live
- Value your intuition
- Your gut often speaks your mind and how you will feel in the long term if something is worth pursuing.
- We are taking in things all the time. We have lots of recorded stuff that is kind of being processed under the surface and comes out in your intuition
2. Rubric for decisions
Am I making progress?
- clearly growing the idea
- clearly learning to improve things to grow the idea
Do I still care about this? Is this something that brings me joy?
- the mission still feels like something greater than yourself
- the long-term goal gives you joy
- it will bring rewards more than just money
Ultimately winners are people who remain flexible. Winners quit all the time but don’t quit on their bigger goals that still make sense.
Wanda Patrick — PhD scientist and research
She gave her thoughts on the numbers of people who successfully navigate completing a PhD and go on to complete further research
65% of PhD holders do postdoc yet only 10% go on to a 10-year faculty tenure-ship. They need to win R1 funding which is very tricky. Many other factors contribute to the likelihood of success:
- Lab you work in.
- Field you research.
- Publications you get into.
Many scientists forced to go narrower and narrower and need to pass on many paths to be successful on a specific one. She needed to quit on some of her projects to succeed in her main areas. She was passionate about her podcast and giving video lectures and didn’t want that give it up despite being asked. She had to really focus on her main projects to ensure they didn’t die and had very little time for anything else.