The Truth about Winners and Quitters

“Winners never quit” and “winners never quit and quitters never win” are both popular motivational quotes. They sound good, but are the sentiments true?


I think not. Of course, there are certain things that I wish that nobody ever felt they had to quit – like life, but that aside real winners know when quitting a project is much smarter than persevering indefinitely on something that no longer feels right or worth it. So, I say, loudly, that ‘Quitters Do Win!’.

To stay with something just because you’re afraid of feeling like (or looking like) a loser is not a smart strategy. Sometimes you realise you’ve gone as far as you can go with a particular project and it’s not smart use of your time, energy and resources when you could redirect them to something else or down a new route. I know that when we have time, money and ego invested it feels impossibly hard to get out and let go, but I think we ought to try to look at the money and energy spent as your investment in the lesson. And learning when to quit is a hugely valuable lesson in your life. Nothing is a waste of time, if you thought it was the right thing at the time. It would be a waste to continue now, feeling deep down that you are wasting more time.

It can be a hard issue for people when other people’s dreams are invested in your project. For instance, if you are in an academic career in an industry that your parents had huge ambitions for you to be a part of, but you have a yearning to do something creative, like my friend did, then it can feel hugely disloyal to them to go drop the success and go after something else, something that sounds a bit silly or unimpressive to them. But when you are on your deathbed, you will regret being disloyal to your true self, your own hopes and ambitions. And don’t just take it from me (what do I know?!), take it from Bronnie Ware, palliative care nurse and author of worldwide bestselling book, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’ who listed the following as the number one regret of the dying;

I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me.

In fact, Bronnie was forced to promise patients that she would be brave enough to live a life she wanted to, regardless of what others would say. These beautiful dying people were so overcome with regret of not being brave enough to do that, that on their last moments on earth they were trying to convince people who still had time, to be true to themselves, because they couldn’t bear leaving this world without trying to save others from their own painful fate. She said this advice came from men and women from all backgrounds, and in all circumstances.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Many of us have goals we didn’t even desire in the first place. It’s an epidemic that we have bought into other people’s desires for success. If you’re doing the project for your mum or to prove wrong your ex, then is it really worth it. It’s your life. Don’t live it for other people or you’ll never find true contentment, even if you win.

So, first thing to do if you’re asking yourself whether you should quit is to ask if you even want the goal. If we do still want the goal, step one is to write it down, followed by why. Success has a feeling attached. If you don’t own your core desired feelings, you’ll be swimming upstream forever. I was introduced to the “core desired feeling” philosophy by Danielle LaPorte’s brilliant book, “The Desire Map; A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul”. Once you know your core desired feelings, ask what can you do today, to give you that feeling? If you want more love, be more loving. If you want to help, love, because all love becomes help. Write down things you can do to give the feeling you are craving right now, rather than waiting for the feeling to arrive in conjunction with the goal being met.

The next step, I advise, is to take the ‘Ten Year Test’. Ask yourself if, ten years into to the future, you think you’ll look back and regret quitting. Or do you think you might regret more not pursuing the other dream, or regret not taking the chance to take the pressure off, work less hard, or stop something that didn’t bring joy. Another test is to ask yourself a couple more questions;

1)       Is it working? Am I progressing?

2)      Am I happy?

Asking whether your efforts are working, is important. As long as you are progressing even if you are nowhere near your end goal, then it is still working. If you’re making no progress, and you’ve given it a reasonable amount of time then maybe you should consider quitting. This reminds me of another motivational quote…

You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”

This is true of course, but if you don’t accept advice, reassess your technique or application skills and you keep trying to take every shot and missing them, then you will get released from the team. Wayne Gretsky is widely regarded as the best hockey player ever. There was a lot more went into his goals that just aimlessly taking shot after shot. He had enough shots working. If you don’t have enough shots working on some level, then you should reassess your position. Gretsky’s manager didn’t care how many shots he tried, he cared how many were on target or ultimately translated to a positive result. If he had just been shooting hundreds of blanks, then he wouldn’t have lasted long.

So yes, do try and take lots of shots, but don’t try forever if the scoring is a horrendous struggle. sometimes it is better to walk away than have someone make you walk away. Don’t think you can’t change routes and join a new game at any time. That doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you strong. Strong enough and intelligent enough to change tactics.

I think the most important thing to do when you are asking yourself any difficult question is to ask for guidance. Plug into a higher power by praying, meditating or talking to the universe. The universe will send you nudges. They can be very subtle; the right song on the radio, seeing the right picture in a magazine or overhearing a conversation on a train. I love doing this. Recently I was asking myself whether or not I should start blogging and I asked the universe to send me a nudge. Later that day I was asked to review a bee-keeping course for someone else’s blog, very unexpectedly. After the course, I was putting away my notes when I noticed one of my manifest boards had a huge honeycomb on it. At the time, I had laughed and explained to everyone there, that I had no idea what it meant, I was just very attracted to the image. I viewed these as nudges. Certainly nudges that blogging was a positive move. It doesn’t end there though, as the next morning there was a bee in my bedroom. Not so strange, you might think, but I can’t remember ever seeing a bee in my house before! This nudge led me onto my computer, where I started looking at blogging templates. I fell in love with one and when I saw its name was ‘HIVE’ I thanked the universe for the nudge and bought it that same day. I was almost speechless when my mum later text me to tell me she had just saved a bee in her garden, knowing nothing about my bee-signs.

That’s not to say all nudges come as thick or as fast as that, and I understand if you are sceptical that these things I’ve listed were anything other than coincidences, but I believe they were signs and if you feel like something is a sign, then it’s a sign and you should listen to it. I only told one special person about my bee signs (until now!) but usually I don’t tell anyone, and you don’t have to discuss them with anyone either. Just know that the signs are being sent if you tune in properly. To close, I realise that this article reads a little quit-heavy, but I absolutely am not saying that you have to quit when things get hard. Obstacles don’t mean you should quit. Things always get hard. A set back is an opportunity for a comeback – and comebacks are the sweetest successes of all. Often there’s a myth that if its right it will always be easy and will always flow. Lots of projects that are worthwhile get hard. But if your love of it outweighs the pain of the obstacle, or you know in your heart that you’re on the right path, then you have an obligation to yourself, not to quit. Be like a top athlete, if they quit when things got tough or painful then we would never have any champions at any sport. They keep going because there’s something within them that has a supernatural connection to that sport, and they know it. If you know that you are connected to your project like that, keep going, keep up your version of ‘training’, keep improving and keep trying to make your dream come true.

As long as it’s your dream, not somebody else’s, the winning will be worth every second of struggle.