Quitters can be Winners

Chrissy and I were talking re our kids and friends and quitting.  It is always easy to advise people to just keep on going, don’t quit.  But is that good advice? 

Below is the family at four-corners way back in 2003.  There is one in each state (Az, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico).

It is both generous and smart to leave something on the table when negotiating.  It makes sense to quit while you are ahead.  It goes against some of the popular wisdom, but maybe quitters can be winners.

The effort involved to achieve returns in most enterprises follows a predictable “S” curve.   It usually takes a lot of effort to get started.   Then at some point it gets easier and you get into a sweet spot where you get a lot back for the effort you put in.   As you get closer to 100% solutions, it gets a lot harder again.  When the going gets really tough, the smart person quits and moves on to something easier.  Sounds terrible, doesn’t it?  But it is true and well known among those who study these things.

The reason is the cost of opportunities.  You only have so much time.  The time you spend doing one thing is time you cannot spend doing another. Is it better to achieve 99 points in one place (99) or 90 points in ten places (900)?  It is often harder to get the last 1% than it is get the earlier 90%.  So just say no to perfection and yes to diverse opportunity.  

There are two inflection points on the curve.  The first is where you are moving from the difficulties of start up into the sweet spot of easy returns.   This is the place where loser-quitters usually throw in the towel.  The second inflection point is where returns drop off.  This is where winner-quitters wisely withdraw and move to greener pastures.

So what is our advice? The best is usually not that much better than the very good.  It usually just is not worth the trouble.   AND those always pursuing the best almost always end up with the second rate.  Do lots of things.   Moderation in most things is the best advice.  Quit when the going gets tough if you have other options; hang around if you don’t, but don’t complain.