In defense of quitting

Winners never quit, and quitters never win—right?

Maybe not.

Eric Barker, the author of Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong, makes a case for the benefits of quitting.

When you quit one thing, Barker says, you immediately gain more time and energy to devote to something more important. Barker calls this "strategic quitting" and argues that it can actually be a secret to success—not a barrier to it.

"'Quit' doesn't have to be the opposite of 'grit,'" Barker writes.

Barker cites research from author Jim Collins, who conducted an extensive study of companies that overcame previous failures to achieve success. Collins found that the companies turned themselves around not by pursuing new initiatives, but by quitting things that weren't paying off.

Just say 'No'—it's how your most successful colleagues get ahead

Barker also cites a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research that found the hours in a day a college students spends studying predicts how much they will earn later in life. This correlation, Barker argues, is a clear example of how strategic quitting works.

The students that study most in college are quitters, he says. They call quits on extracurricular activities, social engagements, sports, relationships, and more—but they do so for the purpose of devoting more time to their courses.

What success means to your students, in their own words

"Everything we do in life is a tradeoff," writes Barker. "Once you've found something you're passionate about, quitting secondary things frees up time to do that number-one thing."

To become a strategic quitter, Barker recommends:

  • Pinpointing your number one priority;
  • Choosing to quit only one activity at a time; and
  • Quitting sooner rather than later to prevent burnout.

(Barker, Fast Company, 5/16).

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