Career Tips

The Art of Quitting (and World Domination)

by Jessica Colombo

Never Quit. This is possibly the worst advice that I have ever received.  This is the advice that my parents, coaches and teachers have always given me.  As a kid, I was thrown into every sport possible, in my parents’ quest to make me a superstar athlete.  Even though I was the smallest pipsqueak on the basketball team and obviously did not possess the resources to be the best player in the world, let alone my school, my parents kept pushing me to practice and participate in every basketball activity offered.  They failed to realize the power of Quitting.  In Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, he provides readers tough love knowledge on how to quit the wrong stuff, stick with the right stuff, and how to know the difference.

The quitting concept is easy: quit the things that you know you can’t be the best in the world at. The action, however, is not so easy.  The best in the world?!  You can dominate the whole world, like Google or Lance Armstrong, or you can dominate your world, like President Simon or Gumby’s Pizza at 2:00AM in East Lansing.  So what does quitting have to do with being the best in the world?  Everything!  Currently, I am a senior at MSU, graduating in May 2011.  I have 2 jobs, 12 credits, 3 organizations and 1 long distance relationship to juggle and manage.  Oh yeah, and I have to find a big kid job before my safety bubble of MSU pops.  And in my race to the top, I have gotten caught up in grabbing every opportunity that comes my way without actually evaluating my circumstances first.  My lack of evaluation has resulted in a huge hole of obligations that seemingly becomes deeper by the day.  I am stretched way too thin, and instead of being the best student at Michigan State, I’m just average.  If I read The Dip earlier, I would have picked the few things that I wanted to focus on most and that I had the resources to be the best in the world at, and quit the rest.  Lucky for me, my world flips in May and I’ll have a second chance to live Seth’s way.

The best time to quit is before you start. If you have already started, you are bound to hit ‘the dip’.  The dip is the point after the excitement of your new endeavor ceases, but before you have reached your goal.  It’s the stretch between an entry-level associate and a CEO, between the love-at-first-sight butterflies and a golden anniversary, between the initial idea of a start-up and launch.  The dip can present itself in different ways.  It can be a cul-de-sac; where you work and work with no light at the end of the tunnel in sight.  Nothing changes, it just is.  Or the dip can be a true dip, one that presents opportunity.  Seth’s advice is to stick with the dips that are likely to pan out, and quit the cul-de-sacs to focus your resources.

The dip is an opportunity!  In one of my current dips, I am the president of an association on campus.  Because I am so busy, I can’t devote as much time to the association as I would like.  Instead of giving up and putting myself on idle, I turned it into an opportunity to be a better manager and leader.  This year, I have learned so much through trial and error about delegating tasks, micro managing and accountability.  Once you figure out how to transform your dip into an opportunity, obsess over it.  Success goes to those who obsess. Find a way to be exceptional, instead of just average.

Average is for losers.

This idea of coping with dips and quitting can be applied to job searching or career switching.  If you feel like you’re stuck in a dip at your current job, evaluation is in order.  Is it a cul-de-sac that isn’t adding any value to your life?  Or is it a dip that you can work through and turn into opportunity?  You can quit, or you can do the opposite: rededicate yourself to the job through a reinvigorating new strategy, such as asking your boss for a new project.  The best time to look for a job is when you don’t need one.  The best time to switch jobs is before it feels comfortable.  Job searches are dips by design. If it was easy to get a job, everyone would have one.  Only the few candidates that take every step, especially the extra ones, necessary to obtain that position will succeed.  The few that network, engage, write phenomenal resumes and cover letters, follow up and execute interviews flawlessly will get that job, because they’re obsessed.

I learned from this little gem of a book (small, literally-you can finish it in an hour!) that there is a difference between quitting and failing.  Growing up, my perception was quite the opposite.  I felt that if I quit something, I failed my parents, my coaches and myself.  It took a long time for me to realize that it’s not about them.  Moving forward, I will try to engage only in things that I’m passionate about and take with me Seth’s straight but true advice: you have the power to change everything.  How dare you squander that resource by spreading it too thin?  What are you obsessed with?

This post was inspired by Seth Godin, a true visionary who wrote The Dip and many other wonderful books that you can check out here.

Jessica Colombo is finishing up her last semester of an undergraduate degree in Marketing at MSU. She is still the “Student Communications Assistant” where she gets to do fun stuff like write for this blog and have conversations in other social media places about MSUAA Career Services. She is still negotiating her future beyond May, but is super-excited to tell that story on this blog when she can share the details!


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