when to quit

I like to listen to podcasts while I draw. While the visual brain is doing its thing, the verbal one can also learn a thing or two.  I recently heard a great Freakonomics podcast that really hit home. The topic of the episode was quitting… and how to rethink the way we view a quitter.

Stephen J. Dubner, the host, argues that most people don’t quit nearly often enough. Or soon enough.  They get involved in something that seems great at first, but then find themselves immobilized in mediocracy. They think that because they have already put so much into this job / relationship / project / investment, they will waste it all if they don’t stick it through ’till the end. The problem is, people over-value sunk costs, which is everything they’ve already contributed. But they don’t think about the opportunity costs: what you give up when you spend your time chasing this mediocre pursuit. Maybe it’s a better job, a more understanding boyfriend, a more lucrative investment.  Whatever that better thing is, you’re missing it because you’re too tied up with that old thing.

Like many people, I could really identify with this problem. I tend to give myself a long, comfortable “decision period” after I identify that something is not working.  I’ll keep on with it for way too long, until it becomes painfully obvious that something needs to change.  Dubner points out that this is ludicrous.  As soon as you realize that something is not going to turn out well, he argues, you should quit and move on.  Why get attached?

I agree, Stephen. Starting now, I’m going allocate my time only to worthwhile causes. Of course, there’s a time and a place for sticking it out. When the stakes are high, you owe it to yourself (and sometimes other people) to try harder. Or when you’re just getting started and the work ahead seems unsurmountable… don’t worry. You are at the very beginning, give it your best. But when and if that moment comes and you realize, “This blog post is just a scramble-ramble.” it’s better to just