Learning When to Walk Away

Photo by Christina Morillo

It’s over. The last page is read, the credits are rolling, your plate is clean, you’ve said your good-byes for tonight, for this weekend, for this month – forever. It’s time to turn your back and walk away.

Or is it?

In “Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away,” author Annie Duke, shows you when to say “alright” and when to say “adieu”

Quitters never win. Quit the process and you’re quitting the result. Nobody said it would be easy. Blah blah blah.

Platitudes aside, you’re done messing with that thing and you’d like to throw in the towel but you’ve invested so much time. And quitting is for sissies. Blah blah. We’ve all heard those sayings before.

Believe it or not, says Duke, a premature ending can be the best thing that could happen –sometimes, not always. It truly depends.

Knowing when to quit, she says, is an important life skill but it’s not as glamorous as stick-to-itiveness. People tend to remember those who persevere, no matter the outcome. They generally don’t remember those who get off the merry-go-round before the music stops. Still, Duke says, if she wanted to teach someone to make better decisions, she’d pick “quitting is the primary skill.”

“Trying something and having the ability to quit is vital to how we all live our lives,” she insists.

How do you know when it’s time to stop the foolishness?

Learn to re-frame your decisions to determine whether it’s better to stay or go. If it’s a close call, the latter probably is the better option. Public opinion isn’t always right. Quit when you’re ahead if the future looks bleak, and be aware of a nasty phenomena called “loss aversion.” And watch for “sunk cost,” another mindset that can cause you to keep on chugging because you think things just have to get better eventually. They won’t.

Set a list of “kill criteria” before embarking on a project. Don’t be too optimistic. Remember that there always will be times when the choice to quit is yours, and times when “the world makes the choice for you.”

In the last three years or so, you’ve probably asked yourself a dozen times, “Why?” When you do so, there’s no need to say more. Sometimes, “Why” is the entire question and “Quit” is the answer, but it’s not easy to come up with an answer.

In “Quit,” Duke breaks down this dilemma in four sections that help readers learn how to make the right decision and empower themselves to take a possibly-unpopular action. These are hefty sections, with meaty words for readers and their too-loud, often-wrong inner naysayer, but the author bolsters her advice with entertaining anecdotes.

Read this book for that amusement or, if you need to know how to do the right thing at what looks like the wrong time, read it for instruction. Either way, “Quit” is a good read.