Becoming a quitter . . . ending contracts . . . and finding freedom.
I've become a quitter . . . and it's good!
I am, by nature, a loyalist. Quitting feels like failure, disappointment, weakness. You see, I have an over-developed sense of responsibility, combined with a very strong bent toward avoiding risk, that makes quitting bad . . . very bad. I'm also a midwesterner and, as such, we have the farm mentality; you don't quit you find a way to make it work. Bailing wire and duct tape. You can't quit on the crops or your equipment when you're out in the field. You gotta, "Getter done!" All of which is why I am more comfortable with keeping contracts than ending them. I'd rather overcome problems (like the time I failed my basketball team), learn from mistakes if they're made, and create long-term trust and relationships. It's the path to success. Except when it's not.
A Story about Quitting
I tell a story on myself . . . that includes my oldest son (I don't think he has even heard me tell it) and a time when he wanted to quit detasseling.* In short, I was so concerned about him quitting, that I called my Dad--who taught me a lot about leading, including the greatest leadership act I ever witnessed--seeking confirmation that I should make my son finish his commitment to detassel for the summer. My Dad listened, then said, "He'll have to work the rest of his life, I think I"d let him quit." "WHAT??!!!" I thought. " Did I call the wrong number?" This can't be my Dad. The guy who had us cultivate the garden every couple of weeks, all summer long, to keep us "busy and out of trouble?"
Well, it was my Dad, and his thoughts made me rethink how fearful I was about letting my son quit.
The end result was . . . I let him quit. I did, however, as a compromise, require him to set some goal for his summer (He decided to read the greatest 100 works of literature. Privately, I figured he had already read half but I let that go.) . . . and "that was that." The summer wore on. He accomplished his goal. But no detasseling. No outside work experience. No savings.
I say that I tell this story on myself because I would have forced the issue and made him finish his commitment. Wouldn't that be best? Well, here is the rest of the story . . .
My son went to college and found a great English mentor in a college professor. The professor, himself, told me that he had never had a freshman student with such a grasp of literature. My son married the professor's daughter (no, I'm not making this up!), and, last year, he completed a Ph.D. in English.
Wish he would have detasseled.
Learning to Quit
It's a lesson that has been hard to learn myself. Quitting can be good. It still feels sooooo wrong. But, I read mentors and they often talk about "dumping" the bottom 10-25% of your "bad business" periodically. I'm slow, but I've done it, and it has helped a lot.
For instance, I have one contract, for EAP services, that has been in place for 14 years, I like it, and its comfortable. It checks all my boxes . . . loyalty, responsibility, safety. But other contracts had become more burdensome and did not lead to the future work I wanted to do.
So, one of the best things I've done--and for me the most courageous--is to end contracts. Me. Myself. Good contracts that would have continued if I didn't . . . I hate to say this . . . quit them.
In the past few years I have: 1. Quit a contract of 15 years that provided about 30% of my revenue but that had steadily become more time consuming and less fun, and 2. Quit a contract of about 12 years where I enjoyed the interactions with the staff but the work wasn't in line with my professional vision/goals. The revenue I lost has been replaced by work that is in line with the future business I want to do and has created more freedom, new energy, and helps avoid burnout..
So, I've become a quitter and it's good.
Have you benefited from quitting? Share your story about quitting in the comments and help encourage others!