From our earliest memories, we are encouraged to stick it out. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Even the tagline from the 1999 science fiction spoof “Galaxy Quest” admonished us to “Never give up. Never surrender!” It makes sense. Unless we push our limits, we are unlikely to come to understand what those bounds may be. Sadly, most of us operate far below our capacity, comfortable ensconced in false, lowered perceptions about what we’d be able to accomplish if we’d just put our minds to it. Is it easier to quit than do the work? Probably.
Still, are there times when we are well-advised to wave the white flag? Have we arrived at the point of over-promise and under-deliver? Certainly, we don’t know if we will fail at a task until, well, we fail at it. And by then, the harm to ourselves and others is caused. Does this put us under some moral duty to fight to the death even if our good intentions have led us to charge into a battle that we don’t have the desire to undertake?
Happily, circumstance can change with the winds of our will. Dedication often trumps inherent skill. The tortoise only beat the rabbit because of a willingness to take on the race. But, can there be honor in calling it quits? When can we justly declare victory – or failure – and move on?
Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky famously remarked, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Naturally, he is correct. Yet somehow, we can suspect that his success, in part, is measured by the shots that he did not take. No doubt, don’t be a quitter. But also, know when it is time to make a change. Isn’t intellect a far better master than ego?