Why you need to be a quitter to win

Why you need to be a quitter to winWe’ve all heard it before: you can never give up if you ever hope to reach your goals. You can’t be a quitter if you hope to be a success. 

Vince Lombardi sums up this mentality well when he said “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”

There’s an important truth to this. Perseverance in the face of opposition is critical to achieving your goals. There’s no way you’ll do anything big in life without grit – a combination of perseverance and tenacity. That being said, there’s one important exception to this rule that is often overlooked: if you’ve chosen the wrong goals in the first place, no amount of perseverance is going to make it right.

If you’ve chosen the wrong goals for yourself or your organization, then winning is actually losing. 

Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a soccer player in the middle of a match. You get the ball, and you start sprinting with all your might down the pitch towards goal. Now, let’s say you realize you’re sprinting in the wrong direction, towards your own goal. Would you persevere, or would you adjust course? The answer here is obvious, but it illustrates the fact that not all goals are created equal. 

So, I’d like to make an addendum to Mr. Lombardi’s quote above: “Winners never quit, quitters never win, and winners always know what winning the game looks like.”

Knowing when to quit

Business strategy is as much about choosing what you won’t do as it is what you will do. Apple needs to make the conscious decision not to pursue entry-level smart phones, and Walmart should avoid opening chic downtown showrooms. These actions wouldn’t fit the strategy of each company – Apple does high end, while Walmart espouses affordability. Veering away from these strategies would be a distraction from their focused approach to business.

I believe that engineers should operate the same way. I’ve written before about why
engineers should have personal career strategies. It’s important to establish your own goals and aspirations. It’s also important to stop doing things that don’t fit with these goals. This is necessary in order to make room to work hard on those things that are actually important to you.

Sometimes, it means you have to quit something to start something else. Something more important.

Let’s say you have a career strategy. Let’s also say you realize that you’re pursuing some professional accreditation that doesn’t align with this strategy of yours. What should you do? Should you persevere and see it though, or adjust course and start down another path? To me, it’s clear that you should stop what you’re doing and realign yourself in such a way that allows you to focus your time and attention on something that really matters to you. That doesn’t make you a quitter, per se. It just means you noticed you were sprinting towards the wrong end of the field.

Moving Forward

What’s one thing that you’re spending time and energy on that you shouldn’t be? What could you be doing as an alternative if you had more time? Tell us about it using the comments section below.

About Pat Sweet

Why you need to be a quitter to win

Pat Sweet is a Professional Engineer working in Ontario, Canada. He’s a full-time vehicle engineer focusing on commuter train electrical systems and the author behind the Engineering and Leadership blog, where he shares his thoughts and experiences on leadership, productivity and career advice for engineers. Go to Pat’s blog now to get your free copy of his free career guide –The 7 Habits of a Highly Ineffective Engineer.

Photo credit: Flickr/seandavis