In 1996, a trip up Mt. Everest became the basis for one of my all-time favorite books, “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer.
I was listening to a podcast that my friend Anthony Garone suggested I check out called EconTalk. If you haven’t listened to it, start now.
In the episode that I listened to, Annie Duke was the guest, and she talked, in part, about that Everest trip.
Her latest book, “Quit,” mentions three hikers on that trip who turned around 300 feet from the summit. Why did they turn around when they were so close? Because they were told that if they stayed past a certain time, they would likely die. Those who summited the mountain and went past that turnaround time died.
Sometimes quitting is the best option.
I remember posting a question a couple of years ago – should you finish reading a book you aren’t enjoying?
Why on earth would you finish a book you aren’t enjoying?
Hours of your life could be potentially wasted.
Nobody dies from reading books they don’t like, obviously, but it is a significant waste of time.
What I gathered from Duke’s interview, at least in part, is that it is the ‘perception’ we have of whether we have or haven’t accomplished the goal we set out to achieve. We need to finish the book because we started it; we need to get to the summit because why else would you start climbing in the first place?
We measure ourselves against this perception that the grit option is more admirable than the quit option. They are equally difficult choices. They both require a lot of confidence, difficult choices, and tough conversations with yourself and possibly others. Only one of them adds more time and moves us (at least more quickly) to a different, potentially more fruitful, decision.
When we judge people for leaving the job they were at for three months, six months, or a year, maybe they made the absolute best decision. Maybe their summit was different. Maybe they “read enough of the book” to know they didn’t want to finish it, and maybe the decision they made was tougher than the 10-year veteran employee who isn’t growing, learning, or doing anything to better themselves. Maybe they determined that even though it would be harder for them to find something new due to their lack of tenure, it was better for them and their own life to move on.
I’ve never failed to finish a marathon I started, but that may happen someday. Maybe it will be better for my health. I will need to enter that run knowing that whether I do 26.2 or 8 miles, it is still “x” more miles in that day than most of the population. That will be good enough – the fact that I accomplished that on a day that few other people did will be motivation enough.
Whether those three people summited Everest or not, they made it farther up that mountain than a huge percentage of the population ever did and lived to talk about it.
Our frame of reference for people who “quit” should likely change.
Until you are in the position yourself, don’t judge.