If You Really Want to Succeed, Try Quitting Sooner
Stop watching failure porn.
I should’ve quit sooner.
It started with the launch of my first book. I’d spent four years working on the stupid thing. It won two major awards, then finally got published with a small indie press, with some glowing reviews.
The book tour was a disaster.
Everything you can imagine going wrong did. Bookstores forgot about my events. Newspapers misprinted dates. Feature writers got the name of my book wrong. They got my name wrong. Reviewers wrote rave reviews that got cut at the last minute. Famous authors offered me speaking events and blurbs and then changed their minds.
Mentors laughed at me.
At panels, moderators introduced me as “What was your name again?” and “She looks sixteen years old, doesn’t she?”
One night after a signing, I got mugged.
We don’t talk about how much failure hurts.
Everyone loves to talk about failure. You’re supposed to love it. Get back to work. Keep hustling. Learn to be resilient and blah blah blah. There’s one thing we never talk about.
It hurts when your friends skip your events because they don’t want to miss a workout. It hurts when you keep doing people favors and buying their stuff, but they won’t buy yours.
It hurts when people make a point of mocking and ridiculing you because you look or sound young and naive.
It hurts when people resent you for promoting yourself.
It’s time to stop watching failure porn.
You know what failure porn is.
It’s all those memes and inspirational quotes:
“You learn more from failure than from success.”
“Ever failed. Try again. Fail better.”
“Failure is the key to success.”
It’s all those videos with Gary Vee, or some other hustle porn star.
Yeah, we get it. Failure good. Fear of failure bad.
But sometimes, failure just sucks. Especially when it comes in wave after wave after wave. It’s a little like water in that sense. We need water to live, just as much as we need failure to succeed.
But you can drown in both.
Failure cycles can sap your drive.
Failure does more than just hurt.
It drains your energy.
You can bounce back from the first few failures. Over time, it takes a toll on your creativity and problem solving skills.
Years ago, that’s what happened to me. I kept thinking I could push my way through failure by working longer and harder. Instead, I just failed worse and worse. Everything felt harder. Creating content didn’t feel exciting anymore. Inspiration turned into bitterness.
One especially brutal day left me sitting in another hotel room, near tears in front of my laptop. I couldn’t write another word. The page wasn’t blank. It was full of future disappointment.
Sometimes you should quit.
One day I decided to stop writing. I was pushing it too hard. I wasn’t pursuing my dream because I wanted it anymore.
I was doing it because I afraid to give up.
Our entire lives, we’re told never to give up. Don’t be a quitter. Quitting is for losers. But after a year of constant disappointment and failure, it wasn’t optional. Failure was eroding my mental health.
So I just stopped.
It was the best decision I ever made.
Instead of forcing myself to work, I started running and hiking again. I read for fun. I took baths. I focused on ordinary things like teaching.
In short, I started living.
It felt great. Giving up was how I got myself back.
Your brain needs a break from failure.
We can’t live off failure.
Our brains are wired for rewards. You can’t keep working for hours and hours a day without positive feedback. Doing that leads to burnout, and that’s why people quit. Their productivity suffers. Their mood sours. A patina forms over their view of the world.
You can get stuck in a cognitive loop with failure. Your mind anticipates defeat, so it starts engineering it.
Think of quitting as a reboot.
Sometimes the only way to stop the cycle of failure is to reboot completely. It means taking a long break from your work.
It might be work that you love.
It might be your dream.
It doesn’t matter. Sometimes you have to walk away.
Quitting can rekindle your creativity.
You don’t have to quit forever.
Quitting can clear away all the clutter that was holding you back. It’s like a controlled purge. When you quit, you don’t give up on yourself, just everything else. You stop relying on worn out advice that wasn’t working. You stop playing by rules other people invented.
You stop trying to create according to everyone else’s expectations. You think about what you really want.
You give yourself freedom.
We’re talking about the freedom to experiment. The freedom to try new ways of thinking. The freedom to take risks. The freedom to do the opposite of what everyone told you.
Quitting is a liberation from failure.
Quitting can save you from meltdowns.
Have you ever seen someone who gave up too late? They push themselves far beyond the point of burnout.
Then they have a total meltdown.
Maybe they rant on their blog. Maybe they tweet up a storm. Maybe they throw a tantrum, and a video of them goes viral.
It never looks good.
The sad but funny thing is how justified all of these people feel when they explode. They want everyone to know what they’re going through. The worst part is that they’re probably right. But nobody sees that.
All they see is the meltdown.
The problem isn’t quitting too soon.
The common advice out there is don’t quit, or don’t quit too soon. But that’s not the problem I see people struggling with.
It’s not the problem I had.
Most people actually work too hard. They don’t give up soon enough. They wind up in a cycle of failure. They can’t break out. They turn what they love doing into a form of torture.
Don’t push yourself into a meltdown by working yourself past exhaustion, when all you see is future failure.
Save your career. Quit for a little while.