Chris Brady gave a talk recently that laid the foundation for a basic skill that all leaders must learn if they wish to succeed at anything; it’s the skill of Not Quitting.
Brady states, “If a person can master the skill of not quitting, they will ‘make it’ in any endeavor they pursue in life.”
Orrin Woodward has a similar mantra to define this concept: Start Starting and Quit Quitting! Woodward states: “The biggest breakthroughs occur when a person refuses to quit notwithstanding the present dismal results. Persistence in a just cause through numerous failures builds character and determines whether a person joins the ranks of perpetual winners or perpetual quitters in life.”
To further this discussion, I am going to borrow a parable taken directly from Chris Brady’s leadership blog, which is a perfect parallel to introduce the subject: How to Master the Skill of Not Quitting.
There is an old story about a fisherman who believes he has died and gone to Heaven as he catches one perfect 2 lb trout after another. As he sets his fly and hooks into yet one more, he can’t fathom his good fortune. The sky is blue, the weather ideal, the fish biting like he’s never before experienced, and everything is absolutely perfect. It is not long, however, before the realization dawns on him that he is not in Heaven at all. Instead, as the boredom and the pointlessness settle in on him, he realizes he’s actually in Hell.
It’s hard to describe just how hard this little parable hit me the first time I heard it. In one moment it erased all my whiny complaints about how difficult and elusive success seems to be. The trout fisherman in Hell story is so extreme, so seemingly ridiculous, that we are confronted with a strange and brutal fact: we may hate opposition and struggle, but it is critical for our mental health. Without the struggle, we would feel no joy in victory.
To transcribe and somewhat summarize Brady’s words, here is the basic premise, taken directly from his talk:
The truth is, we think we want everything to be roses and sunshine all of the time; we think that we want to cast our line and catch a trophy trout every single time; we think we want our life to be smooth and easy. And we try to do all of these things to eliminate obstacles and pain from our lives. We recoil from stress and calamity, thinking that somehow we should avoid it. However, what we think we want and what we actually need are two very different things. What we actually need is resistance, obstacles, and challenges, in order to appreciate the triumph.
“Adversity is the canvas upon which you paint your greatness.” – Chris Brady
Not quitting in the face of adversity is actually a skill; the ability to persevere against all odds is a skill; and quitting is a natural temptation for any worthwhile endeavor you’ll ever pursue. You’ll be tempted to quit any business you ever start and any relationship you ever find yourself in. So how do we protect ourselves from the temptation to quit? First, it’s important to define the different types of quits in order to develop awareness for ourselves.
Here are the 3 different types of quits to be mindful of:
- The temper tantrum quit
- The dramatic: “That’s it; I’ve had it; I’m done!!”
- The slow fade quit
- You slowly let your light go down to a dim and you just back off slowly.
- You don’t admit to yourself that you’re quitting, but you’re backing off.
- You start to make little compromises that start to stack up.
- The just for now quit
- Just until the kids get done with hockey season…
- Just until after the holidays…
So now that we’ve identified the different types of quits, on a deeper level it’s even more important to be cognizant of the reasons that make you feel like quitting. Here are just a few:
- You get to a point where you feel like you can’t do it anymore.
- Someone else quit and it influences your decision.
- Don’t let their decision undo your decision when your decision to start didn’t even involve them.
- Justification (I gave it my best shot)
- I’m not as successful as I thought I’d be by now.
- You may have started with an unrealistic expectation of what you could do and/or an over-confident expectation of what you were capable of in the beginning.
- I’ve invested so much already.
- It’s harder than I thought.
- It may be because you don’t come from a language of excellence. Excellence is always harder than you thought!
- Criticism (Someone made fun of me)
- Someone hurt my feelings OR I’ve been wronged.
- These are usually little tiny rubs that start to stack up in your head about people. Somehow your rights are being violated and you get offended and your feelings get hurt (different than criticism).
- I came across some negative and now I have doubts.
Have you ever succumbed to one of these reasons for quitting? I know I have. So we dig deeper…
Brady identifies three phases of mastery: ignorance, immersion, and intelligence. To paraphrase, he says that in order to protect yourself from the temptation to quit in the face of adversity, you have to learn how to personally manage yourself in the immersion phase.
Think about it, once you get immersed in something, that’s when you start to get hit with reality. He shares the example of marriage; in the ignorance phase you are excited and everything is bliss. You don’t see all of the potential calamities that are about to arise. But, immersion is different. It can be overwhelming; it can become unsettling and complex. And it’s how you manage yourself in the complexity and pressure that will determine how far you make it. Further, he says that the secret to maximizing your success in the immersion stage is to stay in touch with the wonder of your discovery.
Unfortunately, the direct result of what happens when you don’t have proper personal management is……….quitting. And it’s a travesty.
The travesty of quitting:
- You pull yourself out of the immersion stage and you put yourself back into some new ignorant stage, thereby surrendering any of the value, progress, and distance you made through the previous immersion stage. Essentially, you have to start over new somewhere else.
- Quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
- Quitting starts a pattern in your life that gets hard to stop. Naturally, people follow down the same path with the same patterns in everything they start to do. The loss of time after quitting in the immersion step is never redeemable. You can’t get that time back. When you quit something, you’ve lost your investment.
“The key to long term success is to cultivate and keep alive that sense of wonder at the immersion step. If you can master that, you can master your craft.” – Chris Brady
Here are 9 practical steps Brady gives that you can do to prevent yourself from quitting (or to quit quitting, as Orrin Woodward describes):
- When you’re feeling down, when your tank is low, take positive action immediately!
- Listen to informational reinforcements (audios)
- Refresh the “deep” dreams (cause, purpose, and legacy)
- Envision your future – you only get what you picture.
- Don’t fall for the false illusion of unknown alternatives.
- Get around other leaders.
- You don’t just need informational reinforcements, you need relational reinforcements!
- Focus only upon what you can control and disregard all the rest.
- Use the “doesn’t matter” catch phrase.
- Know how to repair yourself.
- In times of being down, sometimes you need to get around people because people charge you up, others of you may need to get away from people because people drain you. You need to know which one you are.
- When you need to repair yourself, postpone all decisions. Allow yourself to not make decisions when you’re tired, sick, hungry, or frustrated, no matter how impending the decision is or what the deadline is. Don’t make any decisions until you’ve resurfaced as yourself once again.
There you have it. Learn to develop the skill of Not Quitting by applying some of Brady’s advice and you will be on your way to achieving success in every venture that you ever pursue.
(Posted by Kristen Seidl, on behalf of Chris Brady)