The show can be heard here - http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/7/quitting
The euphoria of the quit. Quitting euphoria is an incredible thing. I don’t know how much you have quit, but there is an incredible charge to quitting that is like a drug. It’s like being in love kind of, except it’s being in love with your decision.
Evan Harris was writing about quitting, and thinking about quitting, and gathering the strength to quit her job and her boyfriend and her city, which, by the way, she did. And at some point in this entire process, her view of the world began to change. Quits and potential quits seemed to be everywhere. She would go out with a friend for coffee and, of course, talk about all this quitting business that she was thinking about all the time. And then this friend, no matter who it was, would come out with some story about something that he or she wanted to quit. Quitting started to seem like the engine that made everything in the world go round.
The way I see it in thinking about my own life, I see it as being framed and the narrative of it being pushed along by quitting, by quits. So that my first big quit was to leave the college that I was going to, and I moved to New York City. And then my next big quit was to quit the graduate program that I was in, and then I fell into this job. And so now I have nothing left to quit. I mean I’ve quit my boyfriend. I’ve quit my city. I’ve quit my job. And I have nothing left to quit. And so really now there’s nothing to do but build things up again. Do you see what I mean?
Yeah, but you say that as if you’re just building them up for what will be the central fact of your life, which is then you’re going to quit them.
That’s right. The way I see it is that there’s sort of like two basic, big, important concepts. OK? And the first one is that nothing lasts forever. There is nothing that you can do that you can keep on doing forever. Nothing. That’s it. Period. End of story. And then the other big one is that you have to be doing something. So my feeling is it’s better to willfully quit whatever it is and then go on to the next thing that you have to be doing, because you have to be doing something, than to just kind of let things fall apart.
The quitting cycle. In everybody’s life, there is something of a quitting cycle. So you can talk about adolescence being a time where people quit listening to their parents. And then maybe in people’s mid-to-late 20s, they start quitting places or even quitting people. And then later on in mid-life, I think that there’s a little bit of a quitting thing going on, which some people call mid-life crisis, and I would probably call it the mid-life quit. And then for older adults, I think they do quite a bit of quitting, too. I think that they basically quit giving a damn what people think of them and quit worrying about certain things.
There’s the quitting cycle and then there’s the nature of quitters, which I think is important. I don’t think quitters are lazy people necessarily. I mean some quitters are probably lazy, but I don’t think that the essential nature of a quitter is to be lazy. I think that the essential nature of a quitter is to be able to cut their losses and move on. Quitting is about being willful. Quitting is about having one’s own volition to do whatever.
Can I ask you to reflect on why it is that you think the word “quitter” has such a pejorative connotation in our culture? Because I think of the last time I saw the word “quitter” and it was a cover of a magazine with Ross Perot on it, when he pulled out of the presidential race. And the word “quitter” was above him. Just the notion of being a quitter was so shameful. That was the message of it.
The word “quitter” does have a negative connotation, and that’s something that I would really like to change. I would really like to kidnap that word. I see quitters as people who have volition. Quitters never win and winners never quit, and that’s completely untrue. I mean really the more things you quit, the more things you’re going to do. And the more things you do, the more potential you have for success.