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  • Writer's pictureDillan Taylor

When should we quit something that sucks?

I interviewed Lynne Tye in my book on creating. She's the founder of KeyValues and wrote the article that inspired me to become an entrepreneur.

In our conversation, she defined the difference between quitting and giving up.

"Giving up is when you still want the result," she explained. "Like I went running the other day. I gave up halfway through because I'm trash...That's giving up."

"But quitting is when you don't want the result anymore. You quit cigarettes. You quit the job you hate."

I've quit many things in my lifetime:

  • college

  • my first podcast

  • acting

  • a full-time sales job

  • my second podcast

  • standup comedy

  • freelancing

  • my third podcast

The passions and skills I have today are standing on a graveyard of things I tried and stopped.

Quitting makes sense and I think more people should quit more things. We take on too many projects. We stay in mediocre relationships.

We stick with something even when it's no longer serving us. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. The sunk-cost fallacy: not wanting to abandon something because we spent lots of time, energy, or money on it.

  2. Fear of the unknown: the fact that unfamiliar things are always scarier than familiar things.

Per that second one, I recently learned about the Region-beta paradox.

Imagine that you would walk any distance that's less than a mile. And you would bike to anything over a mile.

In that case, it would take you longer to travel one mile than it would to travel two.

The Region-beta paradox is the truth that we move faster when conditions are worse.

For folks who have crappy jobs or unhealthy relationships...They would actually benefit if their jobs or partners were worse. Because they would be much more incentivized to do something about it.

But for many of us, the conditions we dislike aren't bad enough to make us hop on our bikes and pedal away.

Who's more likely to move out of their unfulfilling hometown:

  • someone who is bored?

  • someone whose neighborhood is getting bombed?

I felt this while working at The Cheesecake Factory (bored, not like my neighborhood was getting bombed).

I knew I didn't want to be waiting tables. But I went home with cash in my pocket each night. I got to work with close friends. It was a chill place to work.

But then the manager I loved transferred to another location. Then one of my favorite coworkers got a new job. The place quickly became less fun and less smooth. I felt drained counting my money at the end of each shift.

"I gotta get out of here," I told myself.

How much longer would I have stayed if things never got worse? I have no idea. But I took action when the pain of staying the same became worse than the pain of change.


Let's talk about chess for a second.

In 2022, I almost quit playing for good. I dreaded online games, solving puzzles, and even looking at a chessboard.

But I forced myself to keep practicing and studying anyway.

Then after a couple of weeks, my love for chess magically returned. I couldn't wait to finish work and analyze my games or play in speed tournaments.

How did that happen? I just kept pushing through.

I've done the same with blogging. There were countless weeks where I didn't want to write anything for anyone. I considered quitting the blog a few times.

But I just kept on typing.

Then inevitably, those feelings go away and I find my love for it again.

Alex Hormozi explains this well in The Stages of Change.

Step 1: Uninformed Optimism

You see someone succeeding at something you're not doing. You get a new idea for an amazing podcast or business venture. It's exciting and feels like the perfect path for you.

Step 2: Informed Pessimism

You're weeks or months into this new pursuit and you realize it's so much harder than you thought. All these problems and uncertainties come up. You learn all the real challenges that have to constantly be overcome.

Step 3: Crisis of Meaning

You see little to no success. It feels like you made a terrible mistake. You're not getting any of the results you wanted. It's all pain, no progress. Other people have succeeded at this thing, but you don't have what it takes. You should be crushing it by now.

Here you have two options: keep going or try a new pursuit.

Most entrepreneurs choose the newer, shinier pursuit. And it's what keeps them from being successful. They go right back to Uninformed Optimism. They leave the hard and uncertain path for the fun and seemingly perfect new idea.

I've done this sooo many times. This choice is Step 4: Crash and Burn. It's like running in a hamster wheel: putting in all this work and not really going anywhere.

But the other option is to simply continue. Keep eating glass until something clicks. Eventually, something will. This leads us to Step 5.

Step 5: Informed Optimism

You finally struck a tiny bit of gold. Something works. You notice improvement.

I remember when I got my first submission in jiujitsu. It was after months of flailing around and getting folded into a pretzel night after night.

I remember creating paid clients in three sales calls in a row. I felt like I knew what I was doing after months of desperately winging it.

I remember finally seeing muscles in my arms after months of being the skinny guy at the gym.

Uninformed Optimism is blindly seeing what could work. Informed Optimism is knowing what is actually working.

Step 6: Achievement

You've made it over the hump. You broke through to the other side. You still have a long way to go, but you feel the confidence and success you've been waiting for all this time.

That's how I feel in my coaching business, in writing, and in chess. I'm certainly not the best, but I know exactly what I'm doing.


So all this has led me to a question I don't have an answer for yet...

How do we know if we should quit something or just tough it out until we succeed?

I hold two contradicting beliefs at the same time:

  1. You should quit something that sucks and doesn't bring you value.

  2. If you keep doing one thing for a long time, it would be unreasonable for you not to succeed at it.

What do you think? When do you decide to quit something? Email me and let me know.


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