Quitting is considered a dirty word. I've always had the view you should never give up if you want to achieve your goals. Even if you break both legs, you better drag yourself through the mud and rain to reach glory on the other side!
However, as I grow older, I'm slowly coming to accept the wisdom of quitting. Or at least quitting while you are ahead. Let me share a story from one friend who temporarily did just that.
Taking Things Easier On The Field
One of the activities I've enjoyed most during the pandemic is playing Meetup Softball on Saturdays. It's a good group of guys mostly in their 20s and 30s without children. As a result, most players aggressively run the bases, slide, dive for balls, and so forth. We even keep stats!
As for me, I'm someone in his mid-40s with two young children who tries hard to have fun and not get injured. If I was to get injured, it would make it more difficult to hold my kids and chase them around at the playground. Obviously, spending time with my children is better than dislocating a shoulder, even if I did make a spectacular diving catch.
Overall, I exert about 75% effort on average during the softball games. This 75% effort is good enough to put me in the top 50% of players. I'll turn on the hustle if I need to. But mostly I don't because this is just a casual Saturday activity.
Yet, invariably, someone will yell at me for being lazy and not trying hard enough. It's kind of weird since the people criticizing are all younger than me. What happened to respect ones elders?! Ah, the younger generation these days.
No matter how many times I explain that I'm here to have fun and not get injured, I still get barked at as if we’re in training camp. But I just give it right back since everybody gets an out or makes an error at some point.
Players Who Trash Talk The Most
I'm OK with the trash-talking because that's just the way it is, especially with guys and sports.
Of the regulars who give me grief, one guy is 26. He enjoys drinking heavily at every game. We're like oil and water. The other guy is 37 and lives with three roommates. He's nice one minute and prickly the next.
To them, Saturday softball is serious stuff. And the more serious you are about something, the more another person's lack of effort will piss you off. I understand.
Then there's another 38-year-old guy who used to give me a lot of grief as well. But we became friends over the years, so he mostly stopped. In fact, he actually started saying positive things about me, such as how “underrated” a player I am during drafting.
My friend got married several years ago. I told him that he'd empathize more with my lack of effort once he had children. He disagreed and said that he would always give it everything he had out of respect for the game and his teammates. Uh huh.
Then during a game, he slid to second base and tore up his knee. When he got up after sliding, he said he felt some pain. And for the next four weekends, his knee bothered him to the point where he could no longer run at 100%.
During a squeeze play the following week, he got chased down by a pretty large and slow player. That's when I knew that something must be wrong. I wanted to make fun of him for getting out, but I felt bad so I kept quiet.
Then, a month later, my friend announced on Facebook he had a baby. Guess what happened after? He hasn't played a game in six months.
Well I finally saw him over Labor Day Weekend and he was back to the same trash talking. He made three errors in one inning and still blamed others for the bad inning. Incredible!
Quitting As A Way To Avoid Ridicule
I was thrilled about my friend's baby announcement. At the same time, I was also looking forward to seeing if he would still go all out after having a baby. However, if he hadn't come out while his wife is pregnant, he most certainly wouldn't be coming after after his baby was born!
My friend is wise to quit and avoid the egging I get when I play. The amount of ribbing he would get from all of us would have been merciless! He's one of the top criticizers of us all. But he mostly means well.
Only until you step in someone’s shoes or experience a situation firsthand can you truly understand what someone is going through. This is why older people are generally wiser and more chill than younger folks.
My friend's quitting got me thinking about other examples where quitting might be for the best. Here they are.
Quitting As A Way To Respect Your Co-workers
By 2012, my heart was no longer in my finance job. As a result, I negotiated a severance so the junior I hired could take my place. He was very hungry to get ahead given he had worked as an assistant with no upside at his previous job.
Quitting was the right thing to do because it gave other people a chance. Further, as I was making a decent salary, it felt wrong to keep going through the motions just to get paid. The industry was simply too cutthroat to just cruise.
One reader asked whether I would have stayed on longer if I could have worked just 75% for 75% pay. I probably would have worked for five more years. However, if I worked 25% less, I probably would have made 70% less. So maybe not.
If you want to respect your company, your clients, and your co-workers, you may want to negotiate a severance as well and quit. It'll do everybody a lot of good.
Or, you can adopt the quiet quitting movement where you just do enough to not get laid off. After all, why give more than 100% effort for 100% pay right? More people are setting boundaries between work and life. And that's a good thing!
Negotiate A Severance If You Plan To Quit Your Job
If you do want to leave your job, just make sure to negotiate a severance instead of quitting. A severance provides you a wonderful financial cushion so you can relax before deciding on your next adventure. If you quit your job, you get no severance and usually disqualify yourself from receiving unemployment benefits.
I negotiated a severance that provided for five years of normal living expenses. As a result, I was able to travel the world and build Financial Samurai on my terms.
If you are going to quit your job any way, you might as well try and create a win-win scenario! Check out my severance negotiation book that teaches you how.
Quitting As A Way To Respect Yourself
If you used to be good at something but are no longer due to old age, injury, or whatever, you may want to quit out of self-respect. Seeing a once-great champion continue to labor on is difficult to watch.
At 40 years of age with two recent knee surgeries, Roger Federer should probably retire. He has won 20 grand slam tennis tournaments. If he tries to come back, the tennis world will root for him. But the results may be difficult to watch as he will likely never again make a grand slam final.
At 44 years old, Tom Brady made the right move by retiring from football. After 22 years and seven Super Bowl rings, Tom's record will unlikely be broken. If Tom continued on and got injured again, he probably would have regretted not quitting sooner.
By quitting before your skills atrophy too much, you can better preserve your legacy.
Quitting After Winning An Award To Get All The Benefits
Imagine winning an award for your good work. You will feel validated and proud of your accomplishments. However, there is a dark side to winning an award. Higher expectations.
Suddenly, everybody will be looking to you to as an example of excellence. The pressure can be immense. And if you can't deliver, you may start feeling like you're a fraud.
This is exactly what happened to one blogger in 2019. Within three months after winning an award, she stopped writing regularly. The expectations became too much.
By quitting, she was able to let herself off the hook while still being able to call herself an award-winning blogger. She gets the best of both worlds: status and no longer having to do the work.
Selling Your Company As A Form Of Quitting
At some point in every entrepreneur's journey, they will have enough of the grind. As a result, they may want to quit their business by selling to someone who is more motivated. Everybody wins, including the customers.
I've considered selling Financial Samurai multiple times due to time constraints after becoming a father in 2017. Instead of letting the site languish with infrequent posts that weren’t well-written, I'd just sell it to a larger media company with a team of freelancers. But I made a promise in 2009 to publish 3X a week for 10 years. So I forged on.
After my daughter was born in 2019, I became more motivated to hold onto Financial Samurai. I thought it would be fun to record their lives and teach them a thing or two about online media when they grew older.
If you are focused on making money, then you may be more inclined to sell your business for a profit. Ironically, if you are focused on the joy of creating, the more money you might actually make.
If a number of peers just held onto their sites over the years, they would have made a lot more money because valuations, traffic, brand strength, subscribers, will all have grown. Just look at how far the stock market and real estate market have come since 2009. Nuts!
Getting A Divorce To Protect Your Physical And Mental Health
After trying your best to make your relationship work, divorce is a logical next step. Sticking around in a loveless marriage is a terrible choice. We all deserve to find someone who respects us and makes us happy.
Over time, plenty of us tend to take our relationships for granted. It's good to renew our vows and remind ourselves why we fell in love in the first place. But is it realistic to always give 100% to another person? I don't think so since we all have our own issues we have to deal with.
But at the very least, there are certain things in a relationship that are 100% non-negotiable, such as physical and mental abuse. If you can't make your partner feel good, at least don't hurt them!
Money, sadly, can sometimes be a factor in divorce. I know of a couple guys who shot to fame and fortune, only to divorce their wives who had been with them before they had all this money.
In the end, divorce is usually a good thing that enables both parties to move on. Fighting in front the kids all the time is probably not good either.
Quitting The Money For More Happiness
I've written about overcoming the downer of no longer making maximum money before. It is initially jolting because you know you can make more money if you want to. However, you consciously choose not to for your happiness.
When I torpedoed my income in 2012 by leaving my finance job, the first two months were mentally difficult. I was used to getting a healthy paycheck every two weeks since 1999. But by the third month, I got used to living on less. The freedom to do what I wanted to made up for my lower income. As a result, my overall happiness ticked up.
One of my 2022 goals is to lower my online income and traffic expectations by 25%. My two-year commitment for working hard during the pandemic is almost here. This year is about having more fun and preserving the lucky capital built during the pandemic.
By quitting the money again, or at least part of it, I feel more at ease because the pressure to write, respond, and negotiate is off. I just feel so appreciative we didn’t fall into the abyss.
Not Trying At All Is Worse Than Quitting
Although quitting may be the best decision if you can't give it your 100% best, be careful not to try at all. Even if you aren't at 100%, if you don't even try, you may end up regretting your decision.
You might find that partial effort is actually the perfect balance. For example, at 75%, I'm having a lot of fun playing softball with friends and feeling the adrenaline of performing under pressure.
As we can see from the various examples above, quitting is not always a bad thing. In fact, quitting is sometimes the honorable thing to do! Further, so long as we first try to make things work before quitting, I think this would be the best solution.
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27 thoughts on “Maybe Quitting Is The Best Decision If You Can’t Give It Your 100% Best”
You’re 2.5 times more likely to rupture your achilles when you’re 30-50 than when your 18-29. Your younger amigos on the softball diamond don’t get that now.
But they will.
Just wanted to write from down under (Oz).. This is a great post, and thanks for writing it. Love the evolution of your thinking, and being able to put it out there (even with all the ‘haters’ as you guys call it!).. I agree with the commenter – if you have more things to love outside work you can deal with not needing to love your work.
I’m spinning around with a variant of your comment. This year I decided to focus on my goals and to fit work in around it (supposedly fulltime). With WFH, this has so far been possible, but I don’t think it works long-term (more for the serious logistics organisation needed perhaps than the workflow itself).
– The better sports players aren’t available during the day so end up needing to hit tennis/squash in the evening anyway
– My kids activities take up 3-6pm
– Have put in a language lesson during the workday which has been good – I think you had worked on language for a while a couple of years ago if I remember rightly ?
Am contemplating taking the family overseas for a year at a school for cultural awareness, language and family bonding time.
Thanks again for all your writing
The psychological benefit to quitting is you exercising the power YOU have at your disposal. You decided the when, where and why. That is very powerful in life. The decision should empower you, but for some reason, society judges those decisions.
As a combat-disabled, veteran, I didn’t get to decide. I was involuntarily retired by ISIS. The psychological toll was greater than the physical. Imagine having everyone you know and trust on a level second-to-none, and the next day, it’s all gone. I have suffered greater psychologically than I ever did physically, and I have been relegated to a lifetime of tremendous physical pain and challenges – I have never stopped serving my country.
I admire those who exercise life’s choices and the ability to execute them according to their wants, needs and desires.
“All the Gods, all the heavens, all the hells are within You.”
What a toxic softball game. I probably would have quit the first time someone talked like that.
I’m in my 30s and as I’ve gotten older I’ve decided I have very little patients for people who aren’t positive forces in my life.
Between work and spending time with kids, I have very little time for hobbies and friends. That time is precious, and I wouldn’t want to spend even a minute of it with a jerk.
…restraint or withdrawal is the best way of achieving your goal under certain
circumstances, and strategic withdrawal is not surrender :P
100%, quitting a job would be preferable to milking a paycheck. Though obviously that’s a big leap and anyone doing so should have a backup plan in place, or means to weather the upcoming loss of consistent income. Great points though, this is universal across work, relationships, friendships and even a fun Saturday activity.
I think burnout is mostly a post 50 phenomenon and/or after putting in 20+ years in the same job/industry. I hear you Sam, but very few people are in the high-finance area, which is unique in many ways.
If one is looking to avoid burnout and limit their time in the traditional workforce, I think the best thing for most people is to start in a profession with a pension – teacher, law enforcement, military, civilian government, large industry.
If you put in 20 years, you will be anywhere from 40-45 years old, still very much prime of life, and can “retire.” To be able to rely on a fixed known income for the rest of your life, even just 50k + healthcare, pretty much eliminates any fear of not having enough in retirement. You may have to live a more frugal lifestyle than you want, but you aren’t ending up in a homeless shelter. Most people 20-40 years of age in these types of positions are not going to face the burnout issue at their age and health, especially with that carrot at the end (knowing I can bolt at age 40).
Neighbors of mine (husband and wife) each entered the coast guard at 20. They both retired at 42 and both are receiving 65k per year plus heath insurance for the rest of their lives. Talk about financial freedom!!! They can both be stay at home parents if they want to (spend a but less) and they can both pursue side jobs or a second career if they want to to increase wealth and/or personal satisfaction. It really is the best path IMO.
Very few people can make enough millions between the ages of 25-35 and think about retiring with no benefits or pension. You can make a couple of million and then retire to working for less and less stress. But even those people are few and far between. Pretty much have to be in high-finance. Even lawyers typically don’t make big bucks till late 30s or 40s, and that is IF you make partner.
I have spent my life in consulting, and get ZERO pension or benefits if I retire early. It is that scenario that makes the decision when to give up a six figure income much more difficult. If I knew I was going to be GIVEN $100k+ per year for the rest of my life for sitting on my bum bum, I would have been gone 5 years ago with no hesitation.
Very wide words regarding a pension. People cannot look down on jobs with a pension or underestimate the value of a pension. It’s worth a lot, especially in a low interest rate environment.
However, I would say burnout is NOT just for people over 50 and in the private sector. Burnout is experienced by all ages and occupations. There’s a reason why people have quarter-life and mid-life crises.
What is your profession and how old are you to feel energized to go to work every day?
Burnout sounds to me like a combination of boredom and dislike for your job. I have been in the same high-level specialty engineering company for 30+, now part owner and making about $500k. But there were many periods during that 30 years when I was tired and bored, followed by periods where I really liked my job. Several times I almost left. In the end I really don’t think the grass would have been greener and I have built a very nice “f-you” portfolio. But not career/work is just one gradual decline from happy to hate.
So my point is to start with the fact that most everyone will have to work at least 20 or so years until being able to check out. And it is very unlikely (and unrealistic) to think you won’t go through periods where you dislike your job – even if it is your dream job, or feel burned out. No work is going to ring your bell 100% of the time. It is work.
Just IMO of course
I would say you doing the same thing for over 30 years is rare today. Vast majority of people I know want to do something different and change careers.
I definitely got sick and tired of my line of work after 13 years. But it was really more after about 12 years where I just kind of started checking out. Even if I made more than $1 million a year, I wouldn’t have been able to last more than 18 years.
I just find that there are so many fun and interesting things to do besides one thing. Further, there’s a lot more ways to make a lot more money as well if that’s one’s thing.
I guess one other thing I would like to say is its ok to milk a paycheck occasionally. As I mentioned above, careers are emotional rollercoasters. There are times where my company is benefiting from my effort more than I am being compensated. Its OK if there are occasional times when that reverses itself. It isn’t a sin to dial it back. I remember sometimes what I did to combat periods of feeling burned out with my job, is I merged it with some of my greater passions. I love to golf, so I spent more time on the golf course with clients. I love to fish, so I hosted a fishing trip. I really wasn’t trying to do any hard marketing to benefit the company, although it probably did indirectly.
I do think it is rare to be with a company for a long time, but not to be in the same industry for over 30 years. I have found that you only need to love you job if you have little to love outside your job. If you love your kids and you partner, and you have hobbies you love, and you are attending to those things, then “work” takes a less controlling part of your life.
When I reflect on life at 57, my career is only about the 3rd thing that comes to mind, after family/friends and faith, hobbies. And in terms of my career it is about the people I met and relationships I made – one can focus on this whatever the job. And of course I am thankful it has provided financial freedom for the rest of it.
Eh, lots and lots of people are burn out, and the ones most burnt out are not bored at all. I’m crazy burnt out and I’ve never been busier in my career and more involved in important things for multi-billion value businesses than in my career – I averaged about 80 hours a week last year. I generally like what I do and am very good at it. Last year was my first ever 7 digit income year (and possibly only since I will retire within the next 3 years and unlikely to have another $500k+ stock liquidity event before then, although possible)
“Most Americans (81%) feel somewhat to extremely burnt out….. After nearly two years of dealing with pandemic stressors, this is hardly surprising, with remote employees working more hours than they did prior to the pandemic (53%). In addition to struggling to unplug after work (61%), only one quarter of Americans used all their paid time off in 2021, leaving an average of 4.6 days of vacation on the table.”
Wow! This landed nice. I have built and owned my business for 25 years. I can’t remember a time in many years, where I haven’t desired to sell it. It’s very profitable, but I have been burned out for many years. It’s not hard to operate, because I’m good at it, but there is no joy. Hard for others to understand, but the result is exhaustion.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I made the decision to sell. I had a buyer, and I was excited to move on. However, the deal fell through. So, I suited up and really applied myself to the operational side of my business. These past two years have been the most profitable ever. I am still burnt and have no passion for the business. But the money really toys with the thoughts and emotions, as I now have a buyer that has come my way.
Now I just see the money, and question if I am forfeiting long term profitability of what I built. Every time I set a new financial goal, and meet it, the number to exit just gets higher. I had a full exit and life plan back in 2020 and with the pandemic and getting back in the driver’s seat of the business, I slowly lost sight. I am working on that now.
Congrats on building your business to even greater heights! I feel like we are almost the same. These past two years have been highly profitable for online business that can’t be shut down.
But it seems to never end! So I think the key is to hire someone to take over the day to day for us. Remove ourselves from the business!
For me, I want to have more fun. And a big part about running FS is now for my kids.
I would try lowering your business income expectations to boost happiness and relief.
I don’t know Sam. I haven’t been able to do that. I find myself to be very hands on. I want to be different, but my history says, I’m either all the way in, or I’m out. It might be time to cash out. I may not continue to bring ambitious buyers. Much too ponder.
Gotcha. Yeah, it’s tough to not be all in as a business owner.
I guess where I’m coming from, I didn’t start FS as a business, more as therapy to help me and others get through the financial chaos in 2008-2009. FS just so happened to start earning revenue along with many people trying to do biz dev. Too much gets too tiring and uninteresting.
Maybe you want to tether income to specific purposes? Example, I decided to make enough money to pay for healthcare and preschool tuition. As a result, they gave me some good motivation.
I went through periods at one job when I gave 120% of my best but that just wasn’t sustainable for super long periods. My mind and body started breaking down from exhaustion. So to help recuperate I’d then have periods when I went down to 75-100% of my best. I didn’t feel guilty about it because I was still contributing and doing accurate work while refilling my tank before the next big project came that would require me to crank up the hours again. After ten years I felt I’d done enough with that job and wound down my role with no regrets.
There have been other things in my life that I’ve quit but I don’t have regrets. I tried my best at the time, or realized that my interests were better focused elsewhere.
Giving 100% effort in everything we do is impractical in most circumstances. We just have to make sacrifices with some things when we’re juggling so many things. I try and sacrifice on the less important stuff like housecleaning and yard work to a certain extent. For example, I would love a 100% spotless house all of the time, but sometimes the dirty dishes can just pile up and wait a day if I need to work or want to play with the kids instead.
But at 43, Dirk Nowitzki especially seems to regret his last two NBA campaigns. Very impaired by his left ankle, he may have mortgaged his long-term health by playing for so long.
“Should we have played the last two years? » he wonders. “Maybe my foot would be better now, that I could play soccer with the kids, but I can’t. »
Dirk Nowitzki still lives in Dallas with his wife Jessica and their three children, but after more than 21 years of high-level sport, and recurring problems with his left ankle, which has been operated on, he explains that he can hardly no longer play sports, apart from a little tennis, in doubles.
“Standing behind the baseline and sending a few balls is already nice”continued Dirk Nowitzki. “But unfortunately I can’t move much anymore.”
Indeed. So no “but.”
Instead, Dirk probably should have retired a year or years earlier to save his physical health. But it’s hard to quit a good thing. It’s the one more year syndrome, as what we do for a long time is all we know.
City Of Dallas Officially Renames A Street After Dirk Nowitzki;
Also, Dirk gets “symbolic” Key to Dallas city, April named after him – as month of Dirk. All of it takes toll :-)
Greetings from Tierra del Fuego (long story).
I am disturbed by folks who have unrealistic goals and refuse to consider alternatives to them. There’s determination and then there’s this. Quitting this pursuit would allow people in this position to focus on better goals. So I see this as an example of quitting for the better.
When it comes to aesthetics, I can’t help but be a perfectionist. Take home renovations for example. I’ll spend double the time required to tile because I need to make sure that the bubble in the level is exactly in the middle when I’m comparing tiles next to each other. I have also painted the bottom 1/8-inch edge of some crown molding to make sure the wall color and white molding have a perfectly straight line, just in case anyone happens to look up there. My version of sub-par work wouldn’t even be noticeable by anyone walking on my tiled floors or entering a freshly painted room. Perfectionism really hinders productivity!
Ah, but it sure is satisfying once it’s done properly! Put in the effort upfront and reap the benefits forever!
Do you think in hindsight you’d have preferred to work in finance at 75% rather than quitting?
I often think how high-finance is treated like a sprint and we get burnout, rather than a long-term marathon for a career. I’m not sure how to do that, since most IBanks would rather do 80 hours vs. 2 guys at 40 hours.
Would it have changed your thinking had the blog not worked out as well as it did, and it had plateaued at a lower median income level far below your IB salary?
Quitting also makes sense when your net income from your salary is <X% of your net worth, like at 5% or less. It moves the needle very little, and just adds stress =) Diminishing returns.
Maybe. If I was allowed to work 75% in finance and get paid 75% of my salary, I probably would have worked for five more years. Burnout was real.
But in my industry, it was more like: If you work 75%, you would get paid 30% because competition was fierce. So doing that calculus wasn’t worth it to me. I longed to work on my own thing. It brought me so much more excitement.
How about you?
I faced similar burnout (private equity). I went to do my own thing for a while which mostly consisted of just regaining time and learning. I had hoped to start a business, but hadn’t gained much traction as I couldn’t decide on what to commit to.
I’ve since started part time PE work again which seems to be ok, not as lucrative, but has me thinking I could go back to doing more/fulltime. I agree that the industry doesn’t really let you do 75% work for 75% pay.
I’m considering being part of a smaller investment team, not a large fund, and also one with permanent capital so there isn’t as much pressure on the PE treadmill of raise/invest/exit on multiple funds. That should hopefully make it more steady. It’s a thought, that or otherwise still pursue starting some form of business. I love the idea of online like your blog, but I want to be happy with my choices so that I can commit the right amount of time and effort. I don’t want to resent the choice made. Finding it tricky, but the parttime efforts are giving some satisfaction and motivation, did miss being a good contributor.
seems family office may be the way for you to go