The upside of quitting


I recently heard a fascinating program from the good folks at Freakonomics about the benefits of quitting (here’s the transcript). On the program Steve Dubner said:

There are two things economists love to talk about that will help us understand quitting. One is called “sunk cost” and the other is “opportunity cost.” “Sunk cost” is about the past — it’s the time, or money, or sweat equity that you’ve put into something, which makes it hard to abandon. “Opportunity cost” is about the future. It means that for every hour or dollar you spend on one thing, you’re giving up the opportunity to spend that hour or dollar on something else — something that might make your life better. If only you weren’t so worried about the sunk cost.

Which runs counter to what we are always told – that quitters never win and winners never quit. Turns out persistence might be a bit over-rated. I reckon persisting at the wrong thing might be just as detrimental as not starting the right thing.

Colin Powell famously said “Don’t wait until you have enough facts to be 100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late … Once you’ve acquired 40 to 70 percent of the available information, go with your gut.”

I completely agree … make decisions earlier than you think. But if you only have 40% of the information when you do, some will be wrong. That’s OK. Then make another decision. Change your mind. Quit when appropriate.

Matt Church recently wrote that he is on a mission to do work he likes with people he likes the way he likes. I love it! And I love that’s it’s a mission. It’s not easy. And I think the hardest thing about it is quitting every time you realise that you’re doing something that isn’t work you like with people you like the way you like. Especially when there are other payoffs.

So what is it that you’re doing that you shouldn’t be? What do you need to quit? Love to hear your thoughts – as always you can leave them below.

PS Just over a week to my book launch. Next Thursday night I’m launching my implementation book – The New Rules of Management – here in Melbourne. What’s more my good friends Gab & Yamini are launching their excellent book on Organisational Storytelling at the same time – so it’s a great two for one. I’d love to see you there, details are: 27 June 2013, 6 PM at The Junction Room, Donkey Wheel House - Ground Floor, 637 Bourke Street, Melbourne 3000. Please shoot Cristina an email if you can make it.