Quit What You Love
Quit what you love.
As soon as you’re comfortable, quit. When things start getting easy, quit. Quit what you love because there’s always room for more love.
We don’t live in a quitting world. We live in a world where I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. We live in a world with career paths and sub-specialties and tenure-tracks. Why?
Quitting is good. Because deliberate change is good.
For some reason we are told to eat three meals a day: at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This seems like such a normal part of life that we never question it. But, in fact, the three-meal-a-day habit is a relatively new one. We developed this habit during the Industrial Revolution when work schedules happened to have a single midday break and the focus shifted to an increasingly large final meal (dinner). Before, many people ate as many as five meals a day, but again only by social convention. Our prehistoric ancestors behaved much like a lion would today. They occasionally hunted a large protein-full animal and ate until they were stuffed. But, early Homo-Sapiens often went periods where they ate very little, subsiding on roots and bugs. Their diet was continually changing and never adapting. Periods of plenty were separated by periods of scarcity. In fact, today we know that the only demonstrable way to increase the longevity of life is through caloric restriction, or, in other words, eating less food.
Change was inherent to our ancestors world. Their feet were constantly migrating over new surfaces, their jobs were constantly changing to ensure survival, and they ate according to what was available, not what they desired. Much research is being done today on the positive effects of intermittent fasting, or eating meals separated by large time periods of little to no eating. Changing your regular eating habits seems to be incredibly healthy for you.
What if we brought this insight to all areas of our life? If we deliberately change our habits, we can inject a form of randomness into our lives that is missing. Instead of walking the same way to work every day we can take a new route, learning new smells and discovering new places. Instead of waking up at 7 we can wake up at 5 to meditate and get some deep work in, or wake up at 9 to catch up on your sleep and rejuvenate your creativity. Instead of drinking coffee this week eat bananas, allowing your body to come off of that caffeine dependency you didn’t know you had and getting a source of vitamins that your body has been missing. There is rarely anything bad that can come from changing your routines. In the investing world this is the dream investment: one with a potential huge upside with almost no downside at all. The worst that can happen is the deliberate change affects your life very little, leading to new knowledge about yourself and the world.
When the Going Gets Easy
When you begin to think of your life like an experiment, you never become complacent doing what you’ve always done. Everyone knows what they say when the going gets tough, but they don’t tell you what to do when the going gets easy. When the going gets easy, pause and reflect. Why is this easy? Is it easy because I love what I do, or is it because I’m not being challenged? We tend to think of an abundance of challenge the same way we think of a lack of money. When we don’t have money, we think we need more to be happy. Of course this doesn’t quite add up to the truth, especially if you are already a middle-class American. Real happiness is joy, and joy is cultivated within. Real happiness and life satisfaction won’t come from removing challenge either. Challenge gives our life direction and obstacle allows us to learn and evolve.
Think of yourself like a company. The biggest companies today aren’t doing the same things they were doing yesterday. Avon started as a book company; the perfume came later. Abercrombie & Fitch started as a sporting goods company and now they are one of the largest clothing retailers in the world. Today’s biggest companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook are continually changing. That is the only way forward. Companies that aren’t afraid of starting over or trying new things come out on top.
When you become successful and things start getting easy, remember how the nature of accomplishment works. Success is fragile: once you’re there, you have a lot more to lose than you have to gain. How do you avoid the eventual freefall from the top? You force yourself to start at the bottom. Quit while you’re ahead.
Quitting what you love
But, it’s hard to quit something, especially if you love it. As we find things we love, we pigeonhole our entire careers to doing that one thing. But, is finding your single “passion” and pointing your compass toward it the best way to live life? I posit that we don’t actually realize what our passions are until we choose to explore. Instead we are told what they are and then fixate on a set path.
School teachers don’t necessarily love being a school teacher. They love teaching children, or talking to children, or maybe just leading a group of people toward a goal. The love of being a school teacher is a byproduct of these deeper and more human desires. When we realize this, then we realize that our idea of “passion” and “success” changes. Being a school teacher isn’t the goal anymore; it is one way to accomplish the goal of educating children. What if there was another way to accomplish the goal?
What if after teaching for 10 years, you decided that you could pursue your goal another way and then later yet another way? Define what success looks like in your role before you start it. Once you have reached your definition, then quit and move onto something else and chase success again. It isn’t up to anyone except you what success looks like and how long, if ever, it takes to reach it. Soon quitting what you love becomes more satisfying because we don’t love our job. We love the things we do in our job and there are lots of ways we can do those things.
Further, quitting what you love injects change into our lives. Like evolution in a species or constraints on an artist’s color options, change and randomness make us better. We become better at our real loves because we constantly learn new ways to interact with them. We learn our true power and don’t limit what we can do to a job.
Finally, quit what you love because there's always room for more love. A mother doesn’t love one child more than another. Love is not finite. We can love one with the same intensity that we can love many. When you quit what you love, you can learn to love something else without giving up your passion for the previous.
We Remember Quitters
Oprah quit at the height of her talk show and The Beatles quit one style and tried another dozens of times. We remember the quitters, because they push the boundaries. They keep us guessing. The quitters didn’t quit when it was hard, they quit when it was easy. They aren’t complacent to rest at the top of the mountain. They build mountains that reach higher.
So quit. Quit while you still can.