The doctor who hated doing surgery but stuck with being a surgeon anyway, just because he had “put so much time in already.”
The writer who, three-quarters of the way through writing a novel, realized it wasn’t what she wanted to write, but finished it and turned it in anyway because she had “put so much time in already.”
The couple who has been together for 10 years and are both miserable, but decide to enlist in another 10 years of misery just because they “had put so much time in already.”
When we’re young, we’re taught the value of sticking with what we start until it’s done. And that’s a good thing because otherwise we would all be eating half-cooked meals in half-built houses that we drive to and from in half-built cars.
But I think focusing on the value of sticking with things concurrently diminishes the value of quitting. We eventually get to the point where our subconscious is constantly buzzing in our ear, telling us that quitting anything is bad.
We also tend to feel that the more time we’ve put into something, the more value there is to sticking with it. If you’ve trained for years to be surgeon, then you better damn well continue to be a surgeon. It’s as if sticking with it will somehow give it value that up until that point had been completely missing.
But zero multiplied by any number equals zero.
If I have put five hours or five days or even five years into something and it is making me miserable, not adding value to my life, not my best work, has little prospect of getting better, has little long-term benefit, or was just simply the wrong path to take in the first place, then putting in another five hours, days or years continuing down the same path is not likely to make it any better.
We avoid quitting because as much as sticking with something can make us miserable, quitting and having to start over can be downright painful. It can be gut-wrenching and vomit inducing. But I think I’d rather deal with the momentary unpleasantness of barfing then deal with feeling queasy and uneasy over the long haul, knowing I was still walking down the wrong path.
*Seth Godin has a few interesting things to say on this subject – check out The Dip