42. The Upside of Quitting

    Don't let past investments stop you from making the right decision to quit something that isn't working. Learn from children and animals, who are more adaptable, and recognize when to move on for better opportunities.

    en-usSeptember 28, 2011

    About this Episode

    You know the saying: a winner never quits and a quitter never wins. To which Freakonomics Radio says … Are you sure?

    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Quitting may seem hard, but if something isn't making your life better, consider sunk cost and opportunity cost. Sometimes quitting can lead to a fulfilling life and better opportunities.
    • Quitting can be scary, but it is an opportunity for growth and a chance to focus on what is truly important in life. Don't be afraid to take risks and pursue personal fulfillment.
    • It's important to make time for family and it's okay to quit your job to do so. Make the decision that's best for you and your loved ones, even if it's not widely accepted.
    • Pursuing a career in sports may lead to financial challenges in the long term, making it essential to consider the societal structures affecting one's choices. Coping with identity loss after not making it to the majors can also be difficult.
    • Professional baseball careers and incomes are influenced by the player's socioeconomic background. Lower income players may struggle to sustain a career and earn less, even in the minor leagues. Persistence and determination can make all the difference.
    • Baseball players face challenges transitioning out of the game and may need support. Justin Humphries' organization helps players make this difficult decision, which is especially important for those who struggle financially.
    • Recognize when to quit and fail fast to avoid wasting time and resources. This can lead to new opportunities and the achievement of true potential.
    • Quitting is not always a weakness, it can lead to personal growth and well-being. Being honest with oneself about limitations and quitting unattainable goals can lead to fewer depressive symptoms, better immune functioning, and a willingness to face failure head-on.
    • Decision-making regarding persisting or quitting in life can be challenging. Considering the benefits and consequences of each choice is necessary. Sometimes, envisioning a life without the thing can aid in the decision-making process.
    • Stay true to yourself and values, be wary of allure of fame; be brave enough to walk away from situations that don't serve you to find true purpose.
    • Don't let past investments stop you from making the right decision to quit something that isn't working. Learn from children and animals, who are more adaptable, and recognize when to move on for better opportunities.
    • Don't be afraid to quit a job that doesn't bring you fulfillment. Understand what truly matters to you and weigh the opportunity cost. You have the power to pursue a life that aligns with your values.
    • Services like the Sex Workers Project offer assistance in creating resumes for former sex workers. Successful transitioning requires creativity and adaptability to a much lower income.
    • It's important to prioritize company culture over salary when deciding on a job, and it's okay to walk away from a job that's not the right fit. Successful individuals focus on the future rather than dwelling on past decisions.
    • Zappos creates a sense of family through team activities, making employees justify their happiness. 'The Offer' of $3,000 to leave is rarely taken due to loyal and dedicated employees.
    • It's important to have personal agency and make choices for oneself, even if it means going against familial or societal expectations. Leaving a community can have both costs and benefits.
    • Leaving the Amish community can be a difficult decision, but for some, it can lead to personal growth and happiness. It's important to prioritize your own needs and make the best decision for yourself, even if it means quitting something that no longer brings you joy.
    • It's essential to make an informed decision when choosing a project, job, or passion, as this decision can greatly impact your personal and professional growth. Don't be afraid to quit and redirect your focus if necessary to find more meaningful experiences in life.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    The Benefits of Quitting: Sunk Cost and Opportunity Cost

    Quitting may seem counterintuitive but it's important to consider sunk cost and opportunity cost. Sunk cost is the past investments made and opportunity cost is the future potential gain. It's okay to quit something if it's not making your life better. Look at Allie, who quit her unfulfilling job as an industrial computer programmer to pursue a career that aligned with her social personality. Quitting that job led her to a better paying job. It's time to challenge the notion that quitting is always bad. Sometimes quitting can lead to a fulfilling life and better opportunities. Consider quitting and think about the opportunities you can gain.

    The Upside of Quitting: How Leaving a Good Job Can Lead to a Happier Life

    Quitting can often be the right decision, even if it means giving up a good job or status quo. The upside of quitting is often underestimated and it can lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. Examples of successful quitters like Robert Reich and a former computer programmer who became a high-end escort show that taking the risk to quit can pay off in unexpected ways. It's important to evaluate what's truly valuable in life, like family or personal fulfillment, and not just chase success or a high income. Quitting is not always easy, but it can lead to growth and new opportunities that wouldn't be possible otherwise.

    Prioritizing Family Over Work

    Robert Reich's decision to quit his dream job and write an op-ed for the New York Times about his personal family leave act was a delicate matter. He wanted to alert his employees and the public that it is okay to leave your job for your family. Reich realized that he could have been anywhere, but he chose to spend more time with his family instead. His decision was met with skepticism, as people did not believe he genuinely wanted to spend more time with his family. However, he confirmed that his choice was exactly the right move, as he would have regretted not spending those years with his sons. Sometimes, it is important to prioritize family over work, and it's okay to quit to do so.

    The Impact of Pursuing a Baseball Career and Coping with Identity Loss

    Justin Humphries' experience of struggling as a minor league baseball player inspired him to study the sociology of the sport with his professor, Sudhir Venkatesh. They conducted a systematic empirical study that followed the sample of the draft class of 2001, who were drafted by a major league team, for 10 years. The study found that, on average, those who played baseball made 40% less than those who didn't play baseball after ten years. This highlights the importance of considering the long-term implications of pursuing a career in sports and the challenges faced by those who don't make it to the majors. Coping with quitting a job associated with one's identity can be incredibly difficult, and it's important to consider the societal structures affecting one's choices.

    The Impact of Socioeconomic Background on Baseball Careers.

    Professional baseball players who come from more affluent backgrounds are more likely to have sustained careers and higher incomes than those who come from lower income backgrounds. The counterpoint is that those who are drafted and come from lower income backgrounds are likely to earn approximately $20,000-$24,000 a year, and struggle to find part-time work during off-seasons. Many players in independent leagues, such as the Camden Riversharks, are in their late twenties and have already been through the minor leagues, ultimately failing to make it to the big leagues. With little guidance from those around them, these players still hold onto the dream of making it to the big leagues, despite the odds. However, some players are able to recognize the writing on the wall, while others, like Noah Hall, refuse to give up and continue to give it their all.

    Understanding the Challenge of Quitting Baseball and Transitioning Out of the Game

    Baseball players have their own language for quitting and call it 'shutting it down.' The wife of a baseball player, Noah, shares the emotional rollercoaster of the game with her husband, and it's especially hard to know when to 'shut it down.' Baseball is a sport where quitting is not an option, but Justin Humphries is building an organization to help players transition out of baseball when it's time. This is important because many players make less than $2,000 a month and can't financially sustain themselves. It's important for players to know when it's time to move on and adjust to the world that the rest of us live in.

    When Quitting Is the Right Choice

    Quitting can be the right thing to do in some situations, according to economist Steve Levitt. This is especially true when new information comes to light that suggests a different course of action would be more productive. Levitt advocates failing quickly rather than wasting time and resources pursuing a losing venture. This advice is not limited to academics - former Navy SEAL Eric Greitens also stresses the importance of pushing oneself to the limit, but also knowing when to quit. This applies to everything from military training to athletic dreams. Ultimately, recognizing when to quit can open up new possibilities and allow individuals to achieve their true potential.

    Hell Week and the Benefits of Quitting

    Hell Week is a grueling process used by the Navy to determine the fitness of SEAL candidates. The instructors use intense psychological pressure to encourage participants to quit, but sometimes quitting can be beneficial. According to psychology professor Carsten Wrosch, people who can let go of unattainable goals have fewer depressive symptoms, better immune functioning, and fewer physical health issues. Quitting is not always a sign of weakness; it can be a sign of self-awareness and a willingness to face failure head-on. If someone is honest with themselves about their limitations and decides to quit, they are better equipped to move on and succeed in other areas of life. It's important to remember that quitting is not always a bad thing and can potentially lead to personal growth and well-being.

    The Dilemma of Persisting or Quitting in Life

    Determining when to persist or quit is a difficult dilemma. People tend to quit too early or too late in regulating their lives. There are unattainable goals that may change over time, leading to a struggle to decide whether to persevere or not. While there is no general answer to this question, one can consider the implications of persistence versus quitting. Professor Carsten Wrosch expresses his difficulty in quitting smoking, despite wanting to quit. Sometimes, it takes a vision of a life without that thing to realize the benefits of quitting. The key is to assess each circumstance and make a choice that is both practical and rewarding.

    The Journey towards Pursuing Dreams

    Pursuing our dreams can be both fun and challenging. However, it is important to stay true to ourselves and our values, even when we achieve success. The allure of fame can be tempting, but it can also be unhealthy. The journey towards our goals may lead us down unexpected paths, where we may discover that what we thought we wanted is not what we truly desire. In these moments of self-discovery, we must be brave enough to follow our hearts and walk away from situations that no longer serve us. This can be daunting, but ultimately it is a necessary step towards finding our true purpose.

    The Sunk-Cost Fallacy and Knowing When to Quit

    The sunk-cost fallacy is when people continue to invest time or money into something despite it being a losing course of action, simply because they feel that they have already invested too much to quit. This fallacy is commonly seen in businesses, politics and even personal relationships. However, it is important to learn from children and animals, who are less prone to such fallacies, and recognize when to quit. Quitting after enough negative feedback can be difficult but, in the long run, it can lead to better opportunities. It's also worth noting that over-applying rules learned in childhood to not be wasteful can further hinder decisions to abandon a project or relationship that clearly isn't working.

    The Power of Quitting to Pursue a Life Aligned with Your Values

    Quitting a job is not always a negative thing. in some cases, quitting can lead to a more fulfilling life. Allie, a former high-end escort, made a lot of money but gave it up when she found love. Similarly, sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh quit an administrative job he did not enjoy and returned to research. The key is to understand opportunity cost and what we truly value in life. Venkatesh interviewed sex workers about quitting, and while some like Maxine choose to continue, it is essential to remember that we all have the power to quit and pursue a life that aligns with our values.

    Overcoming Challenges of Leaving Sex Work

    Leaving sex work can be challenging, as sex workers face issues like preparing a resume that accounts for their previous work experience and taking a significant pay cut. However, services like the Sex Workers Project can help them overcome these challenges by providing them with assistance in creating creative resumes. Many former sex workers take up managerial roles, but it can still be difficult to adjust to a much lower income. Nonetheless, it is possible to successfully transition out of sex work, as seen in those who have done it. Their stories can teach us to approach career transitions with creativity and a willingness to adapt to new realities.

    The Importance of Valuing Company Culture When Making Career Decisions

    Leaving a job or career that you thought was your calling can be difficult, but it's important to make the decision quickly and not look back. Successful people move on and focus on the future. Some companies, like Zappos, offer new hires a chance to quit for $3,000 during their training. This puts the employee in a position to choose between the money and the company culture. It's a reminder that some jobs may not be the right fit, and it's okay to walk away. It's important to value a job and the culture it embodies, not just the salary, when making career decisions.

    Zappos' Culture: A Unique Approach to Employee Retention

    Zappos' unique culture is a major factor in employee retention, with only 30 out of almost 2,000 trained employees taking the company's offer to leave. The company makes trainees feel like family through team projects, happy hours, and scavenger hunts, which prompts employees to overly justify their behavior through cognitive dissonance. Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke who studies decision making, explains this trick as making people suffer for things they love, making them decide they must love it. Zappos' culture and incentivization techniques create a loyal and dedicated workforce, even though 'The Offer' of $3,000 to leave may seem like easy money.

    Leaving a Community: Benefits and Costs

    Belonging to a religion, community, or group can result in a powerful desire to justify one's actions and make quitting difficult. However, there are moments when leaving can be the right decision. Saloma Furlong and Emma Gingerich left the Amish community, and while there were costs, such as losing their place in the community, there were also benefits, such as being able to choose their own paths and experiences. This highlights the importance of personal agency and the ability to make choices for oneself, even if it means going against familial or societal expectations.

    The Ups and Downs of Leaving the Amish Community

    Leaving the Amish community is not common, but it does happen. The downsides of leaving include leaving family and knowing that nothing will be the same again when visiting home. However, the upside is that leaving can help individuals become new and better people. This was the case for Saloma Furlong, who left due to an unbearable family situation. She is a self-proclaimed 'serial quitter' who believes in quitting things that are not satisfying. She considers all of her quits to be good decisions. Furlong's philosophy is that people should quit what they're doing if they're not happy, and it's worked for her. However, she doesn't want to be a quitting coach or counselor.

    The Importance of Choosing the Right Path for Personal and Professional Growth.

    Choosing the right path, project, job or passion is more important than simply sticking with it out of stubbornness. Your choice is your talent, and making the wrong one can hurt your personal and professional growth. While it takes effort to make progress, time and effort are not unlimited resources and must be used wisely. If you realize you've made a mistake along the way, it's better to quit and redirect your time and energy towards something more meaningful. This often requires the courage to make a change, but it can ultimately lead you to more fulfilling and valuable experiences in life.

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