When To Quit

I listened to a really good podcast lately about “When To Quit” that I actually stopped in the middle so I could sit down and write this blog post as I continued listening. I think the question is so applicable in many stages of our journey – from instructors in training, to creating a program, to adding new programs. These notes are from The Tim Ferriss Show episode #254: When to Quit – Lessons from World-Class Entrepreneurs, Investors, Authors, and More, which deals with the question: “Where’s the line between stubbornly pursuing an idea that isn’t working and the patience and persistence needed to actually make it work? In other words — when should you give up and quit and when should you push on?” He gathers responses from a bunch of folk who are at the top of their professions. Here are some tips I learned from the podcast that I hope are helpful to anyone going through certification or some tough times!

When To Quit (and When To Keep Going)

When to Persist:

  • When It’s a Dip – AKA Don’t Quit Just Because There’s An Obstacle
    • Seth Godin explains “The Dip” as a natural time in the project cycle. When you start something new, the sky’s the limit. Then things get hard, and you can persist or you can quit.
    • The Dip is the moment you feel like you should quit, because most people DO quit, because they have developed a habit of quitting when it gets hard. But this is when often it’s best to push through it.
    • The Dip is the thing that makes the project worth doing in the first place. The value is in the temerity to make it to the other side.
    • If you’re going to start something, commit to not quitting in the The Dip.
  • When you can picture the future, if you persist, with more directions in which you can go for the next few years.
  • When others have gotten through this
    • Chances are, you are not the first to get to this particular difficulty. If this is the case, then it’s probably “The Dip.”
    • Talk to others who have gone through this dip before. Learn from their experience.

When to Abandon

  • When It’s a Dead End
    • The “Dead End” or “Cul-de-sac” looks great but you just won’t get where you want to go. Things really won’t get better.
    • Persistence alone doesn’t guarantee success or getting through the dip – the thing also needs to be possible, you need a smart strategy, etc. – sometimes you just hit a dead end.
    • Often people are stuck in a dead end when they are still believing that winners never quit and quitters never win. This is false – we don’t do everything forever. You have to give up some things to get the energy and resources to make the others work. Reconsider your definition of winning – even winners quit.
    • The danger here is the opportunity cost – what could you be doing instead? What if you had put all this effort into something else?
    • When it’s the peak, you’re at the top.
  • Often the peak is the exact time to stop and diversify or pursue something else, now is the time to be proud of what you’ve done and move on
    • Seinfeld was offered one hundred million dollar bonus to do another season, and he refused, because he knew when a good show needs to quit
  • When you’re attached to the idea and time invested – “am I smoking crack about my own idea”
  • When a better thing comes along
  • When you’re trying to prove something – to other people or to yourself, OR when you feel you owe it to someone. Those are never good motivations and will always lead to resentment.

Use Metrics to Judge Success

  • Preferably ahead of time, determine what metrics you’re going to use to judge success and progress, and use those metrics to determine your next step.


Use these questions to narrow down the information to help you make a decision. The top 3 especially. If they are in agreement, the answer is pretty clear. If they are in conflict, you have to dig deeper to come up with an answer. Also, keep in mind your personal goal, as these questions tend to point toward the goal of pursuing the things you love with joy. Maybe yours is different!

Is There Still Forward Motion?

  • Multiple responses included this one, so it’s a very helpful decision maker.
  • Are you still getting better, and learning, and growing?
  • I would add: this is not the same as “are you still having fun” – I find that sometimes the fun only comes after you’ve become competent at the skill.
  • If you have no sense of improving at what you’re doing, it may be time to stop. Note that sometimes at the last end of the learning curve the subtleties of improvement are very difficult to discern, during which time you may need to persist the most.

Is This Something That Brings Me Joy?

  • Joy is different than happiness. Happiness is a fleeting emotion. Joy is a deeper more consistent contentment.

Do you still believe in the same vision?

  • Do I still care about this, believe deeply in the mission, for which I am willing to endure?
  • Would you start again if you knew what you know now?
  • Persist by connecting your dream to a mission, something larger than yourself.

How Much Do You Want This?

  • If you want it more than anything, don’t ever give up. But you may need to do some things differently.
  • Maybe you don’t want it enough. You have to weight the cost with how much you want it.

Can You Revise Your Approach?

  • Two options:
  • 1) Revise
    • Come up with a different approach
    • Go back a few steps in the process and try something different
    • Work smarter, not harder or longer!
    • One person recommends the book “Born for This,” in which they found it wasn’t stubbornness and pushing through that predicted success, it was FLEXIBILITY.
  • 2) “Pivot”
    • Realize a different aspect of the same dream. (ex: maybe you can’t be an NBA player, but you can be a NBA coach)
    • A third alternative to Persist or Quit. It’s the grey area between the two.
    • Consider your impact. Maybe you can be more impactful in a different way. (ex: making videos instead of lecturing classrooms)

What Are You Most Afraid Of?

  • Settling? Or not liking your other job?
  • Heartbreak, regret, or rejection?

What Does Your Intuition Say?

  • You know in your gut whether something is worth pursuing or not

This is by no means comprehensive, but I thought it was really interesting. I hope that helps some folks out there!


Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgement! If you would like to contribute an activity or article, please contact me here, I would love to hear from you!

3 thoughts on “When To Quit

  1. Wow, I really needed to read this. I’m in a huge dip in just about everything right now and it’s left me very depressed and wanting to throw up my hands and drop it all. I’ve lost all confidence but am still hanging on. I have never truly succeeded at anything so I don’t see why I would succeed at instructing therapeutic riding. It’s a big mental hurdle I need to get over. Thank you for sharing this.

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