Last week, Olympic champion Simone Biles removed herself from the team trials in this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, creating a surge of criticism over quitting and failing her team and country, as well as a wave of praise for her heroic decision to withdraw.
This brought up the following question in my mind: Is it heroic to quit?
Obviously, there’s no universal correct answer to that question, and situations matter greatly as to whether or not a decision to quit is truly heroic or one of weakness and a lack of character. In general, there’s nothing particularly heroic in quitting. As a society, there’s a reason we don’t make movies, erect statues and tell stories about quitters. We all recognize that life is intensely difficult and presents unlimited reasons to quit – many of them pretty damned good reasons too.
In fact, isn’t that why we watch the Olympics? To see superhuman beings doing some of the most amazing and incomprehensible feats imaginable. The NON-quitters. The ones who somehow overcame the urge to quit when faced with long, grueling hours of training, personal sacrifices, physical pain and intense mental pressure. We see those people as heroic for their discipline and commitment that goes far beyond what the average person commands.
But then there’s the other side to quitting, when we find ourselves in places that are far more dangerous and hostile than we may have anticipated. When it’s crazy-stupid to continue down that proverbial dark alley where you know it’s very likely you’ll get your wallet stolen and be beat within an inch of your life. As the saying goes, pride goeth before the fall, and many people stubbornly stick to a designated path to preserve their ego and avoid admitting they might have been wrong, incapable or unprepared.
Personally, I think that’s where Simone Biles was. It’s ridiculous to think someone as experienced, accomplished and determined as Simone made that decision casually, or without deep consideration for her team and her country. It took a giant, brass pair to make that call, risking her reputation and potentially letting her team down, as well as disappointing her fans and the millions of Americans rooting for her. Perhaps it wasn’t heroic, but it was courageous.
Things brings up another point that many don’t understand about top performers, whether they are a top athlete like Simone Biles or a top entrepreneur, salesperson, investor, actor, etc.: we ALL have bad days. The list of celebrated, famous and very, very wealthy entrepreneurs who have one or more personal bankruptcies in their past is long – and if you include failed ideas, failed companies, failed products and very bad decisions, it would circle the universe a dozen times. I’ve often said if you don’t wake up on most days with the desire to quit, you’re not trying hard enough. For Simone, her bad day came at the worst possible time. It’s easy to look at a champion like Simone and think they are flawless and infallible, but I can assure you we ALL have frailties and imperfections.
That’s why we prize those who are incredibly resilient, who fall but stand again, ready to perform a greater and grander next act. They are adept at picking up the pieces to start again (or at least keep going). They respond to difficulty courageously and boldly. They are NOT easily put off their goals. They find a way through adversity, criticism and impossible situations. They find solutions where other people find excuses.
Far too many people are easily derailed…easily put into a funk…easily shrunk back down to playing small when put under pressure and faced with uncertainty and chaos. Some are SO weak they won’t even attempt great things, quitting before they’ve even started. This I know – NO one gets to the top if they quit easily and frequently. Falling apart like a cheap suit when trouble hits is, without a doubt, a primary reason why so few get to the top of any industry, sport or field of endeavor.
How easily and readily do you quit? Answer that honestly, and I can tell you a lot about your life, your health, your business, your financial situation and your overall happiness.