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When is quitting the right thing to do?

Ramit Sethi

My friend wrote a fascinating post on when quitting is the RIGHT thing to do:
http://founderdating.com/silicon-valleys-best-kept-secret-why-quitting-is-winning/

So today, I wanted to open it up and talk about failure and quitting.

When is it OK to give up? When is changing your mind the RIGHT thing to do?

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While many of you think of me as the perfect specimen of human achievement, I am just a man.

In fact, I’ve talked a lot about my failures in some recent interviews I did.

  • In my Lewis Howes interview on building an empire and the power of habits, I talk about my first business flop right out of college (22:15) and how I made the mistake of trying to cheap out on staffing early on in my career (26:36)
  • During my meeting at Smart Passive Income on the psychology of selling, I chat with Pat Flynn about a personal finance class I taught that nobody attended (2:13) and an app I created that would’ve never made me money — even if we 5x’d sales (11:47).
  • At Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas and I discuss how I lost half of my college scholarship money in the stock market (1:34) and how I used to take every negative comment personally after launching my first $4.95 product (5:45). (By the way, this podcast blew up and is now in the EOF Top 10 Podcasts list.)

Talk to anyone who’s been successful in their field and ask them what they’ve failed at. WATCH THEIR EYES LIGHT UP. Because in order to be successful, you have to fail — but people never ask about their failures and sacrifices.

Paradoxically, by taking risks and failing, we’re able to pinpoint what DOES work by eliminating what doesn’t.

Now, it’s easy to say “Just go try stuff! It’s OK to fail!” I’m not saying that at all.

What I’m saying is failure WILL happen. It’s not something to avoid — it’s something to expect, to plan for, and eventually to become masterful at handling.

This is a technique I call Failure Expectation.

(In fact, I keep a Gmail folder to track my failures. If I’m not failing at least 5 times/month, I know I’m not taking enough risks.)

It’s scary being outside of your comfort zone, but this is where all the magic happens.

Terrified to jump out of a 34’ tower at Fort Bragg
.

If you had a magic “NO FAILURE” cape, and when you wore it, you weren’t afraid of failing at anything…what would you do in the next 24 hours?

Would you have that difficult conversation? Would you apply to that dream job? What would it be?

Tell me in the comments below

P.S. By the way, I have nothing to sell (in fact, you can actually win $10,000 for IWT’s 10-year anniversary). I’m writing this to you because part of living a Rich Life is thinking about long-term questions that can help us improve our lives.

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63 Comments

 
  1. John Lee Dumas

    WOW, great article and thank you for the kind mention…I am honored!

    • Eve Adams

      Hi John Dumas, I have been also following your site and learn a lot from it.
      By the way, Ramit, I want to tell you that this kind of post is like a solid rock. I agree with what you said that inspiration only last for a couple of days but systems last forever, I can tell this because I also experience it everytime I feel excited to do new things and forget the things I already doing.

      Very detailed info Ramit and it always be a good lesson to come back to whenever I got those attitude.

      cheers,

      Eve

  2. Karolina Lind

    this is perfect timin. g for me! I have realised that uni is not helping me the way I though and I’m leaving. It’s very scarry but it’s the right thing.

  3. Bud Simpson

    I would like to quit my full-time job and work exclusively on creating content and building my email list on my travel blog, Shoestring Explorers.

  4. Barb

    I would break up with my boyfriend. I already moved out and the relationship is still dragging on but I don’t want to deal with the drama of an actual breakup.

    • Fashion uni

      Same here, I would like to end a relationship.

  5. Todd Douglas

    Much needed post on failure for me.

    If I had the fabled NO FAILURE cape, It wouldn’t take me 24 hours. In the next ten minutes, I’d quit my full time job (that doesn’t pay very well but allows me the freedom to work from home and do my side photography job) and focus on building up my side job and networking with VIPs in my industry and other students from the RBT to help me reach my end goal of creating an online course helping other budding photographers.

    (Invisible scripts that I had even while writing that paragraph:

    1. I’m not sure which direction I want to go for the online course niche, so I should figure that out first.
    2. I’ve got to have a minimum of 6 months emergency cash saved up before quitting…ugh, never going to happen.
    3. There so much I’d need to do, I’m already feeling overwhelmed, so I might as well just read another article about other people doing successful stuff.)

    Small Action Steps I AM taking TODAY:

    1. Closing the loop with VIPs
    2. Scheduling Skype calls with other RBT students and listening for one actionable point so I can close the loop with them as well.

    So where can I purchase that cape at again? 🙂

    • Jason

      too true…

      I would quit my engineering job and work full-time on my side project but it requires the use of work equipment…

  6. Anthony

    I’ve been failing at getting an engineering job ever since I graduate in 2011. I have seven years in the Army National Guard and 1 year deployment to Iraq. I’ve come close a few times to landing a job but I always fail. The reason is that I don’t have any work experience as an engineer. I thought be a hard worker and war veteran would be enough to get my foot in the door but nope. So in order to succeed when I’ve failed I’m going to go back to college full time. I’m going to get another engineering degree that pairs with my first one just so I have the ability to do co-ops and internships (have to be a full time student to get these jobs). Then with the actual engineering work experience, dual engineering degrees, and being a war veteran will net my not just an engineering job. But a dream job that I want.

  7. Patric

    Ramit, I’m in the process of doing this. I’ve been developing an invention for the past eight years, and I’ve decided that enlightened self interest demands I sell the idea to someone who actually wants to manufacture it and run a physical-product company. I’m relieved because I realized how much invisible weight I was carrying around at the thought of doing this myself. It was killing me already, and I wasn’t even to market yet. Know thyself, right?

  8. Alysia

    Love this post. I actually recently wrote a post about failure on my own blog. It’s really hard for me to accept that something has failed and just give up on it…which often leads me to just drag things on. I’m definitely working on taking more risks and being better at failing.

    I think if there was some sort of “no failure” cape I would move somewhere random like Africa or Thailand. Don’t know what I’d do once I got there but that’s what the “no failure” cape is for, right?

  9. Greg

    This would take longer than 24 hours, but it’s the dream.: If I had a “No Failure” cape, then I’d walk down the hall and quit my full time job right now and not look back. I’d build out my dream recording studio (nothing too crazy) and help musicians create amazing music. I’d be home in time for supper and on weekends and spend lots of quality time with my wife and two sons. Maybe even take a couple of vacations each year and enjoy life.

  10. Ravneet kaur

    Accepting one’s failure is not easy, a courageous gesture indeed.
    If i had a NO FAILURE cape, i would have used it while on my few entrance and official exams and also opened a fashion blog or maybe my own fashion range or become a fashion consultant but without holding a degree in fashion !! NO FAILURE cape is surely gonna help me in this.

  11. Erin

    Thinking of quitting my current career path. It’s hard to bail on because I’ve spent thousands on my education, but it just doesn’t interest me anymore. I’m going to go to the library and see if I can find a subject I feel like reading 400 books on.

  12. Dave

    So many great dreams here, but not many that would fit into a 24-hour time slot. I guess that’s the point, though. A 24-hour NO FAILURE cape would be great for passing a job interview, launching a product, breaking up with someone, or some other kind of one-time “event.” But if the dream is something that requires time to mature — quitting your job AND THEN starting a successful business, for instance — I’d save up a bunch of important little tasks to achieve on that the 24-hour cape day. Schedule a day full of important “coffee” meetings, write 5 blog posts and share them with top bloggers, email Ramit and ask for a free hour of his time (even that cape probably wouldn’t be powerful enough for a “yes”)…

  13. Heather

    I would dump my selfish boyfriend and move to San Francisco.

  14. MarkF

    Rahim Fazal,’s article was not quite what i was expecting with the idea of ‘quitting’. his question was more one of “should i keep this company/stay in the business, or should i sell?”

    of course, the only way a true entrepreneur quits is when they are dead.

    based on what RF says, it sounds like he chose wisely. if one is out of energy/health/ideas, and there is no visible prospect for restoring those, selling the company to an interested buyer for X million is probably the thing to do. then, the real question becomes one of “how do i get the best price/terms of sale? what should i be negotiating for?”

    on a broader scale, the outer political environment. if one had a profitable, fast-growing business that they totally loved where everything was going AWESOME, history still shows that circa 1957 in cuba, ’72 in lebanon or vietnam/cambodia, ’97 in zimbabwae was still The Right Time To Sell.

    how about when one is employed at a conventional job? what setbacks or tragedies make quitting that to be the right thing to do?

    the only thing i can offer is what a professional gambler once told me in a wedding i met him at: “always play your own game” not matter what else is going on. examples: some people stay in jobs that are otherwise no longer a good fit to keep health insurance for sake of their child with illness/disability. others stay in that same job because their 401k will fully vest in another year & a half and quitting now would cost them tens of thousands of dollars.

    much in a conventional job is out of the employee’s hands: the awesome mentor boss who taught you so much is no longer with the company themselves. company delays payroll for a few days due to ‘delays in payment from vital customer’. company implements some ridiculous practice that you know to be costly or slimy. company decides they want to move you to a division that’s X hundred miles away in an unappealing location. or from the employees side: you or a family member has illness such as cancer or leukemia or other which requires longer term treatment & recovery -IF you survive at all.

    “it may be time to call it quits. And if it’s not, by asking the question, at least you’ll remember what you’re fighting for.” YES! exactly like the idea of playing one’s own game.

    Ramit, you’re stuff is AWESOME! THANK YOU for what you do! happy monday everybody!

  15. AW

    I would end an unhealthy relationship, work more towards my singing, acting, and modelling career and expand my network. I would get all my finances in order and produce more income to be shared among the inhabitants of this planet. I would volunteer more of my time and not show up for your party a week early!!! I would share the secrets of success and try to influence and change more lives, and buy your courses once my debt is cleared up!

  16. James Salmons

    Your post brought back to mind a poster I made and posted in my office many years ago and kept there for several years. It was made after I spoke at some event on this same topic. It provoked a good number of conversations.

    My sign simply read: Fail Forward!

    Thanks for the memory and continued good success.

  17. Andie

    That’s so easy and tough at the same time. There are so many things I think I want to do. But, what do I really want to do? Recently, I quit a certification program that I decided was not right for me so I am looking into other ones.

    A new certification program lies ahead in which I am determined to apply for and get in to. This time around though I am going to sit down with someone who has completed the program and ask all the questions my little heart desires to get a better feel for it.

    If I had a grantee that I wouldn’t fail, I would up and move to either Surprise, AZ, San Antonio,TX or San Diego, CA to pursue my certification there and start a book/swim club with my new neighbors. Then, I would start work in the medical field. After working for 1 year and becoming acquainted with the entire town, I would find a way to build a premiere swim school that is attached to a clinic and career center.

    The next few years while the building is taking place, I would travel to my list of TOP 25 Countries I would like to visit. Along the way, I would interview professionals who I would eventually either a. Hire on the spot to join my swim school, clinic or career center for a specific start date or b. Need to convince to join my team of professionals and determine how long this will take.

    After, all of this was completed, I would work in all 3 areas of my facility, including formulating a competitive swim program, plus a swim team and stroke clinic at a pool that glows in the dark and can be transformed from an indoor to an outdoor pool and back again with the sound of only my voice or fingerprint.

  18. erica

    I’m told it’s wise to diversify. I’d like to take some courses. It’s time for a
    makeover. Can I work for you or go into business with you?

  19. Laurel

    I had to think about this for a bit… =) you’re right, going to either extreme (totally secure vs totally reckless) is the best method for failure. I liked this recent saying outside a local business: “If at first you do succeed, try something harder!” Taking the biggest risk of my life and letting my current employer know I am going to start my own business next year was scary – but I let my bosses know I am burning no bridges here… I have a solid business plan and model ready to go, and you can bet I will hit the ground running with no holds barred, but I will keep my current employer updated on all progress and we have an agreement that I will be available to be tapped for overflow work if they need me… I expect to fail with at least half of my current business ideas, and I have a lot of blank pages in my business plan binder for updates and new ideas that come from each failure as well as each success. The definition of death is the failure to grow – you have to develop something new and amazing from each failure AND each success!!

  20. Lucas Hawes

    I’d post a comment on your blog, and stop my various invisible scripts I used to beat down my own worthiness, relevance, and ability.

  21. Elaine

    Sell everything. Move to NYC and pursue stand-up comedy full-time.

  22. Maja

    What I would do? First thought: i would tell this guy in one of my clients’ offices – that same guy who i like (which happens rarely) & who seems to like me yet never asked me out in 2 months – i would ask him out.. As a supposedly mature adult you learn your heart gets broken & you do not ask to get humiliated esp. As a woman asking a man out because if he was interested he would have.. But then hang on a second, that s so wrong: if i dont ask i won’t know 🙂 doing it tomorrow, cheers Ramit 🙂 ps see you (?) at your London birthday bash this wknd?

  23. Tara

    I would publish my book, start writing the screenplay and tell my story. I would travel, do interviews, and quit the rags part of my life right now. I am so ready to live life to its fullest.

  24. Jeremy

    I would find a couple of successful entrepreneurs in my area (Michigan) to start relationships. Invisible script: I don’t know what to ask them… because I haven’t done enough research into companies yet.

  25. Caryn Johansen

    I have put on my no failure cape! I left my stressful and unfulfilling job and entered a MS program. It’s an exciting step, it will be hard and fun, and it will open new possibilities. At the end I’ll have to put on the no failure cape again to apply to my dream jobs. It’s all in the works.

  26. Detra

    I would quit my job and put my full attention and energies into building my wholesale real estate business.

  27. Rosieteapot

    How come no one’s saying they’d fly? Because if I had one of those capes, I’d totally jump off a building…

    Good reminder though Ramit, off to seize the day!

  28. Greg

    I would take the next steps to planning my trip around the world to study how humans interact with each other in various social group situations.

    I would also work on creating a way to encourage the folks in Chicago read more and help them find a way to benefit from what they’ve read.

  29. A.

    I would quit my job (which has turned into something I hate and has no room for upward mobility) and start pursuing several of my career passions, hoping for multiple income streams. I am working on trying to save up some money so I can make this a reality in the near future. I am 35 years old and it’s time to stop screwing around. I don’t want to be in the same place when I’m 40.

  30. Michael

    Starting a new startup is so mind wrecking, All the market study, product development, prototype building, website development, client research for a global market, all single handed is at times a bit overwhelming. Having that magic cape would perhaps give me 24 hours of peace of mind but the reality would surely return with a vengance. So I appreciate the concept of the respice, but I have far too much work to get accomplished, besides my ambition is to save the planet, and I do not have time to waste, every waking moment is time to get something more accomplished. Just taking a few minutes to send this comment is enough distraction for now anyway….Thanks Ramit for helping us keep our focus…..

  31. Arvind

    I would do some MMA training or join an MMA gym of some kind. I have wanted to do it for a while, but I’m not a very strong person and I’m worried I’d just look dumb and weak.

  32. Tim Martin

    I’d start organizing productivity meetings for my friends and acquaintances. I’ve always had a lot of anxiety about things being “just right” when I plan an event (which means that I haven’t planned very many events, aside from some simple parties). Basically I’m afraid of the social repercussions of an event going poorly. I’m afraid of feeling not only like the event I threw wasn’t good enough, but that *I’m* not good enough.

    But in thinking about it… what does the success or failure of one event have to do with me as a person? Great people can host failed events. And if you learn from that failure, who’s to say that it even was a failure?

    I think I can do this without a cape. Thanks for giving me a chance to reflect, Ramit.

  33. Debbie

    Great post. I’d publish my website featuring my writing. This is not a career goal, per se, but it’s a hobby I’d like to parlay into a job.

    As an aside, in the picture on Instagram it looked like you had no shoes on, again. Lol.

  34. Ro LeV

    I would quit my job. It’s my security blanket (family medical & retirement). That’s it in a nutshell – security & retirement (of course by this I mean having an ongoing passive income that will support a minimum basic lifestyle so I can do work I love and not worry about money).

    I have stretched and failed miserably a couple times right up until my stop/loss (bankrupt in my 40’s). Now I fear struggling into my retirement years and can’t see answering to some little shit in my 50s or 60s.

    Where do I pick up that cape?

  35. Justine

    I realize that it may be almost impossible to comprehend the number of things that fear of failure prohibits. If I had that cape I would re approach my boss about my raise ( initial request rejected) and asked for itemized details of how to improve. I would also tell her the things that don’t work for me at my current job

    • Aaron

      @ Justine: I feel you on this post. I am almost the same boat as yourself on how to improve at my job as well as telling her the things which do not work for me at my current job.

  36. takeo

    I would quit my job and go full time on my side business.

  37. Patricia

    I would launch my online business, join an artists’ collective and paint, and I would tell my boss to go jump into a lake.

  38. Aaron

    Ramit: Thank you for sharing this. If I had a magic “NO FAILURE” cape, I would in the next 24 hours quit my full time job and start a side business. To be frank, I hate my current job as a customer care associate! The work mix I have is unsatisfying, there is no career growth and I have challenges working with my immediate supervisor. My dissatisfaction with my job I believe has led me to underperform my peers. My mind tells me I should quit but I fear I can’t because, A) I’ve done nothing inspiring or exciting that would indicate I am an achiever/go-getter; B) I fear that my age is now a barrier to getting another job that is a better fit with my skills, strengths and experience. In short, I feel like I am going nowhere fast! I believe that by being my own boss, I can control my own destiny and be much happier with myself than having to work for someone else. I’m not sure if that’s the “right” reason to start a business, but that’s just how I feel as of now. Thanks again for sharing this post with readers like myself, as it is appreciated.

  39. ravi

    walk up to and talk to random strangers … it becomes easy after the first few minutes but getting over the initial hump is very difficult

  40. Bryan

    Id start an online business where I helped people craft their content for courses. It would give me side income and still work in the job I do. I’ve built enought contacts. The only thing standing in my way is me…and a fear of it not working out.

    If i had an orb of the future and saw it worked Id do it right now. So really its all on me. Thanks for reminding me Ramit.

  41. Cat Donnelly

    If I had a magic “NO FAILURE” cape, and when I wore it, I wasn’t afraid of failing at anything…this is what I would you do in the next 24 hours. The first thing I would do is sell every last item I owned, including my house, and rent the smallest studio apartment somewhere as my home base, but I would travel all over Europe, Australia and New Zealand. When I found the place that made me the happiest, instead of returning to the place I called “home,” I would make that my home. Why should home be the place we toil and the places that make us happy just the places we visit once a year or so, whenever we can afford it? What if we are blissfully happy on the island of St. Thomas, mon? Why shouldn’t we just move there and be happy all the time. And I know that happiness comes from the inside. I just know if given the choice, I can be happy easier in St. Thomas than, say, Detroit. Just sayin’

  42. Liv

    Break up. Coerce you into giving me 10k (more if your generous), move out/in, outsource current project to freelancer and/or Tom. Start business (gather dream team, peeps already to go, just need a way to pay.)

    First part is happening (fear is a barrier – its not 1 tough conversation, its the landslide of tough cobvos after — separation, payments, lease splitting etc.) Second part, eliminate fear.

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  44. kayla @ Red Debted Stepchild

    It’s an interesting concept, but yes sometimes quitting can be winning!

  45. Luiza

    I’d quit my job and travel. I just moved to Rio from NYC and quickly found a job that is not working for numerous reasons. So instead of spending all my savings trying to survive in Rio, I’d travel with my husband and go back home to the US feeling like I took a few risks, learned and actually was able to enjoy it instead of jumping right back into the same job but in another country.

    I’m about to do this b/c i can’t afford not to. Wish me luck!

  46. paulo

    I would have that pending conversation with my partner

  47. Fawn Giese

    A month ago I quit my job, partially due to articles on this blog and your book. In a month I leave on a one-way ticket to Puerto Rico to pursue my passion, nutrition. I have no real plan other than to be open to every experience I encounter. I am absolutely terrified, yet equally excited because I know with 100% certainty that I am finally on the path I am destined for. Thank you for unapologetically sharing your experiences and knowledge with wit, humor and harsh truths. There are no words to express my gratitude.

  48. JJ

    You should quit when there are better opportunities to pursue and the opportunity cost of finishing your current endeavor is too costly in terms of money, time, energy, and/or effort. Or if there’s only a small probability of success and the payoff from that success is mediocre and uninspiring.

  49. Rising Star

    I’d quit my job and have a faith I’d land something soon. I stick around only because I want to be able to indicate that I am currently employed as I search for something better. When I inquired about taking a half day for my Grandmother’s visitation/funeral, my boss texted: Which half?

  50. Lel

    Yo Ramit,

    Lovely post! I’m getting towards the end of the first week of my first job since uni and I hate it! You’ll be pleased to hear that I got it through networking instead of wasting time applying however I deserve to be happy and to find a job I love, even at this early stage in my career. Felt a bit guilty about wanting to quit so early but actually life’s too short!

    Also had a budding singing career which I gave up coz I don’t want to be poor…

  51. Lance

    I think you need to realize the potential of a project or job. Continuing something that isn’t going to show progress or end with the correct results can be a waste of time. It’s like holding on to an investment for too long. You don’t want to be so attached that you can’t make the right decision when the time comes to cut your losses and move on. It may hurt in the moment, but in the long run it is a better decision than continuing to throw time and money to something that isn’t going to work out.

  52. Donna

    If I had a “no fail” cape, I wouldn’t have a headache right now, rethinking the decision I made to quit a good paying but dreadful job that was killing me and sucking the life out of me. Now I am broke and have no clue how I’m going to pay next months bills. I have applied for dozens of jobs while trying to grow my photography business. If I knew I could not fail, I wouldn’t be depressed right now.

  53. Marc

    A “No- Fail Cape” ? I would take every cent I have which unfortunately is not much and make diversified investments in stocks, mutual funds. etc.

  54. Clay

    Awesome article. Matt Kepnes sent me this way and i’m glad he did!

  55. Etan

    Thank you so much for the great article! Especially the part about failure expectation!  I thought you might enjoy this post we recently wrote about when to quit and when to stick it out!

    http://www.fantasticwagon.com/blog/2015/4/5/should-i-quit-my-day-job-and-focus-on-my-business

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  59. Lea Dunham

    Great post! Failure is a real big issue in life. In order to be successful, most of the time you will fail first. However, to fail doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to have success in future. You need to get better, but the more you fail, the more courage you need to go on. So what I do when I feel discouraged is, I look up my daily horoscope. There are many horoscopes on the web, but I usually prefer astrosofa Reading something about good upcoming things is very couraging and leads to a good mind set in terms of dealing with failures. So if you struggle in life, don’t hesitate in considering your horoscope. Love, Lea