Whenever I hear someone say “fuck it”, my spider-senses get triggered, my ears open wide and my vision becomes that of a hawk. I know someone is about to quit something. I’m not talking about the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude from being indifferent and utterly insecure. I’m talking about a genuine “fuck it” coming from the heart.
The words fuck it are the most exciting words in the world. It’s a cue that change is around the corner, that something is about to happen, that there is an end and a new beginning.
Whenever you hear someone say “fuck it”, you know there has been made a decision. A shift in the mind that finally said enough is enough. “No matter the consequences, let’s fucking do it”, the mind says.
Fuck it usually means one of two things:
1. Someone finally has the courage to make a long overdue decision that will change their life in a new direction.
2. It’s time to take out your camera because someone is about to do something really stupid.
There are numerous books written about the words fuck it, but this isn’t a book, and this isn’t about just fuck it. This is about: fuck it, I quit.
Quitting has a bad rep, but it shouldn’t. The super awesome Seth Godin wrote a little book about quitting called ‘The Dip‘. According to Seth, there is a silver lining between quitting and following through. Starting out with something new is always fun. It’s easy, you make a lot of progress, you see the difference, gains are happening on a daily, but then it happens: you get in a dip. The dip is the point where there’s hardly any progress, things get boring and hard and you get unmotivated. This is the point where most people lose interest and quit. But, in the dip is where the real winners are born. Either they win by pushing through, or they win by quitting because that’s the right thing to do.
In the dip there are two options when pushing through. Either you keep pushing, break through the dip and excel to the next level, and become a winner, or it’s a cul-de-sac as Seth calls it, a complete dead end. The trick is knowing which of the two it is.
There’s only one smart option when you reach a cul-de-sac, and that’s saying “fuck it, I quit”. Pushing against a dead end is like banging your head against a brick wall. You can keep doing it until your head gives in, but it’s a waste of time and probably a waste of your head as well.
Knowing when to say “fuck it, I quit” is a vital skill to master, and when we look around in the world it becomes clear many have not reached mastery by a longshot. If they would burn-out and depression rates wouldn’t have been so high, people wouldn’t regret their lives on their deathbeds, people wouldn’t walk around like complete zombies, and, well the list goes on, but you know where I’m going with this.
Turns out the infamous ‘winners never quit and quitters never win’ quote isn’t as on point as we believe it is. The big winners have quit many times and a lot of losers are still banging their heads against the wall because winners never quit, while it’s obvious they should have quit years ago.
The inescapable identity crisis
The reason why a lot of people don’t quit when they should is that quitting is for the brave. Quitting takes big huevos (that’s Spanish for eggs, or in this case testicles, just in case you’re wondering). It takes guts and responsibility to confidently say “fuck it, I quit”. And that’s why there is a lot of passive and reactive emotions going on in our lives.
We just don’t have what it takes to make the decision, and so the decision is in the hands of someone else. We don’t take the lead proactively, we simply react. As crippling as this strategy is, at least we are never to blame for the decision. The cost for this is immense since you live a life on everybody’s terms except yours. There is no quitting, no decision. There’s only waiting for a decision made by the other. Change might come today, it might never, even though you are ready.
Reactive behavior leads to being stuck in a job you don’t really like, being stuck with friends you are fed up with, being stuck in habits that do more bad than good, and so on. You are stuck in the hallway. At least you won’t be alone because the majority of people are stuck in the hallway, and some just live their complete lives there. There’s not much going on in the hallway, only lots of coulda, woulda, shoulda. If you don’t want to pull the trigger, but want to complain about your situation, the hallway is the ideal place to set up camp.
Remember the hit single ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by The Clash with the legendary guitar solo? The lyrics go like this: “It’s always tease, tease, tease. You’re happy when I’m on my knees. One day it’s fine and next it’s black. So if you want me off your back. Well, come on and let me know. Should I stay or should I go?” Such cool guys and they don’t even have what it takes to say “It’s always tease, tease, tease, fuck it, I quit.”
The moment the question “should I stay or should I go” arises, you’re in trouble. No matter what you choose your life will change. Deep down we know this and that’s why most don’t say the magic words.
The question to go or not to go comes from being dissatisfied. You are unhappy with the situation or feel like you are capable of more. Either way, your identity is at stake. If you choose to stay, because the job pays well, or because you know your friends for 20 years already and making new friends is hard, you choose to conform. You choose to kill a bit of your soul just to keep things the way they are. You’ve paid for the identity crisis with a part of your being. Now the crisis may be gone, but so is a piece of you. Keep repeating this process, and there won’t be much of you left.
When you choose the path of the brave and decide it’s time to go, your life will also change. It might change a little, it might change a lot. Maybe you quit your job and find a new one within a day, no worries. Or maybe you drop it all, sell your things and leave everything behind. If you stood by your decision to quit with the full 100% then all is good and all will be good, and probably even better.
Maybe you’ll have some hard times and struggles, but you can look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of taking the bold step of quitting. Just as in staying and conforming there is a transaction in place. This time, however, the trade is vice versa from the example above. You went back to the supplier and gave their junk back because you’re unhappy with it. In return, you get a bit of your soul back, a bit of your real you. You lost something, but because you listened to your inner being you came a step closer to the real you. You took a brave decision and got rewarded accordingly.
Not being able to make decisions is a sign you don’t really know who you are. You don’t really know what you value in life. When you are crystal clear about your values, making decisions is easy. If ethics is important to you and the company you work for does some shady shit, you’ll be out the door by the end of the day. If trust is way on top of your values list and your spouse cheats, it’s to the left to the left, everything they own in the box to the left.
But if you don’t have your values in check you’ll just linger along with maybe a little knot in your belly which you can’t place. Keep going down this path and you’ll end up a tragedy that doesn’t know who he is.
Saying “fuck it, I quit” comes down to two things:
1.Knowing what your values are
2. Having the balls to pull the trigger
Why quitting is so important
We live in a world where quitting and losing is seen as something bad, but it’s not. Life is trial and error and you have to figure things out to finally find what works for you. This involves a lot of losing and quitting. Sure, you can go through life without quitting and losing, but it’s like riding down someone else’s path on your bike with the side wheels still on. You’ll probably get somewhere sometimes, but it’s not where you need to be. Wouldn’t it be so much more fun to ride down your own path in your own – insert favorite vehicle -? Apart from not following your own path, there’s more into play when it comes to quitting:
Firstly, quitting equals freedom. The freedom to become who you are meant to be. In order to say yes to who you are, you have to say no to all the other things you are not. Also, when you are able to quit relentlessly you will feel more powerful than ever because you know you are not stuck. Instead of dragging yourself through the week, because you don’t have the energy because you feel stuck in a dead end, you still wake up energized and ready to attack hard moments because you know you can quit anytime.
It’s the difference between bench pressing a serious amount of weight with a spotter that is reliable and with safety bars in place vs benching all by yourself on some questionable setup. In the former, you have the balls go all the way, but in the latter, you won’t make the rep because if you fail you die. No final rep, no growth, just lingering along doing a just good enough job. Just as in the gym in life the winners are created in the last rep. Elliot Hulse calls this the transcendent rep. The only rep that counts is the last one, the rest is just building up to it. Being able to say “fuck it, I quit” gives you the power to execute the last transcendent rep. Sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true.
Many great minds, from Derek Sivers, to Ryan Holiday and James Altucher, are advocates of saying no a lot. “It’s either a hell yes! or a no”, as Derek famously stated. This comes down to quitting everything that doesn’t make you say “hell yes!” and being left with just the good stuff. Once you install this practice you’ll find that 90% of your answers will be a no.
Marie Kondo wrote a #1 New York Times bestseller called ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing‘. Marie basically says to get rid of everything you have that doesn’t make you happy. You have to go through your clothes, books, even photos, and hold and feel it, and notice how it makes you feel. If it doesn’t make you warm and fuzzy inside, get rid of it. I did this, and I don’t have a lot of things anymore, but everywhere I look there are things that make me happy. A simple and happy life.
By quitting a lot of things that take up time, space, energy, and even identity, you create the freedom for new things that are more in line with what you really want.
Secondly, not quitting leads to a comfortable, mediocre life. Again, Derek Sivers enters the stage. Whenever he feels too comfortable he quits. He knows being comfortable means growth is gone and chances are you’re getting to a dead end. Even if he is in his dream job in his favorite country, he will quit his job and leave the country. If you never quit something you’ll never grasp the boundaries of what’s possible. You might be playing football all your life, while you where meant to be a baseball player. But, since you’ve never quit, you never experienced baseball.
Not quitting things leads to a mediocre, unsatisfied life. The adventure and curiosity are gone and things become boring. It’s all just ok.
Thirdly, quitting everything is mandatory to really find out who you are. In order to go beyond the ego and really find out who we are we have to let go of everything we are not. The ego is basically a false construct of who we want to be, but it’s not us. In fact, the ego can be harmful because it keeps us away from the heart. It will do whatever necessary to keep things as they are. Your personal gatekeeper if you will.
Let’s say you are a bodybuilder who experiences some mobility problems. The therapist advises you to do some yoga because it will help stretch the muscles and be more flexible. But, this strokes you the wrong way. Deep inside you know it’s the right thing to do, but now your ego takes over: “I’m the strongest guy in the gym, and yoga is for pussies. What will my buddies think? I will lose my gains, my therapist is wrong, I’m a real man, I’ll never do some splits in stretch pants.” All attempts of your ego to keep things as they are, while deep inside your real you knows it needs to get on the yoga mat to heal your body.
If you are aware that you are not really in touch with yourself, and want to take the journey of finding yourself, it requires a lot of quitting as well. Adyashanti wrote a great book on the horrors of enlightenment which is called “The End of Your World“. The title is spot on since it will be the end of your world as you know it. The bad news is everything is gone and you’ll be left with just you. The good news is everything is gone and you’ll be left with just you.
Former monk Dandapani also stresses the need to constantly simplify things. Every year we accumulate more people, more stuff, more things to do, but our life energy stays the same. We need to keep simplifying to be able to stay in touch with ourselves. Simplifying basically comes down to constantly assessing what we want to keep in our lives and what we can quit. It’s the same as what Marie Kondo describes as tidying up. So, in a nutshell:
In order to meet the real you, you have to be balsy enough to say shitloads of “fuck it, I quit”. Contrary to the soft and vague image spirituality has, it takes a shitload of fuck it’s to become the real enlightened motherfucker that you are.
Quitting just because the road gets hard is not what this article is about. It’s about using quitting to your advantage. Quitting is about creating room for new possibilities and to get closer to yourself. Quitting can cause a setback, a one step forward two steps back kinda thing. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Quitting can actually be a one-step backward ten steps forward kinda thing. It can be the catapult that’s pulled back as far as possible to land among the starts kinda thing.
So, how do we do this? Let’s look at Charlo Green, who is responsible for the best segment of news ever. I don’t watch the news, but for her, I make an exception. Charlo was working as an Alaskan news reporter. Apart from being a news reporter, she is also the owner of the Alaskan Cannabis Club, a club that fights for the freedom of cannabis use in Alaska.
The war on drugs in Alaska was at an all-time high and Charlo found herself in a predicament. While reporting the news her side hustle in the Alaskan Cannabis Club reached the news. She had to do some soul searching to find out what really was important to her since her day also has just 24 hours. She came to the conclusion her work to fight for freedom of cannabis use was more important than being a news anchor.
Charlo had her values in check (step 1) and realized it was time to put her huevos at work to pull the trigger for step 2. She could have just written a letter of resignation and leave silently, but being the boss that she is she didn’t.
Charlo showed up to work to report the story on the war on drugs and took full advantage of the opportunity. Halfway through the story she went of script, raised awareness for the freedom of cannabis use in Alaska and promoted her work at the Alaska Cannabis Club on live national television. At the end she made it clear working for the news station isn’t an option anymore and ended with the infamous words “fuck it, I quit”, and walked off stage. The news station and the world were shocked. What the fuck just happened?
This is gorilla marketing at it’s best. Not only did Charlo created awareness on live television, she also generated massive media attention for her and her story. She catapulted her way out of her old life into a new one among the stars. Well fucking done, Charlo.
This is obviously an amazing story, but before you start putting something similar into play, ask yourself a couple of questions first. Ask yourself: Why do I want to quit, what’s behind it on a deeper level? Whats going on why I feel this way? What do I want to do instead? If I’m going to quit, how can I quit so I can benefit the most? Should I even be quitting or is this just a temporary dip?
Everything pans out and it’s time to quit, but you can’t say the magic words? Feeling overwhelmed by the possible effects quitting has and lack the huevos to make the jump? Enter stoicism.
Stoic practice for decision making
Even when you are completely in line with who you are and know what’s most important to you, making a decision to quit can still be scary. No worries, the stoics faced similar problems thousands of years ago. The ancient stoic philosophy is becoming much more popular lately, and for good reasons. Many of the tactics they used in the ancient Greek and Roman times are still applicable nowadays. One of the stoic principles for decision making is visualizing the worst case scenario. It’s a simple two-step practice that makes it clear that the consequences are often not as horrible as we imagine, and in many cases are reversible. To put this in practice do this:
Step 1: Visualization. Visualize what’s the worst thing that can happen. Get crystal clear on what can happen and how.
Step 2: Mitigation. Can you live with the worst case scenario? Is it for example acceptable for you to live on your mother’s couch and eat ramen for a while if you quit your job and start the company of your dreams and it fails?
If the answer is yes, make the decision. If the answer is no, don’t. That’s it. While doing this practice you can come up with tactics to reduce the risk, minimize damage, or to bounce back when the worst case scenario takes place, which often doesn’t.
So, are you ready to say a bunch of “fuck it, I quit”? Are you ready to get closer to who you are, and quit everything that doesn’t align with the real you? Are you ready to say “either hell yes! or no”, or are you just going to linger through life on someone else’s terms?
All it takes is knowing your values and some huevos.
Photo credit: unknown source (please let me know if you know who to credit)