The resignation of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern forces leaders across New Zealand to ask a difficult question: How tough must the going get before you decide ‘enough is enough’?
Nobody likes a quitter.
Unless, that is, everyone wants you to quit. Then everyone likes you very much indeed.
Jacinda Ardern’s Prime Ministerial seat has barely cooled, but the debate around her departure still rages on: Was this a bold and brave move from a leader who put the country’s needs before her own? Or the last timid convulsions of a kindness-based kingdom already in ruins?
Thankfully, I’m British, so I’m not qualified to comment on New Zealand politics. I’ve got food in the back of my fridge that lasted longer than some UK Prime Ministers.
Watching yet another failed Great British Premier walk the sad departure from Downing Street became a more regular occurrence than a cruise ship of over-eager tourists pulling up at Pilot Bay.
However, I do know a thing or two about leadership. And I know a hell of a lot about quitting.
And I am 100% certain that – in some cases – quitting can be the best thing you ever do.
Don’t quit your daydream
Resign. Step down. Call it a day. Hang up your hat. Toot it & Scoot it.
However you like to say it, quitting is something you never forget.
When we make the decision to quit something – when we finally push that big red button inside our minds – the scene is etched upon our memory in glorious, high-definition detail for the rest of our lives.
When you got dumped. When you knew you couldn’t stay in that job any longer. When you realised they weren’t ‘the one’. When life gave you that big flashing neon sign, telling you it was time to pull the plug on that particular endeavour … You can close your eyes right now and picture the scene like it was yesterday.
No wonder quitting gets such bad press: We tend to ridicule that which we fear the most.
And because we also avoid the things we’re afraid of, we rarely know when it’s time to quit.
There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’. But there is most certainly an ‘I’ in ‘Quit’.
We’ve all had the sleepless nights, dwelling over the decision: “Do I really need to quit this situation … or am I just giving up when the going gets tough?”
It’s difficult to have this debate without falling into a shallow-talking business cliche – imagine some horrific mash-up of The Wolf of Wall Street, Donald Trump and LinkedIn – vomiting out motivational phrases like, “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever”.
I’ve quit jobs, leadership roles and business over the years. Usually, it was the right decision.
In my experience, quitting in the business world is no different to quitting any other relationship: Emotionally, you’ve already packed your bags. Quitting is when you walk out the door.
But as you’re strutting down the road Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will survive’ blasting through your headphones, a nagging doubt is stalking you… What if I’ve made the wrong decision?
I just can’t quit you
I’ve run 300 kilometres across the scorching Sahara Desert. When I was hallucinating, dehydrated and peeing blood, I wanted to quit. But I didn’t.
I became a Guinness World Record holder and the fastest fisherman on the planet by running a marathon in waterproof clothing and gumboots. When my toenails fell off, I wanted to quit. But I didn’t.
When I thought I would never finish my first book, I wanted to quit. But I didn’t.
When I was launching a global business and didn’t know what to do, I wanted to quit. But I didn’t.
When I thought I could never be a good dad, I wanted to quit. But I didn’t.
It is the times we want to quit but choose to fight another day that truly make us who we are.
And it is only when we truly know who we are ……that we can recognise the time is right to leave a situation with our heads held high.
No-one wants to be Elvis on stage at the Vegas Hilton in 1976, mumbling through their greatest hits, watched by a sad crowd of onlookers, shaking their heads at a King who didn’t know when to quit their kingdom.
Because sometimes quitting can be the best – and bravest – thing an icon, boss or leader can ever do.
Quit lying to yourself
Quitting an uninspiring college degree didn’t work out too badly for Bill Gates.
Quitting Zurich Polytechnic School seemed to go alright for Albert Einstein.
Quitting the US Army probably wasn’t the worst idea Walt Disney ever had.
Quitting an abusive, controlling marriage was a great move by J K Rowling. Harry Potter would have been delighted. As would her bank manager.
Calling time on a particular journey doesn’t have to mean failure. It can mean freedom.
We don’t quit because we like to lose. We quit because we choose to win.
Quitting doesn’t happen because we give up on our dreams. It’s when we decide to remove something from our lives because of our dreams.
Quitting is when we realise the time has come to focus on what we really want our future to be and remove what is stopping us from getting there.
Quitting is painful. But regret is more so.
You can quit a job, a relationship, a business … even the leadership of a country.
Just don’t quit on yourself.