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Success Mindset

The Art of Quitting: How to Give up to Move Forward

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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“Never give up” is a common piece of advice we’re given when facing difficulties. People think giving up is not an option, as we often hear about successful people who plow through obstacles to achieve greatness.

The truth is, that successful people give up a lot. They understand that there’s an art of quitting things if said things become an obstacle in their path to success.

Yes, there will be times on your journey when you’ll need to soldier on despite difficult odds, but sometimes you have to close one door to open another.

Why Mastering the Art of Quitting Is Important

We all have been there; we hated something so much and could not take it anymore. Would you quit to make yourself happier or carry on because you thought this was the best path to success? If you don’t love what you are doing or have already lost your passion, quit it. Doing this will open room for new opportunities and allow you to invest time in something you like to do.

Quitting is not only about leaving a place because of getting out of interest; it is also about getting rid of things that are hindering our lives. For example, everyone has bad habits, and everyone has their own limits, so it is necessary to quit the things that are not good for our future self.

Steve Jobs’s Key Decision That Made Apple Successful

In 1997, Apple was facing strong competition from Microsoft. As Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs was responsible for spearheading many changes that led to the company’s success. Many of the modifications that Jobs made involved axing old initiatives to trim the fat.


Macintosh was producing hardware, desktops, and servers when Jobs intervened. All of these product lines were cut to allow the company to focus on four main products. [1]

Looking back, we recognize that Jobs made the right decision. Hindsight is funny that way–we see the value in him making such deep cuts to Macintosh’s initiatives because we know how successful the company became.

I’m willing to bet that these changes at the time disgruntled people. Over 3,000 people lost their jobs, and 70% of Apple’s products were discontinued. This might have looked like grounds for disaster because he was giving up so much.

When we cut things from our lives or businesses, it feels like we’re losing. There’s this shame around giving up on something you’ve worked for. But giving up doesn’t mean that you lack perseverance. Nobody wants to be considered a quitter; just sometimes, you have to make cuts to realize a broader vision.

3 Things Successful People Give Up

Sometimes persistence will yield better results than quitting, but you’ll have to weigh your options. There are a few things that you can give up right away to pave the way for a more successful future.

1. Things That Worked Before but Are No Longer Viable

We live in a fast-paced world, and what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Whether you’re running a business or managing your life, staying up to speed on what’s happening in the world is essential. Being able to anticipate change can allow you to alter your course while incurring less cost.


Abandoning things that no longer serve you can be challenging. It’s easy to fall prey to the Sunk Cost Fallacy, which is the idea that you need to continue on a certain path because you have already invested time, energy, and resources into that pursuit.

The world changes, and you are changing right along with it. Don’t stick to things simply because they worked for you in the past. You may have to break out of your comfort zone, but it will be worthwhile to face the challenge.

Review your life and business responsibilities regularly to ascertain what isn’t working for you anymore. Keep track of data and anecdotal evidence that could help you decide when you need to change direction. Circumstances won’t change overnight. Some of your actions slowly start to cost you more time and money. Spotting a downward trend early can help you cut your losses and regroup.

2. Things That Consume Energy Without Yielding Any Benefit

You may take on a project with the understanding that you may have to put in some effort up front to get results later. It is important to avoid the trap of spinning your wheels and waiting for success.

Set time-bound goals and perform a cost-benefit analysis. [2] Establish how long you are willing to put in that level of effort and what your outcomes should be. If you don’t see a return on your investment within the time frame that you set, you might need to consider dropping that initiative.

When something takes up too much of your time, you work for free or operate at a loss. Something that takes too much of your energy can also prevent you from taking on initiatives that may prove more beneficial for you.


The communication company, Slack, is a classic example of this principle. Before the company was a go-to platform for business communication, it was a video game company. The CEO received 17 million dollars from investing in his project, but the video games didn’t do well.

The CEO had to make a tough choice: continue with the original objective and go into debt for millions of dollars or try something new and keep what could be salvaged. Slack’s success today would not have been possible if the company had not changed directions.

Giving up on something doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It just means that you are opening yourself up to the possibility of being successful in another endeavor.

Prioritize your schedule and eliminate things that are eating up your time and energy. In some cases, low-value tasks may give you very little benefit, but they could also be of negative value if they take you away from more important tasks.

3. People Who Don’t Share the Same Goals and Vision

As the saying goes, you’re the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. You’ll want to make conscious choices about the people you spend your time with because they can influence you. If they don’t share your vision, you will either end up in conflict with them, or they will take you off track.

You’ll have more growth opportunities when you spend time with people who share your goals. Your peers will understand your mission, and you can use your collective brainpower and resources to strive for success. These people can offer you insights and motivate you.


When you make new friends or apply for a new job, you must understand the person or entity’s core values. This means you will have to do more than engage the people around you in small talk. Asking people where they like to go, discussing the weather, or inquiring about their weekend doesn’t tell you much about them.

Asking philosophical and ethical questions can give insight into a person’s character. They don’t necessarily have to agree with you on all points to be a good match, but if someone responds in a manner that is completely against your core values, they might not share your perspective about life.

Asking someone, “what is your favourite quote (or book) and why?” or “what would you do if you won the lottery tomorrow?” can tell you a lot about someone you’ve just met. If you are having a deeper discussion, asking, “are you religious or spiritual?” or “how do you measure your success?” can prompt people to open up about what is important to them. [3]

Making the decision to give up on something that isn’t working for you is part of becoming successful. Some of the best-intended moves can consume too much time and energy to be worthwhile. Strategies that worked for you in the past may need to be adapted or abandoned when they stop being beneficial. People who you thought were your friends could have a negative impact on your work.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results -Albert Einstein

When you clear away ideas and initiatives that no longer serve you, you make room for fresh ideas to take shape. Quitting is not necessarily a bad thing. Being able to give up is one of the best-kept secrets among successful people.

Final Thought

Every day, we are presented with infinite opportunities, but not every opportunity leads toward the goals we have for ourselves. Quitting such opportunities opens a new world of chances. We might be afraid to quit, fearing the regret of missing out on possible success. But if you want to progress, take the first step and quit something that obstructs you from moving forward.



Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

The Art of Quitting: How to Give up to Move Forward

Three things successful people quit to be even more successful: strategies and goals that no longer work, things that don’t yield any benefit even after a lot of investment, and people with different goals and vision.

Quitting doesn’t mean failure; communication company Slack started out as a video game company before shifting directions.

Surround yourself with people who share similar goals. The collective brainpower will help you be successful.–  Try not to fall into the Sunk Cost Fallacy, which is the idea that you need to continue on a certain path because you have already invested time, energy, and resources into that pursuit.

Featured photo credit: Romain V via unsplash.com


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