Don’t Be A Quitter

“Quitters never win, and winners never quit. But those who never win and never quit are idiots.”
Despair.com

Don’t be a quitter. But don’t be an idiot, either.

The problem in many situations is to know which is which.

Contrary to Despair.com’s funny saying, quitters do sometimes win and winners do sometimes quit.

So what’s the difference between them?

Part of the answer is what Buddhism calls “the middle way” and Aristotle called “the golden mean.”

To Aristotle, observes philosopher Daniel Robinson, “every vice is a virtue in the extreme, either an extreme of defect [not enough of it] or of excess [too much of it].”

For the virtue of persistence, the defect is never even trying to achieve our goals: we’re too afraid. The excess is refusing to change our goals regardless of new events or information: we’re too stubborn.

The best advice about persistence was given by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to students at Harrow School in 1941. Nazi Germany had bombed British cities repeatedly for over a year, and many people feared that a German invasion was imminent. Churchill said:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

He doesn’t say we should never give up under any circumstances. He says only that if we’ve thought about our goal and we know it’s right, then we should stick with it. We should only abandon our goal if the relevant facts change (good sense) or if we learn that our choice was wrong in the first place (honor).

The same principle applies in ordinary life, not just in times of war or danger. If my spouse asked “Does this dress make me look fat?” then my first answer would be, “it makes you look beautiful.” That’s because I’d assume what she really wanted was my affection and support, not a critique of the dress.

However, if she replied “no, seriously, what do you think,” her reply would provide new information. I would then offer a carefully-worded but more candid answer — bearing in mind that she wants the truth but still wants my affirmation and support.

Yes, it can be challenging at times. But if life were too easy, we’d be bored.

Embrace the challenge: don’t be a quitter, but don’t be an idiot, either.

Find the middle way.


Check out my new book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Foreword Reviews called it “intriguing and vital to living.”

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
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