One of my readers, Zac Brechtel, shared this absolutely hilarious bit from John Madden on why a then 29 year old Troy Aikman should quit trying to grow a beard. Pat Summerall argues with Madden that you can’t just quit and Madden just says, “Of course you can!” while offering up a great kill criterion: if you hardly even have peach fuzz after four days of trying, give up.
Madden: “I’d quit. I mean, you know, I mean like if you’ve been working on it for like four days and that’s all and the going gets tough, if it’s that tough, just quit.”
Summerall: “Well you can’t just quit.”
Madden: “Yes you can. That’s what I was saying. When the going gets tough, quit.”
The whole exchange is awesome, including Madden drawing on Aikman’s face to highlight the lack of any beard growth.
As funny as it is, Madden’s point is well-taken. Summerall misses the mark in saying you can’t just give up (even though we all think quitting is for losers). Of course you can quit! And the time to do that is when the signals are clear that the thing you started isn’t going your way.
This is especially imperative when it is something far more serious than growing a beard, like whether to stay in a job you hate or relationship that’s toxic, or whether to continue developing a product that can’t find product-market fit or to pursue a strategic initiative that’s failing, or whether to keep climbing a mountain when a blizzard rolls in.