Quitters Can Be Winners

“A quitter never wins, and a winner never quits.” – Napoleon Hill

I beg to differ with Mr. Hill. I believe quitters can be winners. What is the difference between winners and losers?


Winners know when to quit and when to play it till the end.

Doing what he does best, Seth Godin points out a simple pattern regarding the relationship between effort and results. Godin calls this pattern, The Dip.

Imagine the last time you found a new passion. Do you recall improving quickly at first? The progress felt like bliss. Then, do you remember later when more effort produces less improvement? If yes, you remember The Dip.

Being stuck in the dip can be one of the most frustrating positions. Times like these are often when we question, “Should I keep going?”

When in the dip, we have two options: abandon ship or lean into the dip.

Don’t let your inner-motivation coach tell you to keep pushing arbitrarily. Rather, evaluate the situation and intelligently decide: quit or persist. Quit when persisting is stupid; persist when quitting is stupid. Take control of the situation and rise up on the other side of The Dips you decide are worth the commitment.

Rather than abandoning ship whenever things start to become problematic, pick problems worth the commitment.

I nearly dropped out of college. When I came home Spring Break of sophomore year, I told my parents I intended to drop out of college. As any parents would, my parents questioned my judgement. Understandably. They had invested large amounts in my education. If I quit college to become a repeat quitter/failure, then my parent’s biggest fear would come true. My father’s words still ring clearly in my head, “Don’t create a habit of quitting.”

I hardly had a well-thought plan, so I couldn’t argue with that logic. Instead, I decided to lean into the dip and complete college in three years.

Quitting was stupid, so I persisted.

However, Spencer Bramson, a friend of mine who dropped out of college, did have a well-thought plan. I met Spencer Bramson in sophomore year. Spencer is an entrepreneur and marketing guru. He studied business at Bentley University until he decided to drop out and co-found his own start up, Buzz University. Buzz University was a boutique social media and word of mouth marketing company specializing in building communities online and on the campuses of college brand evangelists. Buzz-U started in his car, which served as both the office and the residence. Buzz-U went on to provide marketing services for major brands like Proctor and Gamble and Rockstar Energy Drink. Spencer scaled the company to over 200 employees. At one point, he was offered a seven figure buy out. He quit school and went on to live the entrepreneurial dream.

Listening to The Dip pushed Spencer to quit school and pursue his passion. He can hardly read a book (he prefers audiobooks and videos, but he can read legalese better than a lot of lawyers). After realizing that school did not provide him with the right environment to optimize his development, Spencer has taken to non-traditional education to better serve his learning needs.

Persisting was stupid, so he quit.

Spencer serves as a great example of a self-starter who has created his living after intelligently quitting. He picked a dip to lean into and  continued learning and pushing. We often hear the story of the drop-out entrepreneur, who goes on to become a run-away success. These entrepreneurs don’t quit education. They quit formal education. Why? Because they see better opportunities on the horizon. The quitters who become winners keep learning.

If maintaining course feels stupid or meaningless, time to quit. When that time comes, know which direction you’re running towards. Otherwise, you’re abandoning course for the sake of abandoning course.

“So when you run, make sure you run to something and not away from.” – The Avett Brothers

Quitters who become winners run to problems not away from them.

Steve Jobs did not run from problems of Reed University, but rather to problems of Apple and the personal computer. Spencer Bramson did not run from problems of Bentley University and academia, but rather to problems of a Buzz University and entrepreneurship. Zuckerberg did not run away from the problems of Harvard, but rather to the problems of Facebook and social networking. Derek Vincent Smith did not run away from the problems of University of Colorado at Boulder, but rather to the problems of electronic music production.


What activity do you feel worthy of pushing through the dip despite whatever problems the activity may present?