People tell you to never quit.
“Never, never, never give up” Winston Churchill said.
“Once you’re a quitter, you’re always a quitter,” the cliche goes.
But lately, I feel like giving up.
I don’t think about giving up all day, but there are moments when I’m like, “Why the hell am I doing this startup?”
“What’s the point of running alone?”
“Why am I going to play hoops right now?”
“Do I really need to write every day?”
And I’ve (started to) figure out why I want to question and reason with giving up. That voice is there for a reason and there is a pattern to that voice that makes me want to quit I must understand.
Even after I feel the state of euphoria from a great workout.
The state of ecstasy after a good sweat.
The state of publishing my first boosted post on Facebook.
Of sending out my email on MailChimp.
Of finishing a piece of writing and publishing it.
Of coaching a kid (or adult), and inspiring them to push onwards. To fulfill their own potential.
Damn, these states of existence feel good.
But then why do I feel like giving up on them? Why do I listen to that shitty little voice?
I probably started listening to that voice after my pro hoops career ended. I felt like I had arrived. Made it.
In my final 2014–2015 season in Antibes France, I decided to retire from professional basketball after a year-long ankle reconstruction surgery recovery.
Yea, this feels like the right time, I told myself. Quit now, while you are ahead.
I could still walk, run, and jump with decency (for a white guy). I was excited to get home (the USA) and start doing all the things I had never done while traveling and playing in Europe.
My fitness bucket list looked like this:
Keep my six-pack (like, duhh).
Be a scratch golfer (I’ve never golfed).
Go on that class four kayaking trip I’ve always wanted to do.
Hit the halfpipe, do a 360, and land it on the annual snowboarding trip to Vail with the college chums every year.
Run a 65-minute sprint triathlon with my buddy Charlie.
Get that electric longboard I’ve always wanted, and ride through town like a graceful unicorn of functional sports athleticism.
Play competitive soccer again.
Run a 4.6 forty-yard dash at 40.
The list goes on and on.
But you know what?
I quit most of them. I gave up on them.
We quit things because we don’t understand the process of why people quit.
For me, I hit plateaus, shit got boring, and after a few weeks or months or when things got harder, it just made sense not to do it anymore.
I’d remember asking myself, Why am I running this hard? Why I am doing CrossFit? I was a pro athlete for 13 years, I don’t need to be doing this shit.
Having this quit mentality, I started to wonder about myself.
I immediately cursed the Sports Gods for allowing me to retire an uber competitive short, white guy (seriously, why didn’t you make me 6'9 like LeBron?).
Just let me simmer in mediocrity, Sports Gods.
All the work I had put into training, into performing, into competing, into winning, into-into-into…
And in it’s place, a game of cat and quit mouse started. I felt like the proverbial cat chasing something I would never catch.
Which made me realize a few things about why I was giving up.
Quit wisdom starts with self-awareness; with knowing the process of why you quit; with knowing mastery in anything takes a growth mindset and understanding why you feel resistance.
Good quit wisdom to live by:
1. Choose the stuff you really love to do and do it, even if for five minutes a day. That’s how you take a “state” to a “trait.” Make your inner words and goals law.
2. I quit stuff that I don’t have strengths in or truly don’t enjoy doing. People that tell you to focus only on your weaknesses — both physically or mentally — have probably never succeeded at a high level.
3. I quit stuff that I don’t find any connection with other people with, and I like being alone, until I don’t.
There’s an infinity of choices to become, so make sure you choose wisely, and quit things that don’t fit who you genuinely are.
Authenticity is the key.
Strengths are the home.
And your mind is the door.
You hold the keys.
Yet, you won’t listen to me (just like I didn’t listen to me). You’ll waste your time, energy, effort, and go buy $1000 worth of snowboard equipment, fall on your ass 170 times in two days, and realize this sport isn’t for you.
You’ll start running on the treadmill for a week, maybe two months, and you’ll just step off and never get on again.
You’ll head to the gym, buy a $150 membership and then go once every New Year.
You’ll go buy $1200 worth of golf clubs, play a few times, and put them in the attic.
You’ll say you want to write a book (like me) and then never finish it.
You’ll spend $500 on business cards, a website, create a startup idea and never get it finished (*see below).
And worse of all, you’ll quit because you didn’t know the process or psychology of why people quit.
Of why you quit.
As Seth Godin talks about in his book, The Dip, here is an example of why most people quit:
They hit “The Dip.”
The Dip weeds us out, from the strongest of warriors to the biggest of fakers.
We all act like we want to do fitness, have the body of our dreams, stay in shape, do what’s good for us, begin the entrepreneurial life, but then when that moment comes to push through and do it, the Dip is there to stop us.
It’s why I was successful with hoops.
I was able to make up for my lack of athleticism, height, and small-town childhood with effort, mastery, and consistent daily work.
That said, I’ve whittled down “why I quit” into four reasons:
1. It actually isn’t fun, doesn’t bring joy, or feel sustainable, but you’d never know if it were because you quit at the dip (much like giving a new city time to grow on you).
2. It’s too hard for you, too tough to learn, takes too much focus and time, but you’d never know if it got easier for you because you quit at the dip.
3. It doesn’t appeal to your ego (meaning there is no real competition or glory) because there no opponent to motivate you or fame, fortune, or recognition to be had (the reason why I don’t play competitive basketball very much in the USA).
4. You don’t have anyone to hold you accountable or connect with you while you suffer, because getting fit is just suffering and pushing your muscles and body to grow day by day.
But why do I quit the healthy stuff I know I need?
In 1990, as an 11-year old kid, I kicked a soccer ball, day after day against my garage, and dreamt of becoming Pele. I oiled my black and white Adidas Copa Mundial kangaroo leather and tucked them under my bed. Then one day, I plastered a full-size poster of Magic Johnson on my ceiling and dreamt of becoming an NBA All-Star. As time wore on, I would wake up before the sunrise and run up steep sandy dunes on the coast of Lake Michigan and then show up to play open gym with the adults in Harbor Springs.
Over time, I quit practicing soccer all together.
And focus finishing my night with 300 shots in my driveway alone, pushing towards some destination that lived in my mind.
I would do this day after day.
During my Kent State All-American days, this only worsened. I bled sweaty tears alone in the MAAC, wanting to become the greatest player to ever step foot in their gym; wanting someone to finally respect and tell me how great I was.
Except I never felt like I was the greatest.
I still don’t.
So why didn’t I quit basketball?
What pushed me to work so hard?
Simply, I found joy in the swish, in the sweat, in the sprint, in the team, in the jump, and the competition. This was sustainable for me.
This got me through the dip.
But then you leave the young “you” behind, what do you do with the older (new) “you?”
You either just try to love yourself and respect your humble beginnings and push through, or you sit in mediocrity and idle around in lukewarm puddles of piss.
Unless you practice self-care and self-respect a bit more.
Or if I could be so bold, love yourself a bit more. From a psychological stance, quitting happens because we don’t practice having a growth mindset and taking care of ourselves.
I disagree that everyone has to try to be the best in the world at whatever they choose, as Seth Godin says.
But I do agree we should have the guts to quit what isn’t sustainable to us or bring joy into our lives — and guess what, not all fitness or healthy endeavors are going to bring sustainability!
But if we have the growth mindset through self-improvement, our days will feel like a challenge we want to rise up to.
To keep at it.
To stay curious.
Yeah, but Trevor, I hate running.
I know, I quit running every day and start back up the next.
And I ran a 4:45 mile in college.
Goddamn it felt good to be in shape. What happened to me?
I want to give up on running because I can’t get anywhere near my old self, because three miles feels like a set of miniature gnomes playing taut piano chords inside my hamstrings.
So instead of understanding the dip, I am hard on myself and talk myself out of working out and running for my health.
That isn’t growth mindset-type thinking.
(But seriously, the goddamn running gorilla on my back is so big, he must eat whales for breakfast).
Yet, the truth is, I quit because I don’t have a growth mindset about certain things in my life.
THE GROWTH MINDSET SAYS:
Getting 1% better a day is ENOUGH FOR ME.
Respect effort, not performance.
Love small amounts of growth now, not world records later.
Enjoy the mental highs and lows of fitness and sticking it out, not the voice of negativity that tells you, “YOU SUCK!”
Know plateaus happen at every level of sport, pros feel this all the time, so give yourself room to grow. To breathe. To improve joyfully.
These days, I’d rather skip workouts and go drink tequila on a porch with friends, eat Jet’s Pizza until I’m bloated, and then finish with some Trader Joes dark chocolate peanut butter cups for bedtime.
This is what I want to do.
Saying no to something is saying yes to something else.
Would you let your kid stop eating food? Would let your parents stop being active? Would you let your kid quit going to school? Would you let your dog sit in the hot summer sun without water or shade or some good walks?
You wouldn’t, you’d take care of them.
You aren’t savages, my God.
But yet, you won’t do something like fitness because of the dip, something that quite literally is going to save your life.
You know fitness, health, and self-improvement is good for you in the long run.
The science is there.
Anxiety goes down.
Depression can leave, literally be gone with one workout.
Belly fat decreases.
Self-esteem improves, along with happiness.
The list goes on and on.
And still, I want to quit all the time.
But promise me this, let’s not quit because of the dip with something we knew genuinely fits us our well-being.
This is a spiritual law that I’m still trying to learn and Stuart Wilde sums it up nicely:
“If you say to yourself that you will do something, do it. Don’t make promises you won’t keep, and don’t make promises to others if you can’t or won’t follow through. Become immaculate. Be honorable. … By making your word law, you develop power. … Most people are not used to their word as law. They are used to wimping out — slip-sliding away if conditions don’t suit them. It weakens them, for the mind knows you’re full of bull.” ~ Stuart Wilde
Good luck, stay true.
Want to follow Trevor Huffman’s sports wisdom to fitness, life lessons, and pro athlete blog? Damn straight.
*Yeah, most people don’t make it through the dip with startups either. From Tech Crunch: