Sunday, May 11, 2008

Quitting

Last evening was a special one for my wife and me as we attended Caroline’s, our youngest daughter’s, high school sport’s banquet. We watched as she received 2 honors; the first was the “Coaches Award” for the most coachable in volleyball and the second was “Most Valuable Player” in tennis. It is always a proud moment as you see your children’s hard work pay off. We have, fortunately, experienced many of these moments with our older daughter, not only in sports but academia and her chosen profession.

After the banquet, during the “milling around and getting ready to go home” stage I became involved in a conversation with another parent who began asking why Caroline was now so interested in volleyball and had “quit” playing competitive tennis. (She now only plays for the high school team and does not compete in USTA tournament tennis.)

First, I was stung by the word “quit”. I don’t like what it means and I don’t even like the way the word sounds coming out of my mouth. I thought for a second, and then informed the other parent that she had simply changed her focus from tennis to volleyball. Now…doesn’t that sound better?

I have, of course, pondered this exchange for the better part of today. Is there a difference between quitting and changing focus? I believe that there is... or am I just rationalizing?

In this case, I think Caroline, has simply exchanged something she was passionate about for a while to something she is passionate about now. Bad or good? I don’t know.

Many years ago I was a non-scholarship football player at the collegiate level. I should say that I was a non-scholarship football “practicer” as I never played a down in a real game. I was, however, considered to be “on the team” for a year before I “changed focus”. You see, it became abundantly clear to me, after giving it my best effort, that most of the college recruiters were right, I was just too slow to play at this level. At different times coaches that were timing my 40 yard dash made comments like, “We should time this kid with a calendar,” or “this kid can’t run out of sight in a day’s time.” I took the hint and hit the books.

I truly do not consider myself a quitter. I simply changed my focus to academics and becoming the best I could be at my chosen profession. I was not going to get any faster. Again, rationalization?

Not long ago I was discussing a not-so-successful business venture with a customer. He had done just about all that he could to change the direction of a part of his operation. I suggested that we may want to consider focusing on the parts of his business that were doing well and let this one die a natural death. Boy, were those the wrong words, he informed me that he was not a quitter and he would keep after this segment of the business until it worked. Admirable? Maybe.

You see sometimes we must take stock of what we have and how to best use it. Although a great basketball player, no matter how hard he tries I do not think Shaquille O’Neal could be a great jockey. Nor do I think Hulk Hogan could train enough to become a great ballerina. It just is not going to happen. But what if they tried and saw it was not going to work out and said, “This is not for me.” Are they quitters….or are they changing focus?

What I believe is that we should pick our battles, then give it enough time to make a rational decision. I will not argue that if I would have stayed on that team and the rest of the team were stricken with an untimely illness or about 50 kids were in a train wreck….I might have been able to contribute positively. But short of that, I was better with a book in my hand than a football.

Quitting or changing focus? It is a personal decision. I hope we can all evaluate our strengths and then concentrate on our personal passion. If we change focus or direction a time or 2, looking for things we are passionate about, how can this be bad?

2 comments:

karen said...

Tim, I agree with you. I don't like the word "quit" either. However, for some, "changing focus" would be considered a euphemism. It just depends on how we look at it.

To me, quitting is like a defeat. Changing focus means choosing a different goal and pursuing victory or excellence in another area. So I guess in a way, quitting and changing focus are one in the same. It's what one does afterwards that makes the difference.

Nice job...I give you an A!
Karen

David said...

Tim,

You really are good at this stuff. I do like your point of view on this. I think each of us beat ourself up by thinking that when we don't succeed at what we try we are failures and quitters, especially if we are competitive. I do think it is important that we try things and whether we are successful or not, we do learn a lesson by the effort. There are only a few people that can have the success of a Tiger Woods in golf, Michael Jordan in basketball or any Manning in football. We each, however, do have a God given ablility to be successful in some area of life. Sadly, most people go through life not finding that self-fullfilling destiny. We all have known people that have very little money, simple jobs, small homes and old cars, but have a smile on their face and a song in their hearts because they have found their niche. Don't stop trying things in life because you never know which path God has picked for you. If you listen to Him, He will guide you by the success you may have or the failure you may endure.