Between my junior and senior years of high school, my Dad sold his business in Mineral Wells, Texas where we had lived since I was seven (with one little year-plus stint in Strawn). He moved the family to Arlington, Texas, the city at the epicenter of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I was miserable about leaving behind my friends, especially Robert, my lifelong best friend, my extended family, and the familiarity of the place I knew as “home.”
The only thing that cheered me somewhat was that the church-based Christian school I was to enroll in was at the top of the food chain in our little corner of the Texas high school sports scene. The one I was leaving barely had enough warm bodies to field a football or baseball team. We enjoyed some success there but mostly it was disappointing losses and near-misses. Southside Christian Academy in Arlington would afford me the chance to be among the stars on district-winning football, softball, basketball, and volleyball teams. That was exciting.
I knew a preacher who was all about winning.
The pastor at Southside was big on winning. He did not accept excuses or quitting. My first visit to his office at the church revealed his mindset. Most preachers had quotes on plaques or in frames in their studies from men like Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, or some other giant of the faith.
Pastor Marvin Weido may have had some of those. I do not remember, honestly. The one I do remember is the one he pointed out to me. It was a quote from legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi. It read “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.”
I took that quote to heart. I committed it to memory. I repeated it frequently through the years, especially when I found myself coaching a Christian high school football team in California a few years later.
Lombardi was right, sort of.
With enough time for experience and reflection, I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, Lombardi was right. Not entirely. But mostly. I have seen plenty of people who never quit and never won, either, not by the standards most people would judge winning. Conversely, I have seen more than a few who quit and then won.
As an example of someone who never quit but never won think of Archie Manning. These days, he is mostly known for being the father of two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks. His son Peyton is hailed as one of the all-time greats. Archie, however, was also a talented quarterback. He just played for bad teams that never won. Consider these facts:
(Manning’s) 2,011 completions ranked 17th in NFL history upon his retirement. His record as a starter was 35–101–3 (26.3%), the worst in NFL history among QBs with at least 100 starts. He retired having never played on a team that notched a winning record or made the playoffs. Indeed, he is one of the few players to have played 10 or more years in the NFL without taking part in an official playoff game.
How harsh is that? What a pill to swallow. Archie represents a much larger swath of the population than his Super Bowl hero sons do. How many millions get up and hammer away at a thing every single day and go home feeling like their ship will never come in, they will never know what it feels like to win?
What about quitters who won? How about Steve Jobs? In 1997, he and his company Macintosh were getting their tails kicked by Bill Gates and Microsoft. At the time, Macintosh was manufacturing all kinds of computer electronics, including hardware, desktops, servers, etc. Jobs stepped in and made them quit. He reduced the focus to four products. Over 3,000 people lost their jobs and 70% of the workforce was laid off. What a quitter!
Do I need to even mention how that worked out for Jobs and his company, Apple?
On the other hand, of course, are the inspiring stories of people who refused to quit and finally broke through to success. Thomas Edison tried around 10,000 things that did not work to produce his dream of the filament light bulb. He once said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully discovered 10,000 things that will not work.” Theodor Giesel wrote 27 books that publishers would not touch. Some of the publishers he contacted called his work “pure rubbish.” Then, he broke through and sold a book and we know him as Dr. Seuss. Albert Einstein didn’t talk until he was four years old. His elementary teachers considered him lazy because all he wanted to focus on was abstract questions. They thought he was no Einstein. Turns out, he was. Stephen King’s first book was rejected 30 times and he threw it in the garbage. His wife dug it out of the trash can, and refused to let him quit, and Carrie finally got published. Stephen King is currently at 350 million books sold.
Some quit and won. Others persevered and won. Some quit and lost. Others persevered and still lost.
Sylvester Stallone was a quitter and it made him a household name.
But if you think I am the only one who says that maybe the right thing for you to do is quit, you are wrong. Inspiration comes from strange places and mine for this line of thought was delivered to me by Sylvester Stallone via YouTube. I urge you not to scroll past the snippet below. It might change your life.
“Sometimes quitting is necessary to find your proper place in the world.”
How accurate are these words? If we could go back to Chicago in 1856 and find this ambitious young shoe salesman out to make his fortune in the city, we could ask him whether it was worth quitting on that dream to pursue what was meant for him. His name was Dwight Lyman Moody. He was a young convert. His Sunday School teacher came to the shoe shop where he worked to encourage Mr. Moody to pursue his true calling, which was ministry. Moody did. He would become one of America’s most prolific evangelists and a driving force in what has been called America’s Second Great Awakening. He also sparked a flame of revival in England that consumed a continent. People say of D.L. Moody that he shook two continents for Jesus Christ. He also founded the Northfield Seminary, which is today the Moody Bible Institute.
I, for one, am glad he quit selling shoes.
My story is almost the opposite of Moody’s. A lifetime of ministry – and I do mean a lifetime since I started preaching before I hit double digits in age, was a staff youth pastor at 19, and a senior pastor at 23 – was taken from me, and I had plenty to do with the taking of it. I never knew anything else, so I refused to quit. I became a candidate for pastorates in Texas, Michigan, and the Cayman Islands. For one reason or another, one after the other of these promising opportunities didn’t pan out. Meanwhile, I was in the toilet financially. Rather than pursue another path wholeheartedly, I took half-measures and undermined any hope of real success in any of the directions I went. I mean, I would hit my stride in each situation and prove I could rise through the ranks, but my heart was never in it.
One day, I quit. It wasn’t a job I quit. It was a dream. It was a pursuit. I decided I did not have to have the word “Pastor” before my name in order to matter. That changed everything. My career became my focus. I would not be the President of one company and Vice President of another if I had not quit on “Pastor.” What I found was this: people everywhere need a word from God. They need to hear from someone who has been with God, someone with a fresh perspective, a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, a timely word…
I have found at least as much opportunity to be that to people where I am today as I ever did where I was.
Here’s a little more from Stallone…
OK, so the idea is to persevere and never quit or quit and go a different direction. Got it. How do I know which is right for me?
Glad you asked. Here is the developing formula I have come up with. I doubt it is comprehensive and I know it is not scientific.
You are doing the exact same thing the exact same way over and over with the same disappointing results. Think of it like a password. Remember when you were positive you knew the right password for whatever app or software you were trying to open so you entered it and entered it until you got locked out? Quit!!! Try a different password. That one does not work. Admit defeat and ask for a reset.
What you are doing compromises your moral/spiritual code in irreconcilable, soul-crushing ways. This happened to me when I managed a store in the rent-to-own sector. The predatorial nature of the business vexed my righteous (or unrighteous) soul. I had to quit that or shatter my compass and lose my True North.
What you are doing doesn’t fit what you are. You can change your ways, your way of thinking, and your habits, but you cannot change your essential nature. Those who succeed play to their strengths, as far as I can tell. If you cannot sit still, if long days at a computer make you miserable, but you love interacting with people and aren’t afraid of heights, be a field adjuster rather than a desk adjuster.
You found a better way or it found you. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and don’t keep flogging a dead horse. The first is a gift that may be time-sensitive. The latter has nothing left to give. Quit. Start. Keep moving.
Persist (Don’t Quit!) if…
Your only reason for quitting is sheer disappointment or disillusion. So, you thought your breakthrough would come easy. It didn’t. They seldom do. Don’t quit just because you are disappointed.
Your feelings are hurt. No one appreciates the effort you put in. No one would even notice if you did quit. I am a writer. Or, I call myself one. Believe me, I speak from an empathetic place here.
You are tired. Another Vince Lombardi quote I love is this: Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
Don’t quit! Unless you need to quit so you can start on something you shouldn’t quit.
My name is Gene Strother and this is Wednesday Noon.