People learn quitting by trial and error. Sometimes we get it right, but when we do it wrong, our self-esteem takes the brunt of that decision. We feel like a failure for not sticking it through or we feel stupid for attempting the endeavor in the first place.
Everything we do has opportunity costs. The time, energy and resources that we commit into one area can’t be used towards other opportunities unless we quit. Quitting dead ends and lost causes allows us to refocus and re-allocate our efforts into other opportunities that improve our lives.
If we re-frame quitting, not as something we do, but instead as a tool to be used, then learning how to use quitting correctly gives us another skill that can help us with our lives.
Incorrect usage of quitting are:
1. Not quitting at all
2. Quitting at the wrong time
3. Quitting when you should keep going
Starting Is Easy
Whether it’s joining a gym for the New Year, quitting smoking or changing your Facebook status to “In A Relationship”, society rewards starting. Your announcement gets rewarded by Likes. Your brain releases a flood of dopamine making you feel really good about your decision. This is New Thing Energy.
When you first learn guitar or something you’ve always wanted to do, or when that person you like asks you out, not knowing the outcome brings a sense of excitement. Will you suck at guitar or end up a YouTube star? Will your date turn out to be the love of your life? Not knowing is exciting but it’s also a stressor. The brain releases the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol rises, serotonin depletes which causes you to obsess. This New Thing is all you can think about.
Biology and sociology reward starting. Quoting the band Nine Inch Nails, “there’s nothing quite like the feel of something new.”
Seth Godin and The Dip
Quitting is also easy, but quitting correctly is hard.
Seth would be disappointed with me. His bestselling book, The Dip, advises on the right to quit. With INFPBlog, I did it all wrong.
The book’s premise is that on our way to mastery, we go through The Dip, a phase where our efforts aren’t producing tangible results. Only by getting past it will we ever become our best.
Walking the Right Path
Wanting to be good at something — a business, a relationship, a new skill — start us down one of three paths. It’s difficult to tell which path we’re on until we go further. Only one leads to mastery.
Path 1: The Cliff
INFPBlog wasn’t headed towards The Cliff. It wasn’t another shiny penny.
The Cliff happens when the dopamine drops. New Thing activity releases dopamine in our brain. The problem with dopamine is your brain needs more each time to get the same high. Over time, you don’t feel that same excitement — getting up to go the gym every morning, first arguments in that new relationship, hours of boring practice. New Thing Energy dissipates. People “fall out of love”. That obsessive interest wanes because cortisol and serotonin leveled off.
INFP Extroverted Intuition (Ne) often leads us to chasing that next New Thing until The Cliff becomes a familiar friend. Why would this blog be any different than the other things I started and became bored doing. Having a developed tertiary Introverted Sensing (Si) function provides balance.
From my experiences in the past (Si), I knew I would have phases where I wouldn’t “feel inspired” to sit down, research and write more articles.
To avoid the Cliff, I set long-term goals before I started, with milestones that I wanted reach (Te). INFPBlog wasn’t something I did for fun just to see how it would go. I made a plan to follow.
Giving something a try for the fun of it (Fi) to break up the daily monotony often leads to The Cliff.
Path 2: The Cul-de-Sac (Dead End)
I knew within the first month that INFP Blog wasn’t in a Cul-de-Sac. My traffic numbers kept growing with every article.
The Cul-de-Sac path leads to a Dead End. Growing a blog takes time. I visited popular high traffic blogs that I enjoy and looked at their first year posts (Te). Most of them had almost no comments. It wasn’t until year 2 or 3 before those blog became active. I prepared for this.
Ne keeps INFPs down the Cul-de-Sac too long. Maybe, he/she will change and the relationship will get better. I’ll try this and this and maybe the business will pick up. Ne keeps us throwing ideas at the wall and hoping something sticks. Ne is ever hopeful so bad relationships and bad situations drag on.
Quitting early helps avoid enormous sunk costs and losing years of our lives in the Cul-de-Sac. For that to happen, quitting needs inferior Te to balance out the dominant Fi decision making. Quitting makes us feel bad. It feels like we’ve failed. It feels like we just didn’t give it enough time. It feels like something better will never come around.
To balance this heavy Fi, you have to decide the conditions of quitting before you start. Te helps create a plan for quitting. What are the conditions that need to be met? How many years of avoiding conversations about commitment is enough before you move on? For INFPBlog, my conditions was I would quit if I didn’t see steady rise of in traffic after a year.
INFPBlog got that steady rise in traffic and comments after the first few weeks.
Path 3: Mastery
The first time I quit was September 2011. By that time I had been writing the blog for over 2 years.
Most people quit just as their moving out of The Dip. I hadn’t even started into the Dip when I stopped writing. INFPBlog averaged 1600 users, 2500 sessions and 8000 page views each month with session times of over 5 minutes.
I was prepared for The Dip. But Introverted Feeling (Fi) kicked in really hard. Something didn’t feel right with my blog and I couldn’t shake it. If something felt wrong on this side of The Dip when everything was going great, it would certainly still be wrong on the other side. Why go through all that hardship for something that felt fundamentally broken?
I wrote another blog post in May 2013. I felt inspired to write, but something still felt off (Fi). It’s taken me 5 years to understand what caused that feeling.
I didn’t really officially quit. I didn’t take the site down. I just stopped writing. Quitting the things that have emotional attachment requires a process of letting go in order to move to the next New Thing. I never did.
Quitting vs Letting Go
Seth’s book doesn’t talk about what happens after we quit.
Just because we quit doesn’t mean we’re going to start dating the next day or start planning our new business. The loss of anything we’ve emotionally invested into triggers a grieving process. Until we experience that grieving process, we’re never going to feel like moving on.
Letting go, especially for INFPs, means figuring out which parts of the experience have lasting significant meaning (Fi) and keeping those. Si needs to be used to revisit old losses in order to realize that the unimportant stuff fades over time. Te creates coping mechanisms to help us adjust to this new environment where this piece is now missing. Ne finds an enduring connection to part that’s no longer there while helping us see the possibilities of a new life ahead.
I never went through the letting go process. Something felt off with my blog, but giving up on it altogether definitely didn’t feel right.
More Than One Dip
That feeling something was wrong with INFPBlog happened because I was in more than one Dip.
Seth’s book talks about The Dip in terms of business. His ideas are applicable to personal mastery.
Everything we want to get better at will experience a Dip. I love photography but currently I’m experiencing a Dip. It’s not an area I want to invest resources into at this time, but I’m okay with just being okay at photography. I’m on the other side of the Dip with parenting. I’m in a Dip professionally.
When we travel multiple paths of mastery in our personal lives, we experience Dips in each of those areas. Problems occur when you enter multiple Dips at the same time. The issues and challenges of all those Dips jumble together. We push through the challenges of one Dip thinking that were solving issues with another Dip. We end up solving the wrong problems. This is what happened with INFPBlog.
The two paths I was traveling were:
1. Creating and growing INFPBlog
2. Getting better at the MBTI
I had been in a massive Dip on my path to MBTI mastery, but didn’t realize it. Talking to other INFPs helped me see various differences in INFP personalities and mindsets, but I didn’t have the Type Theory grounding to understand why.
INFPBlog wasn’t helping. It made it worse. I love the MBTI as a model to explain the development of personality. It’s elegant. I connect more to this model than other equally valid models like DISC theory or the Five Factor Model. I like the science of personality development.
My unease with INFPBlog stemmed from lack of good grounding in Type Theory. Everything I wrote came from personal experience and extrapolation but without the science. When that happens, you start moving Type from science into feel good horoscope territory. That was the feeling that I couldn’t figure out.
When to Quit
Strategic quitting is sometimes the best option. If you realize that your path is a dead end then your resources would be better used in a different opportunity. Quitting becomes your smartest choice. Quitting isn’t failing. Failing is giving up, having no other options or running out of time and resources.
The three questions of quitting are:
1. Am I panicking?
I just saw him/her out with another person that looked like a date. Our business is taking a loss for the 3rd month. Maybe that other person is a relative. In the business plan, what was the timeline before the business showed profit?
Quitting during panic creates problems. Good quitters decide in advance. If you decide in advance that cheating is a quitting condition then make sure that condition has happened and follow through, instead of letting Ne getting out of control and making up the worse possible scenario.
INFPBlog was doing well. I had no reason to panic.
2. Who am I trying to influence?
If it’s one person who isn’t changing their mind, then it may be time to quit. You want to get married, but after two years, that other person isn’t ready to commit. Quitting keeps two years from becoming five years or decades.
If moving forward means influencing an entire personality type, then there’s plenty of people to reach.
I knew INFPBlog wasn’t going to speak to all INFPs, but at 4-6% of the population, that’s 19 million INFPs in the US.
3. What sort of measurable progress am I making?
Am I moving forward, falling behind or not moving? Falling behind or not moving requires re-evaluation of purpose and goals.
INFPBlog didn’t fit the criteria for quitting so I didn’t quit. But it didn’t feel right so I stopped. Sometimes putting something aside, especially if it’s important but not urgent makes more sense than throwing resources at it.
The Opposite of Quitting is Rededication
Rededication isn’t doing the same thing and expecting a different result. It’s finding a new approach and applying it.
My new approach to INFPBlog is to ground the articles in the cognitive functions. We use all our functions all the time. How does each function play a part in my experiences, like quitting or starting again?
Last month, I got my MBTI Step I and Step II certification from CPP, the company that Isabel Meyers turned the MBTI over to in 1975. Certification is like getting your first driver’s license. It doesn’t mean I’m any good at it yet.
After years, I felt stuck in my MBTI learning. Ne presented various options — books, videos, etc. — but which ones were the right books. Out of those options Si pointed out that in the past when I’m stuck at something that I’ve been working at for years, the best solution has been to go back to the beginning, the basics. Fi chose getting my MBTI certification as the option that felt most right. I used Te to research which companies offered certification and chose one that came to Denver once a year.
After the class, I had enough grounding to continue my learning process. I ordered books that I considered grounded in the science (Te) and history of MBTI. I’ve been studying those every day. After a month, Fi felt it was time to restart INFPBlog.
I’ve been using Te for the last 2 weeks to redesign the site on schedule. Fi decided I needed a new logo. Si used my prior knowledge of mobile usage statistics to insist that the site be responsive and mobile-friendly. Ne came up with ideas for a possible first article. Fi decided that the first article for my blog re-launch should be about quitting because it would be hilarious and ironic.