Winston Churchill was called upon to give a speech at his high school alma mater. As the story goes, this was soon after he left the Prime Ministership in the United Kingdom. Churchill was never known for being at a loss for words, so the students were expecting and probably hoping for, a long and inspiring speech. When it was time to give his speech, Churchill stood up and said, “Never, never, never, never give up!” He then promptly sat down.
I may have taken the liberty to put one too many “nevers” in Churchill’s quote, but I wanted you to be sure and grasp what Churchill was telling us—never quit!
The German’s had just been defeated by Churchill and the allies. I am sure there were times, especially at the beginning of World War II when London was being bombed, resulting in the loss of many lives, that Churchill thought about waving the white surrender flag.
Have there been times in your life when you quit something that was important to you? How did it feel? Do you have regrets?
When I was a sophomore in college I quit the football team. I wasn’t noticed by the coach and I wasn’t given any opportunities to show my ability. I felt I was just taking up space. But, to be honest, I just didn’t show the “ganas” (Spanish word for “desire”) that I should have had. I should have been much more aggressive. But I wasn’t and I quit.
Had I not quit, however, I would not have transferred to Mankato, and had I not transferred to Mankato, I would not have met my wife in the Peace Corps and I probably would not be writing this column today. I guess it worked out in the long run. But to this day, quitting the team weighs on my conscience.
I think some Americans would agree that the United States should not have quit the Vietnam War. I can still picture the helicopter picking up our citizens on the roof of the United States embassy in the final days of the war. Historians believe we shouldn’t have been there in the first place and this, too, weighs on America’s conscience. We lost the war, we quit.
W. C. Fields once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again but don’t be a darn fool about it.” Yes, there are times when quitting something is the right thing to do. How do you know? Keep in mind these two questions. The first question is “What impact will the quitting have on you? Will it weigh on your conscience? Will it affect your self-esteem and confidence level? Will it teach you anything?
I remember a time when I was hired to direct a recreation program in an inner city neighborhood. I had never done this before. The pay was minimal. I really didn’t know quite what to do. I would be in the minority in terms of color. If I did quit, no-one would be too upset because no one knew me and the neighborhood wouldn’t miss the program because they never had one before. I could find a better paying summer job. I could find all kinds of excuses to quit. As it turned out, I didn’t quit and the program was a success.
The second question to ask is, “How will it affect others?” Will it make a difference? Will people be better off or worse off because you quit? Had I quit the recreation program, lots of kids would have missed out on some summer fun. I would have let down many people who were counting on me. Equally important, I would have let myself down.
Remember Lance Armstrong, the cyclist? He won seven consecutive Tour de France races and he overcame cancer. He was a national hero. Then we discovered that he was using steroids. He was cheating. He didn’t play fair. He quit on himself and he quit on others.
Armstrong had everything he could possibly want—fame, fortune, positive influence on young and old. He had it all—for a short time. At one time he said, “Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever.” Do you suppose this weighs on his conscience? He cheated himself. He cheated others.
Douglas MacArthur, a five star general and medal of honor winner (like his father), said this about quitting: “Age wrinkles the body, quitting wrinkles the soul.” After he was ordered to leave the Philippines during WWII, he said he would return, and he did. Do you think his soul would have been just a bit wrinkled if he had not returned?
There were lots of winners and losers in the recent election. I hate to use the word “losers” because those who received fewer votes were by no means losers. Anyone who runs for public office shows courage and a commitment to improve America. If they really believe in what they were doing, I hope they would not quit and run again. They need only think of Abraham Lincoln. He lost eight elections, twice failed in business and suffered a nervous breakdown.
Quitting is easy. Hanging in there is tough. We don’t like our soul to be wrinkled. How’s your soul?
Riddle: What five letter word does every college graduate pronounce wrong? (Answer: The word “wrong”). In most situations quitting is the wrong thing to do. Asking yourself how it affects you and others is the right thing to do.
Thanks to Jim Hodgson of Oak Hills Christian College, we have 408 organizations that support the 100% initiative. Do you think we should quit the 100% initiative? What would Churchill say?
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.