You’re Too Good to Quit
In our house, we’re getting ready for competition season in gymnastics to begin this weekend. My daughter is a USAG level 7 gymnast with some pretty ambitious goals and it takes a lot of the family’s time and focus.
But recently my daughter was convinced she needed to quit gymnastics (after seven years and thousands of hours in the gym). Her coach and I were asking her why and she told us:
She didn’t feel like she was doing well and didn’t feel successful.
She’d had some setbacks (injuries) and was finding it hard to recover.
It felt like it was taking forever to improve.
Her coach just looked at her and flat-out said, “You’re too good to quit. I need you on my team.”
After that, the coach began asking questions. What do you feel like you’re not doing well? What’s your definition of being “successful”?
My daughter felt like she should be coming in first place in every event at every meet. She’s had her share of medals, but nobody can win ’em all. Her coach asked her if maybe she could reframe her definition of success, and together they came up with a more workable definition.
The coach helped her see that it’s normal for recovery from setbacks to take time and be painful; and also reminded her that gymnastics is a sport that takes years to learn; that slow progress is the only way; and that nobody ever really masters it.
My daughter came up with some new goals and embraced a more realistic view of the time and effort her sport requires. She decided to go back to basics — to focus on having fun, and to be consistently improving.
She decided not to quit.
Have you had those moments when you felt like you weren’t successful enough to continue? When you were frustrated at how long it’s taking? When the setbacks (rejections) felt so painful you just didn’t know if you could keep going?
Have you ever felt like quitting?
What made you continue?
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In writing, like many sports – progress is slow, and nobody ever really masters it. Click to Tweet.
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Rachelle, grateful for this…more than I can express. I’ve recently made the choice to keep writing, even as an anonymous nobody, because I’m convinced God smiles when I create my art. Thanks for the encouragement.
Truer advice was never written than – “You only fail if you stop writing”.
Thank you, Rachelle, for this. It couldn’t have come at a better time. When I think of quitting, it brings to mind the word miscarriage. At the core of this word is miscarry — meaning, “to fail to achieve the intended purpose; to go wrong.” As a woman, I miscarried a baby in 1987, and then three years later, had twins. The experience led me to an even deeper understanding of God’s timing and sovereign purpose. The essence of that “miscarriage pain” remains with me, yet points me to rest and submit to God’s perfect plan and purpose for my life and my work. It does lead me to the “peace of mind” that James Scott Bell refers to in John Wooden’s quote.
All that being said, as an author, I’ve definitely wanted to quit. The past three years have held countless rejections. Even on a good day, rejection hurts. The doubts have taken my mind on a roller coaster ride. Like your daughter, I’ve thought, “Why keep investing when the returns aren’t evident?” I have longed to hear, “You are too good to quit. I need you on my team.” But, first, I had to come to a crisis of calling where I said that to myself. I needed a rebirth of belief. Finally, I did hear a still small whisper from a loving heavenly Father, the best of all coaches (smile), say, “You are too good to quit. I need you on my team.”
I’m not quitting. I will continue to move through miscarriages of my books with God’s grace. I know the time will come when I hold my second book in my hands. Until then, I will get back to the basics, have fun, and steadily improve my craft.
Thanks so much!
As a writer, I often feel like quitting; I get rejection slips or don’t feel particularly inspired, and so I feel like maybe I should give up “this writing thing” and focus on something else. Usually it’s because I feel like a failure with my writing. So I jotted down this reminder for myself a few years ago: “Your WRITING will fail, and fail, and fail. But YOU’RE only a ‘FAILURE’ if you STOP WRITING.”
[…] other day on Rachelle Gardner’s blog (which you should probably be reading anyway), titled: You’re Too Good To Quit, as well as many of the guest comments. This thing we do: trying to write, trying to craft, trying […]
I loved this blog! I feel the same with writing a book. I have often wanted to quit writing the book I’m working on, especially after my first book got so many rejections. I sometimes feel like I won’t make it anyway, but I am determined. I often feel led by the Spirit to finish, that is great encouragement.
I like how you approach this, Rachelle. Writing, swimming, gymnastics, etc. Whatever the endeavor, realistic goals are a must. I get discouraged about writing, feeling like I’ll never master the craft. But then I get compliments and I enjoy the process of pen in hand so much, that it helps me see this thing more clearly, more beautiful in its scary real way. Like publishing an essay in an obscure literary journal is a good start, and then I can forge onto the next step.
As an old competitive swimmer with kids now swimming, I see it in the sport as well. Swimming is, in my opinion, the only (if not very few) sports in which anyone can benefit from it. You could be missing a limb and still swim. Have Down Syndrome and still swim. You could be totally ill at ease in the midst of a ball field, but because you get to stare at a black line on the bottom of the pool, your confidence grows with every private, muscle building stroke. And look at Michael Phelps. From what I’ve heard, he had some real academic and social issues as a kid. I think the important thing here is that we are loved. Loved enough and cared enough by someone who matters to tell us, “You are too good to quit.” Swimming, writing, gymnastics, higher education, whatever the goal, we need that boost. Thank you for this post.
Wow what a great website! I’ve only just discovered it, brought here by the headline “You’re too good to quit”. A lot of wise words in the comment section, too – I can see I’m going to spend a lot of time here!
One thing that’s helped me is Carol Dweck’s work on Mindset. She talks about the fixed mindset, which thinks performance is all “about the outcome. If you fail – or if you’re not the best – it’s all been wasted.” And the growth mindset which “allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome”, because everything is seen as a learning experience rather than a judgement on us personally.
She helped me understand why any setback makes me feel like giving up. Now, rather than focus on how imperfect I was, I try to focus on: “What can I do differently so that I do better next time?”
Rachel, Yes in fact I am dealing with this very thing right now. I am told like your daughter, I am too good to quit. But no one is willing to give me feedback on why they won’t take me on as a client and publish anything else of mine. I was published in 12/12 with a short story by Borroughs Publishing House. I am using James Scott Bells new software to try again to bring something that people will want. But it gets very discouraging. (I even sent a sweet Christian Romance into a Sweet Romance publisher and was turned down. I am beginning to doubt my abilities.)
Excellent analogy and wonderful responses.
This will sound dumb.
My novel is about 90 to 95% complete and I am tempted to stop – not tempted to stop precisely, but losing the willpower to finish. I think it is because of one or two reasons. First, part of what kept me writing was wondering what would happen next. Now I have a good idea how the story finishes so there’s less personal incentive to write that next chapter. Second, and probably more importantly, I keep hearing how hard it is to get a novel published, and if I don’t finish the book I don’t have to face that challenge. (Note: these reasons are for my novel. I’ve published two nonfiction books, including four editions of one book. It’s easy to finish those since I had contracts up front and someone was relying on me to finish the manuscript and I felt obligated to get it done on time and done right)
I’m going to fight that urge to quit right now and go to my little basement desk and figure out how to kill somebody (A fictional somebody not a real somebody)
What a powerful message for anyone facing a lack of confidence!
There is no guidebook for being a parent let alone being male or female or anything else. With that said, perhaps your daughter and her parents (you) have experienced again what my son did today, being named the Captain of his school’s archery team. I mean, every transition is a new beginning. It may take a completely new course, accelerate up the same, or continue along another. Reaching a pinnacle of one success does not exclude any others. Best wishes to your daughter and yes, this isn’t about me or you, but “them”. (I have never liked the technicality of leaving the period inside the quote at the end of the sentence). As a male, I generally view these things logically, not emotionally. However, I just lied a little.
Sounds like your daughter has a great coach!
Thank you for sharing your daughter’s story, Rachelle. It’s so encouraging!
I’m very happy to hear your daughter has decided to continue. I had a similar setback a couple of months ago. I had burnt out getting my latest book published and marketed, and was too exhausted to do anything. This led to a downward spiral and depression, and I thought it might be time for me to quit, too, which depressed me even more. I thought, “this is it. This is the end of your writing career.” I had some help working through these issues, to, and came to the conclusion that I couldn’t give up, I just needed to take a step back, relax, and take things slower than I had been. I feel so much better now, and I know I’m on the right path.
the title of this blog in my outlook box sure caught my attention. I’ve read all the stories about the successful people who had previously stumbled in their eventually successful endeavors – Einstein, Babe Ruth etc, (just Bing search them and you’ll see what I mean) so I know to not quit, that persistence pays off. Persistence and patience usually bring about huge dividends…but words of encouragement like this are the extra nudge I need. Now, thank you, and back to writing. Because, yes, ma’am I am too good to quit…
I found that I could not quit even when I wanted to. One, the passion kept burning. Two, there was nothing else more compelling to do!
Between your name and your daughter’s sport of choice, I can relate to this. I quit gymnastics as a level 6 and a freshman in high school. I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t /good./ I was lucky to get a few 32.00s a season. I quit competing, took a teen’s class, and later taught low-level gymnastics, and I think it was the right decision.
Fast forward 11 years and I was nearly finished with my first (publishable?) novel. But when my CP told me I needed a complete rewrite, and I was at a loss for the ending, I gave up. I couldn’t write without feeling sick (although by this point I found out I was pregnant, which didn’t help anything). It turned out a break was just what I needed, and staying away from my book for three months after a year of continuous work made me SO excited to get the work done and see it ready to query soon.
How proud you must be of her, and what life-long character building she is embracing! My father is a coach, and I was always into sports. Some felt I got too focused, or should I say, obsessed, but as a writer, I can see how all those hours of training, struggling, goal setting, and pushing past obstacles helps me persevere now. The best gift my father ever gave me was to except no limitations.
I’ve tried to pass this on to our daughter, and I’ll admit, there were times when I was writing and writing and writing and the rejections kept coming, I felt like my life worked against my words. In fact, one day she told me, “When I grow up, I don’t want to be like you, having worked for years with nothing to show for it.”
That stung, but more than that, it worried me. I didn’t want her to choose the easy way just because it was gauranteed or to only seek opportunities that offered instant or quick gratification.
I received my first contract this past October, and did my best to revisit that lesson, only this time I had one more layer to add: The best things in life often take time, and if you have a dream, follow it with everything you’ve got, even if it feels out of your reach.”
I also shared how I believe many writers quit one month, or maybe even one day, before their contract (relating this to her path of choice). Personally, I’d rather live fully engaged then to end my life wondering what could’ve been.
Who hasn’t felt like quitting at some point in their life? My daughter is a competitive dancer, so I hear you on the commitment to time and money from the entire family. Injuries are difficult to overcome but ultimately it’s a great lesson for later in life for them.
Being a writer or any creative vocation is full of discouragement and critique, we’re naturally insecure creatures. The same goes for mothers! Ultimately we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and find our passion again. I came back to writing after years determined to do it for my own pleasure even if nothing else ever came from it and I’m so glad that I did!
Yes, I’ve felt like quitting. I’ve grown quite patient, so it’s not a matter if feeling it’s taking too long, truly. It’s more of a matter of being prone to believe negative feedback as proof that I suck, which is a life-long weakness I’m working hard to grow out of. Reframing our definition of success and reassessing our goals plus continued persistence sounds like a magical formula for success. I can see how redefining success can sound like a delusional person’s cop-out, and it can be, but it’s also valuable wisdom. I think it boils down to our core value, our basest goal. Clearly, fame and fortune aren’t the long-suffering, unpublished (or published for that matter) author’s goal, or else our continued pursuit would be purely insane.
I’m curious, novelists: What does success look like to you?
What keeps me going on this side of (full length, traditional) publication is this: Can I communicate exactly what I was put on this earth to say, and will someone hear it and be better for it in some way? And can God make beauty from these old ashes of mine?
With every rejection I question if I should try to write another book. This year I printed a few copies of one of my more favorite stories that had gone through the rejection process and gave it to my friends.
One friend in particular who knew my struggle read it and loved it. She brought me back to what was important . . .she said to do what I love. It has changed my whole view of what I need to do, which is to keep on writing.
I loved this! I don’t think I’ve ever seriously considered quitting, but there have definitely been setbacks. I started out thinking I could conquer this writing novels thing just like I conquered everything else in life: with hard work and a great attitude, it’d be easy. Not so, not so. Like your daughter, I’ve had to tweak my definition of success. Success ultimately isn’t publication, or being a bestseller — though I wouldn’t say no to those things! Success instead is learning, meeting the challenges that arise, and not stopping.
I did quit for awhile, deciding not to write anymore until I got something published again, so I turned my attention elsewhere for a bit getting a masters in psychology. So many near misses in being published, an agent who went back to work for a publishing company, etc. etc. Now I’m back to it, seeking another agent. It does take a lot of persistence. If I hadn’t had agents and publishers telling me I was good like your daughter’s coach, I would have quit long ago.
I’ve tried to quit quite a few times. And then I keep writing because it’s just what I do. And when I write something good, I want to share it. Thus, I end up not quitting.
Yes, I’ve felt like quitting before. But something inside won’t let me. When I’ve faced a rejection of one sort or another, I’m learning when the feeling, the urge to quit creeps in, I need to take a step back and spend time journaling so I can regain my perspective. Sometimes I take a couple days away from my writing.
Having a firm definition of success in my mind also helps me keep moving forward.
Quitting is a failure of hope.
Recent circumstances in life have taught me that success really consists of showing up. All the moto wall hangings with their daring pictures and brave armchair aphorisms mean nothing.
You keep showing up, putting hope into action, and you’ve already won.
Yep, I’ve felt like quitting — writing for publication is darn hard work! 🙂 The thing that keeps me going is knowing that this is the work God wants me to do. I don’t want to quit on Him. I want to be faithful to do what He calls me to do.
I’m with you, Cheryl. And your reason for not giving up just encouraged me to keep going. Thank you. 🙂
Aww, Donna, thanks for sharing that. What a blessing to hear!
I nearly quit flying after my partner in the airplane crashed and died. We had the same number of hours and ratings. Eventually I read the accident report and realized that the contributing factors in his crash were conditions I would not have flown under. Instead of setting the legal minimums (conditions considered safe for flying) I set my own minimums which were more conservative. I also kept flying because it something my husband and I enjoy and my husband is a terrific pilot.
A lot of my flying friends are dead because they busted minimums. I did, too, but I was a better pilot.
I was also an idiot.
My friend Jim Leeward didn’t bust minimums – a trim tab on his Mustang failed at Reno, and busted him a couple of years ago in a spectacularly horrific accident.
He was 74, and had the numerous close calls that every race pilot faces. Should he have quit, and enjoyed the retirement life of an aviation elder? Was the game worth the potential cost?
For Jim – yes, it was worth it. He would have hated dying in bed. I would say that his regret was that he hit the crowdline, and a lot of spectators died.
(For those who are wondering – his age didn’t have anything to do with the crash. A control surface which keeps the aeroplane in balance failed, causing an abrupt high-g pitch-up which continued into a wingover and dive. Jim didn’t black out, as many would have – he was seen to be fighting to get control of the machine right up to impact.)
Having finally dedicated myself to writing and to trying to get a novel published after years of cherishing the dream, I have now put a lot of work in and I’m starting to get the usual rejections… I have read before that we need to have realistic goals and see the steps on the way as ‘successes’ in themselves, but the title of your post jumped out at me. As for some of the other people who have commented, this was a very well-timed post for me! Thank you and the very best of luck to your daughter.
Yes, I’ve felt like quitting, but only when my goal was unrealistic. Once I re-sized the goal to write the best I can and let the rest take its course, I started back in.
Great post, Rachelle!
Since I have had a microbusiness in the creative field since 1989 that involves hitting multiple deadlines I am having a tough time not chucking my manuscript because having not gotten a contract with the developmental editor that included strict timeframes the last 5 months have been very hard as I keep pushing her to finish the final revisions while she doesn’t do this. Will persevere because my late father would have wanted me to finish but would never hire this woman again.Her sense of work ethic is far far from mine, too far.
Maybe it’s past time to bite the financial bullet and hire another editor.
Rachelle, Sensible words, full of understanding and encouragement. I can’t be like my daughter, who wanted to quit bowling because she wasn’t as good as her brothers (who were 5 and 10 years older than her). And you know how perfect the timing of this post is for me. Thanks.
I love this. I have definitely suffered set backs in life. Some I didn’t think I would overcome. But your article is right. Redefining what success really is to me and recognizing the value I bring to the things I do has made me get up, dust myself off, and keep on moving. I define success as any positive movement towards the life I want and desire. So even if I just simply send an email I have been meaning to send I have achieved success. If I connect with my nieces today in a simple way I have achieved success. Thanks for this great piece.
Oh, this really hits home. Despite the fact everyone that has read my book, thinks it’s a great story (including my writer’s forum); when an agent who had requested a full manuscript (and an exclusive) said she didn’t want to represent me, I was crushed. It’s really hard to move on here, but I have to remind myself my story has merit, and to keep looking for an agent or publisher who agrees.
Linda, I have not got nearly as far as you in terms of success, but I can understand your crushing disappointment at this setback. We all need such a lot of self-belief to keep going and sometimes it is like getting up after being kicked down. Nevertheless, all the signs sound very good around your book – so do keep going and I wish you every success.
I was privileged to attend John Wooden’s basketball camp in high school. He definition of success was as follows: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”
It’s not the measurement of the accomplishments so much as the measure of your character that counts.
Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
I coached basketball with tweens and teens for 30 years, and Coach Wooden’s definition and Pyramid of Success were part of my “curriculum” just about as much as shooting form and respect for the game. No one ever graduated with all the skills and answers, but at least they moved up with a foundation and a direction. And that’s what Rachelle has wonderfully reminded us about in our writing lives.
Jim, two excellent quotes–not just for athletes or writers, but for all of us. Glad you joined the discussion.
Sure I’ve felt like quitting at times. What keeps me going is the desire to write. It’s in my blood. 🙂
Congrats to your daughter for not giving up. Sounds like she has a fantastic coach.
We all feel like quitting.
Here are a few inspirational quotations about commitment and persistence that motivate me.
“The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.”
— Robert Ingersoll
“I really don’t think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don’t mind the failure but I can’t imagine that I’d forgive myself if I didn’t try.”
— Nikki Giovanni
“Treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.”
— Quentin Crisp
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”
— George Bernard Shaw
“Fall down seven times. Get up eight.”
— Japanese proverb
“There is no particular reason why you lost out on something. The world is not necessarily just. Being good often does not pay off and there is no compensation for misfortune. You have a responsibility to do your best nonetheless.”
— Unknown wise person
In short, most successful, prosperous individuals at one time considered giving up on their dreams and aspirations. They decided against it, however.
I think we all feel that way sometimes. For me, it’s the “it’s taking too long” part that gets to me. The idea of quitting has even crossed my mind from time to time. But then I think, oh, who am I kidding?
But seriously, I think age has a huge impact on your perspective in matters like these. You just have more realistic expectations as you get older. If I had started writing seriously in my teens or early twenties, I don’t know that I would have gotten through it. Now if I get ten rejection letters, I don’t think it means my writing stinks. And if I get ten acceptance letters, I don’t think it means I’m a genius, either. On the other hand, if I get ten rejection letters for the same story, I know that means that story probably stinks – and I’m willing to accept that. But it doesn’t frustrate me like it would have when I was younger. I’m much better able to take it as a lesson and move forward from there.
Which isn’t to say it’s always easy. If the day were to come in which all of my letters were rejections, I can’t say how long I would continue to struggle along, trying to fix what was broken, before I quit altogether. Here’s hoping that day never comes!