On Quitting

Originally posted Jan 9, 2015

Quitting gets a bad rap. When you think about quitting something, you usually think about ending a bad thing. She quit smoking, he quit his terrible job, they quit Facebook.

When my book went to print in December and I didn’t have another project to start, I felt like I was quitting. I don’t yet have an answer to the question, “What’s next, now that the book is done?”

I’ve got nothing. No ideas for a new side project outside of my day job at Etsy, nothing to occupy my brain or time outside of work. I’ve been reminding myself that this is absolutely okay, and I want to reassure you, too: quitting is natural, and awesome, and necessary.

I quit and you can, too!

I started a small business photographing weddings and portraits just before my senior year of college. Four years later, my business was profitable and I decided I was done with it. Around the same time, I co-founded an online wedding resource for LGBT couples with my close friend Kelly. A handful of years later, thrilled with its (nearly overwhelming) success, we shuttered its doors. This is the pattern of my big side projects: I fall in love with an idea, start from scratch, and throw time and love into it until it grows to a point where I can say, “Yep, I’m good.” It’s at this point that I’m happy with the success of my latest project and have no qualms moving on. I’m able to quit with pride and a smile on my face.

I’ve often had a difficult time explaining this to others. Many people don’t understand that just because you’re good at a thing doesn’t mean you need to do that thing. Just because I created a successful small business doesn’t mean I need to run it forever (or start another). I often say something like this to people who are good at managing. It’s important to remember that just because you’re good at it doesn’t mean you should choose a career in management over individual contributor work. I think this is true for everything.

Quitting is natural.

Reflecting on the book-writing process, I’ve realized that I go through seasons of quitting. In some cases, I taper off my responsibility. For example, I gave more than a dozen talks in 2014, but when the book went to production I decided to speak dramatically less in 2015. I was confident with this decision; I’ve learned over the years that you don’t have to quit something for a bad reason, or any reason, for that matter. You can just be done. There doesn’t have to be fanfare, or lots of feelings. Quitting can be a perfectly natural part of how life evolves.

Quitting is awesome.

Similarly, I sometimes find a way to quit that involves passing the baton. Again, around the time of the book release, I was handing off some extra responsibilities at my job to coworkers. I’m a firm believer in opening up plenty of leadership opportunities to those around you who deserve them. If I’m doing lots, what room does that leave for other people to flex their muscles? Some of us are excellent at maintaining and iterating on an existing product or process; others (like me!) want to fix a problem the best we can, then hand our solution over to someone else to maintain. And that is okay!

Quitting is necessary.

Most importantly, quitting a big thing means that there will be plenty of room in your life for your next big thing. If you exclusively quit little things, there may not be room for you to pick up your next big opportunity. Quitting big things can become part of our natural cycle. Maybe you can celebrate the act of quitting, or maybe it feels appropriate to mourn what you’ve quit. Maybe you want to shout to the world that you’ve quit (I had a whole book release party!), or maybe you want to shut the door quietly. Do what feels right to you. Consider that you’re just closing a chapter, making more room in your life for the next big thing, or creating an opportunity for someone else. Quitting is natural, awesome, and necessary. Give yourself permission to quit something soon.

This post originally appeared on The Pastry Box.

Lara Hogan

Author, public speaker, and coach for managers and leaders across the tech industry.