Category: Poetry

Friday Thoughts – April 9 – When to Quit

By , 04/09/2010 2:05 PM

….it was one of my darkest personal moments……I walked on to play football at Virginia Tech… soon I realized this was not high school – the big guys were fast and the fast guys were big ……and my performance would have made Rudy  look like an All American…. like Rudy, one of my strongest held personal beliefs was that I was not a quitter…. never, not ever.

But I was way out of my league….. on top of that I could not keep up with my engineering classes – by Thanksgiving I was failing calculus, chemistry and English……I struggled with the decision for weeks and was filled with anguish… and then I quit……

For months I felt empty and sick… I had never been a quitter…. But now I was… something deep inside had died…..

….from the earliest age I was taught to never ever quit…. We are all taught that perseverance is a virtue….commitment….determination….duty…….fortitude… endurance…..

 ….and we are surrounded by cute stories and profound quotes….

The train in the children’s book The Little Engine That Could  repeats over and over “I think I can, I think I can.”

The ubiquitous bumper sticker/T-shirt – When the going gets tough, the tough get going

Our culture worships heroes who fight on against insurmountable odds and win–there have been 6 Rocky  films that together grossed over a $1 Billion

……even MC Hammer  agrees – remember 2 Legit 2 Quit  ?

Winston Churchill  said “Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never. Never — in anything great or small, large or petty — never give in.”

I must admit – ”The Quitter”   is one of my favorite poems that I still read when I am discouraged….

But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight —
Why, that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each grueling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.

….and we all know that the greatest achievements take years of hard work and determination – what if Thomas Edison, Madam Curie  or Churchill had just said this is just too tough and went to sit on the couch to watch MTV ?

But that great philosopher W C Fields  once said,

“If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it

He has a point…. Isn’t all this cute stuff about never quitting very, very naïve ???

When does determination become destructive? 
When does stubbornness become stupidity?

Somehow it seems like the ability to quit wisely should be a virtue too….if we decided we could never, never, ever, ever quit, then we would never take on something where we were not sure we would succeed…..we would stop taking risks….and what a sad existence that would be….

…. we all face that moment when we realize we have taken on something that is much tougher than we imagined or it is no longer what we want– it could be  small like a volunteer project …. Or something really big….a relationship or a job….

We realize that … the costs are higher, the rewards scant…..the rules changed, we discover new limitations……

….do I stick with it ? …… or do I cut my losses and move on ?  

…do I “fight when hope is out of sight”? ……or do I “reassess my priorities”?

…. Do I keep my commitment? … or do I find a graceful exit? 

…do I double down to plow through the obstacles? …..or do I quit ? 

I have certainly made my mistakes of plowing on when I should have quit… and quitting when I should have fought on… but perhaps I think a bit longer now when faced with the decision – my questions:

– what’s at risk if I continue? If I quit?
– who else is depending on me and how will this affect them ?
-what long term options am I opening or closing with this decision?
-have I honestly given it my very, very best?  Really?  My very best?
-have I asked for help?  Really asked for help?
-what do my trusted advisors say?  The ones that tell me the painful truth.

“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know — but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.

Have a great weekend!


Interesting Unrelated Facts:

Ben Bernanke  grew up in Dillon, SC and waited on tables at South of the Border

– The yield on Greek debt  rose above 7.5% yesterday.

–  Dancing with the Stars  hit higher ratings last week than American Idol

Friday Thoughts – March 13 – a promise made

By , 03/13/2009 6:59 AM

Last weekend it was 70 degrees in DC …. I was in Minneapolis yesterday where the temperature was -2 degrees and a 20 mph wind – ouch !!  It reminded me of a very memorable line from the great poem Cremation of Sam McGee :

“talk of your cold, through the parka’s fold, it stabbed like a driven nail”

I love that line and it describes what it felt like walking across the parking lot… Let me back up – why do I know Cremation of Sam McGee??

I started my career as an engineer in a factory and Bud was a very colorful colleague who, among other things, recited the poetry of Robert Service, who wrote gripping poems about the lives, tribulations and challenges of miners during the Alaskan Gold rush at the turn of the century.

The story of Sam McGee is the commitment the narrator made in the desolate Arctic winter when Sam begged him to cremate him when he died so he would not suffer a cold grave. The poem describes the long, lonely struggle to find a way to cremate Sam in the Arctic wilderness…. he describes how he was tempted to just bury the body – no one would know!!  But the narrator makes a very powerful, personal decision:

“Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code”

a promise made is a debt unpaid

….that line has stuck with me through the years – and I carry a heavy personal debt of promises unfilled – maybe not the size of the national debt, but many unfulfilled promises to myself and others…. From big ones to very small ones (“I will send you the document”).  I guess we all do that….and somehow as the debt accumulates one’s credibility is challenged and one’s authenticity and credibility diminishes….

 There seems to be tremendous power in doing what we say we will do… and not promising things we cannot do…. 

“a promise made is a debt unpaid.” 

Unrelated interesting Fact : the National debt is now $35,857.99 per person

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