Three little words that may change your life… Quitters never win.

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Today’s three little words are often used in sports settings or other competitive endeavors, supposedly to “encourage” someone to continue striving towards some goal. Often they work at cross-purposes, especially if he person who is hearing them has decided to stop trying to do whatever it was – they’ve already quit. Then they become a mocking negative reinforcement of being somehow a loser. After all – quitters never win.

I submit that there many cases to be made of quitters actually winning. If one gives up smoking after many years – quits – they are certainly a winner. If one quits drinking after realizing that they had become an alcoholic they have assuredly become a winner. If a woman abandons (quits) the abusive husband or relationship that she stayed with for far too long, she is well on her way to becoming a winner. If a young person quits experimenting with drugs, because he/she finally realizes the danger and the destructive influence that drugs have on their life; how could you call that anything other than winning? So there are many times when it isn’t true that quitters never win.

If we re-visit the testosterone-fueled world of competitive sports and looked in depth at what is now known about the medical aspects of competition, I suspect that we would find more than a few ex-athletes who wish they had listened to their bodies when they were playing and not to coaches yelling at them to “shake it off” and not to quit. They are hobbled now by blown-out knees or injured shoulders and backs or worse. There are many ex-winners in sports who didn’t quit after a concussion or two and who now face dementia or Alzheimer’s disease because the coach told them to put their helmet back on and get back in the game with the phrase – quitters never win.

For life in general this little phrase has become a favored phrase overbearing coaches and is of somewhat of a bully in itself, exhorting many who should never have tried something in the first place to go on until they ultimately fail. If they are trying to do something that they are ill equipped to do; they are destined to think of themselves as losers whether they quit or just fail.  Many times quitting is the best and most intelligent thing to do, before you push well beyond your limit and hurt yourself. Never let intelligence and common sense  get drowned out by the bully phrase – quitters never win.

Perhaps the base problem behind that destructive little phrase is the obsession that we have as humans (or maybe just some societies)  with the concept of winning. We see everything as a zero sum game – there must be a winner and conversely those who do not win are losers. I don’t see life that way; however,  I’m also not a fan of schools who focus so much on the students’ self-esteem that the shuffle underperforming students along through the grades, even if they can’t read or write. There need to be standards in schools and students need to meet them to be rewarded.  In general, I much prefer the model that is used in Special Olympics competitions that says everyone who competes is a winner because they tried their best. Try telling that to the high school football coach who’s busy yelling at his players that quitters never win.

Now, just so you don’t go away grumbling that I’m encouraging people to quit at whatever they try; that is not the case. You should try and try hard in whatever you decide to take on; but, you should also allow yourself to be ruled by common sense and intelligence rather than testosterone and a false sense of duty or guilt. Quitting before you hurt yourself is not bad; staying in the game even though you are injured is just dumb.  Quitting before you endanger yourself is better than finding yourself in a dangerous or life-threatening situation with no way out. Quitting bad habits or practices, even in the face of peer-pressure to continue is preferable to finding yourself in trouble with your parents, your school or the law. At the end of the day you’ll still be standing there, ready to try again or to try something different ; unlike some of your friends who may be on crutches or using a cane or who always seem to be confused, because they listened too long to the phrase quitters never win.


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