Would you quit an activity for $1,000?

A lot of students think that once they start an activity, they should never quit because it would look bad to colleges. But colleges don’t want you to just plod through something for the sake of sticking it out. Successful people not only know how to commit to things, but also how to quit.

You change a lot while you’re in high school. A club or activity you joined as a freshman might lose some of its oomph by the time you’re a junior. Good quitters can sense when an activity, a job, a project or a relationship isn’t going anyplace good or is just making them unhappy. So they quit and move on, and they don’t beat themselves up about it.

One of my former Collegewise students was a standout football player, but he quit right before the start of his junior year. Football was making him miserable. He realized he just wasn’t the type of guy who would ever enjoy, as he put it, “doing something where he was regularly congratulated for trying to take someone’s head off.”

My student wanted to do other things that he thought would make him happier. So he quit, joined a steel drum band at his high school and started volunteering at his church. He went on to attend and graduate from Notre Dame.

When you give time and effort to an activity, it should give something back to you. If you hate every second of marching band practice and are pretty sure that lugging your tuba around every day after school has caused permanent damage to your spine—stop. Don’t march in the band anymore. Find something else that you enjoy with lighter equipment.

When quitting pays big
Knowing that quitting is an option can also strengthen your commitment to things you really care about. The online retailer Zappos bribes new employees to quit. “The Offer,” as it’s known at Zappos, is the brainchild of CEO Tony Hsieh. Every new call center employee at Zappos goes through a four-week training program during which time they earn their full salary. At the end of the program, Zappos offers $4,000 to any new hire who wants to quit. Only about 2 to 3 percent of the people take the money and run.

By giving new employees an easy way to quit, Zappos fills its ranks with people who really want to be there.

Are you doing an activity that your heart’s just not in anymore? If the answer is, “Yes,” why are you still doing it? Why not find something you love enough that you’d never take the bribe to quit?

Keep in mind, not all quitting is good. If you love being on the volleyball team, but quit just because you didn’t get picked as the starting setter, maybe you should stay and work to earn your spot back?

You get to choose which activities you do outside of class. If you make the wrong choice, or if what used to make you happy just isn’t working for you anymore, don’t be afraid to be a good quitter and make a different choice.

Excerpted from my book: If the U Fits: Expert Advice on Finding the Right College and Getting Accepted