Vince Lombardi was wrong

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” I don’t believe it—for kids in high school, or anyone trying to do good work and make a difference.

We killed a project this week at Collegewise, a guideline that five of our counselors had spent a lot of time working on. It was a good idea, and one that if executed well probably would have been downloaded thousands of times like many of the other resources we’ve created.

But the project wasn’t turning out like they’d hoped. It had dragged on through several iterations. Each round of revisions just made it clear that it wasn’t becoming the fantastic piece they’d hoped it would be, and they didn’t see the path to getting there.

This happens in projects. It happens in most things worth doing. It’s exciting and fun at the beginning until it gets to the difficult part. And then you have to make a decision—bear down and come out the other side, or bail out?

So we asked some hard questions. Do we see a way to make this as great as we’d hoped it would be? If we can’t do that, can we still make a version that’s good enough for us and for the people who might use it? And if the answer to either of those questions is yes, will that outcome be worth the time, energy, and focus of everyone involved?

Honest answers made it clear that it was time to move on. And whatever feelings of letdown our counselors had will likely soon be replaced by the freeing realization that they can refocus on other things. In fact, one of those counselors was on a team that just shared one of the best internal training documents I’ve ever seen at Collegewise. That’s how we want to feel when we gut it out through the hard part of a worthy project.

The message here isn’t that you should quit anything when it gets difficult (that’s why there are good quitters and bad quitters, something I’ve written about before here and here). But successful people quit things all the time. They just do it for the right reasons—so they can focus their time and energy into those things that they can finish, that have the biggest impact for them personally or professionally, and that will leave that wonderful feeling of working though the hard part and enjoying the completion on the other side.