Quitting to Win

December 22nd, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

Are you afraid that if you quit too many jobs or switch careers too often, your resume (CV) will make you look undesirable? And who’s gonna hire you then? No one wants a loser who can’t stay put.

You’re probably right to be concerned… assuming your primary career goal is to work for a company that wants to own you rather than simply pay you to do some work for them.

The funny thing is that many people who have extremely successful careers seem to completely ignore this advice, building the kind of resumes that would disgust any reasonable HR person.

For example, whose resume looks like this?

  • cab driver
  • landscaper
  • vitamin distributor
  • glass-blowing lathe operator
  • travel agent
  • gas station manager
  • U-Haul dealer
  • moped salesman
  • restaurant cook
  • business consultant

Answer: David Allen, author of the ever-popular productivity classic Getting Things Done. Last I heard he was expecting to do about $6 million in sales this year (source: CNN). That’s a lot of mopeds!

Yes yes, I know he’s the exception. Everyone who gets away with this kind of thing is the exception of course. Damned cheaters! We wouldn’t want to dent anyone’s comfy little excuse for sticking with a job they don’t like.

From the looks of his resume, it would appear that David Allen is a lifelong quitter.

Doesn’t he realize what an amazing career he could have had as a cab driver? He could have become one of the best cab drivers in California. He might be on his 4th or 5th cab by now.

And why did he have to give up on landscaping? Think of all the hedge mazes that will never exist because he quit. Now that’s a shame.

OK, so maybe he just wasn’t cut out for cab driving or landscaping, but surely he could have gone far as a vitamin distributor. Look at all the fabulous supplements we have today. He could have made millions pushing pills. He’s gotta be upset about losing that job. It was pure colloidal silver.

But nooooo… this guy couldn’t hold a job to save his life.

Yet somehow Mr. David Allen is able to convince businesses to pay him $20,000 a day to teach them productivity skills — the same businesses whose HR departments would likely throw him out if he tried to apply for a regular job.

Hmmmm… kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Is it possible that quitting could actually increase your productivity?

Perhaps the truth is that you can switch careers as much as you’d like — and that those who’d judge you harshly for it are probably just pissed that you’re reminding them of how stuck they are. Do they really have your best interest at heart… or are they trying to enlist your support in assuaging their own self-doubt and insecurity?

Maybe it’s not such a great idea to go out of your way to impress the HR person who’s only looking for the most submissive loser they can find to fill a position that no one in their right mind would want to do for more than a couple weeks anyway. If you up and quit on them, they’ll just have to find another glass-blowing lathe operator who isn’t as smart as you.

Isn’t it amazing how social conditioning can teach you to place a high value on something that a free-thinking sane person would perceive as dreadfully undesirable? Maybe we should make the people that fall for that scheme pay more taxes too; they probably won’t even notice. Oh wait… we already do that.

If you can’t seem to hold a job, perhaps you’re cursed with genius. One of the biggest quitters of all was Leonardo da Vinci. I wonder if his parents ever told him to stop flitting about — painting, engineering, sculpture, botany, anatomy, architecture, music, poetry, etc. – and just stick with one thing. Otherwise, no one would hire him. Imagine Leonardo’s Mom saying to him, “For Christ sakes, Leo! Last week you told me you were going to be an engineer… and now I catch you painting! You march yourself back outside, young man, and go finish that Yard-a-pult monstrosity you started last week.”

So dark the con of man.


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