Appreciating the Distinction Between Quitting and Moving On

I used to employ a guy we’ll call James. He never missed a shift, took professionalism and punctuality brutally seriously, and respected his colleagues. He was a Marine, literally.

Over time, James’ life circumstances changed. He started a family, developed new career aspirations, and began stretching himself a little thin in an effort to be everything to everyone. His commute to the gym was over an hour in each direction, and he was expected to open the gym prior to 5:30am multiple times per week. He then mixed in a newborn that was barely sleeping, and he had himself a recipe for disaster.

While he never intentionally allowed his fatigue to be visible to clients or co-workers, his frustrations slowly became palpable. He appeared to need a big change in his routine and professional life.

I made sure he knew I was there to help personally or professionally, to be a sounding board, or to invest in further developing the adult fitness program he was running for me. He never truly accepted or declined my offers. Instead, he repeatedly told me: “I’ve got this, you don’t have to worry about me.”

These guys tend to make for disciplined employees

These guys tend to make for disciplined employees

Eventually it became clear that James was ready to move on to the next step in his career, but for some reason or another, he couldn’t bring himself to admit it to me.

I called him into my office.

James, I love you, man, but I can’t help but find myself wondering if transitioning to an employment scenario that is closer to home and provides a better wage would be the right thing for you. What’s keeping you from making that move?

I’m not a quitter…don’t have it in me to walk away from something I’ve committed to, he explained.

There are a lot of words I could find to describe James, but quitter is most definitely not one of them. In just a few short years, he had expanded his coaching skill set, improved his relationship-building skills and rapport with clients, and proven himself to be a far better than average strength coach. He’d contributed productively to my business for months and years on end.

Did he think I had an expectation that he’d one day retire from my operation after decades of service?

I countered:

James…you have my blessing to walk away from this role with nothing but check marks in the success column. Transitioning to a new opportunity elsewhere isn’t quitting, it’s moving on.

I watched his body language change for the better right in front of me. He accepted my blessing, explaining that he’d work as little or as much as I need him in the weeks to come, but would like to formally conclude his employment with us. James stepped away from our business on great terms, and began to pursue the next big thing in his career. Nobody quit anything.

Walking away doesn’t always equate to quitting.

Walking away doesn’t always equate to quitting.

Gym owners continuously make this mistake

I see this problem again and again amongst gym owners. Underperforming programs are fed more resources, underperforming training philosophies are left untouched, and underperforming operations as a whole are allowed to languish in a perpetual cycle of break-even mediocrity.

For some reason, gym owners feel an obligation to see objectives through, while the writing is on that wall that things aren’t working.

I can’t scream this loud enough: It is okay to cut your losses and allocate existing resources toward an endeavor with more potential.

This may mean shutting down your uninspired transformation program.

This may mean pulling the plug on the internship program that was full of good intention from the start, but continues to deliver a neglected curriculum because you’re simply too busy building your business to be great at both.

This could be the moment that you abandon your endless efforts to grow a youth performance program and embrace the fact that you’re a kick-ass personal trainer for adult clients, regardless of your itch to work with athletes.

Whatever the program or project, I’d imagine you know deep down that it isn’t happening. Assuming you’ve learned some valuable lessons from your unsuccessful objectives, you can and should walk away without self identifying as a quitter.

Try. Fail. Try again. Fail better.

That’s entrepreneurship in just six words.


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