After 14 Months, Why I’m Finally Ready to Quit Playing Baseball

Quitting is bad. Vince Lombardi is credited with saying, “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” All of our life, we’ve been told that we must not quit. Quitting is cowardly. Quitting, we’re led to believe, is the surest way to accomplish nothing and be stamped as a loser.

a big red button that says, "don't quit"

What if this just isn’t true?

In “The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick),” Seth Godin presents a different way to think about quitting. For Godin, quitting is critical and is a defining mark of successful people’s lives. Instead of being the cowardly action that plagues the lives of unfruitful people, Godin presents quitting as a deliberate action that can be the unlocking force in releasing an individual into higher levels of clarity, purposefulness, and success.


None of us want to be known as quitters. It’s not advantageous to be known as someone who is willing to quit. You don’t ask for LinkedIn endorsements for your advanced ability to quit. You would rather be remembered as someone who exemplifies perseverance than someone who stops.

Now, I’m not saying that all forms of quitting are positive attributes. You and I are fully capable of making a stupid decision to quit. I know that I’ve done this. But just like there are situations when we must endure, there are also situations in which quitting is the best choice.

In “The Dip”, Godin outlines a few of these situations:

  • You cannot become #1 or #2 in the market
  • You are in what he calls a “Cul-de-Sac” — a dead end
  • You are on a cliff — once you get to the end, you will fall to your imminent failure

These situations require a deliberate choice to quit. Quitting should not be decided solely based on the difficulty of the task ahead. The difficulty is often a primary quality of the dip.

a graph about when to quit
Left — A graph displaying where the dip lies in any journey | Right — Two times you should quit, and quit now

As I’ve said earlier, Godin makes the assertion that quitting can be a good thing. It is a necessary thing if you are ever going to become great at something. The best in the world, according to Godin, are who they are because of their ability to quit the distractions and the things that have no future and go all-in on places where they will have the most impact.


When You Certainly Must Not Quit

There are situations in which you certainly must not quit. I can try to explain it, but I would instead quote from the master himself.

“Snowboarding is a hip sport. It’s fast, exciting, and reasonably priced; and it makes you look very cool. So why are there so few snowboarders? Because learning the basic skills constitutes a painful Dip. It takes a few days to get the hang of it, and, during those few days, you’ll get pretty banged up. It’s easier to quit than it is to keep going.

The brave thing to do is to tough it out and end up on the other side — getting all the benefits that come from scarcity. The mature thing is not even to bother starting to snowboard because you’re probably not going to make it through the Dip. And the stupid thing to do is to start, give it your best shot, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the Dip.

A few people will choose to do the brave thing and end up the best in the world. Informed people will probably choose to do the mature thing and save their resources for a project they’re truly passionate about. Both are fine choices. It’s the last choice, the common choice, the choice to give it a shot and then quit that you must avoid if you want to succeed.

To summarize:

  • It’s brave to go through the Dip, endure the difficulty, and come out on top on the other side. This allows you to reap the benefits of scarcity.
  • It’s mature to never start and focus on something you actually like and want to devote your resources to
  • Additional — It’s not dumb to quit early. Seth talks about this on his podcast
  • It is foolish to start something, give it a run, and then quit. Do this often enough, and you become a serial quitter.

My Decision to Retire (or Quit?)

When I made the decision to end my baseball career, I wanted to use the right words. I didn’t want to be perceived as a quitter, so I didn’t phrase my decision as quitting. Neither did I feel I had earned the right to retire, so I tried to avoid using that language. I was a then-twenty-two-year-old former NAIA baseball player who had rose to have a slightly below-average MLB fastball and a subpar breaking ball. I didn’t want to deceive myself by saying that I had retired.

In the grand scheme of things, I hadn’t accomplished much worth retiring over.

In my mind, I didn’t earn the right to retire.

The other option was quitting…and I didn’t want to be known as a quitter either. Quitters are losers.

So, how do you explain to people that your baseball career has come to an end without saying you retired or quit? For me, I said that I was “moving on.” This seemed like an excellent way to frame my decision. I was moving on to something different than what had become familiar. Baseball was coming to an end, and the next thing was starting.

The only problem was that I didn’t know what I was moving on to. I was stuck in the hallway between what I had done and what I was going to do. And I was held captive by my desire to “move on”.

In trying to correctly categorize and explain my decision, I was pigeonholing myself into the hatred of baseball. Because I was “moving on,” I felt it was my duty to leave baseball behind and never engage with it again.

As I’ve written about before, I spent the remainder of my time at Driveline half-in, half-out with throwing. I wanted to still participate in throwing without going all-in and giving it my all. This prompted a terse comment from an authority figure. When I left the gym, I didn’t know what to do moving forward.

In two months, I had all the ingredients for a transition. I had a new job, a plan to propose to my girlfriend, and was living 3,000 miles away from the weighted ball capital of the world. I figured this would finally allow me to “move on.”

Negative.

In truth, I’ve never really moved on. That’s because moving on isn’t really a choice. A desire to move on is hope that life is going to align itself in your favor so that you can make a smooth transition into your next project. It’s deception.

What I needed to do from the outset was to tell myself the truth, because the truth really wasn’t all that incredibly painful or anything. The truth was that I saw the future of my baseball career and decided that getting through the Dip in front of me was not worth it. The Dip, in this case, was going to be the hundreds (thousands) of hours spent trying to work myself up to a 98 MPH fastball. If I endured the Dip and made it through, I would still not be an elite big leaguer. I saw the future of my playing career and knew that I would never be a top player in an organization.

I’ve accepted that I have quit baseball. Using Seth Godin’s framework, I’ve recognized that quitting is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, quitting the right things is what Godin calls a “go up opportunity.” Quitting the right things enables an individual, team, or organization to go higher, accomplish more, and move forward with extra clarity.

a man who did not quit walking up the side of a mountain
Quitting is a go up opportunity | Photo by Sam Mgrdichian on Unsplash

In a section titled “The Opposite of Quitting Isn’t ‘Waiting Around’,” Godin writes the following:

No, the opposite of quitting is rededication. The opposite of quitting is an invigorated new strategy designed to break the problem apart.

The context surrounding this statement is that Godin is speaking about all of the times we shouldn’t quit. Instead of quitting when we’re in the difficult slog of the Dip, Godin argues that this presents a unique opportunity to rededicate ourselves to a better strategy. When stuck in the Dip, we can lean into innovative thinking and proceed with a unique approach that will make us number one in our chosen field.

I would like to propose that quitting at the right time also enables you and I to rededicate ourselves.

Moving on from baseball has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever tried to do. I tried to completely distance myself from the sport and told myself a whole bunch of lies in the process.

Quitting, on the other hand, has been much more comfortable. When you quit the right things, you are freed up to dedicate yourself to more important things. When you make the decision to quit, you can set the terms. Quitting doesn’t need to mean that you completely abandon what you were doing. It just means that you shift your focus.

Quitting my playing career presents me with the opportunity to double down on other things within the game and life — training others, watching the sport on television, writing, holding other jobs, and even throwing plyoballs.

A friend of mine recently quit his college baseball career. He has transitioned to the college Track & Field team and now trains and competes as a javelin thrower. I conversed with him recently, and I can tell that he is reaping the rewards of quitting his former sport to rededicate himself to another.

If you’re struggling with your transition out of sports, take a hard look at how you’re thinking about your decision. Are you sugar-coating your language as I did? Can you undergo the temporary pain of admitting to yourself that yes, you are quitting your sport knowing that you will experience the tremendous freedom to finally move on like you’ve wanted to?


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