News: When Quitters Win

Sometimes sticking with something is a recipe for failure.

By Nick Tasler, published September 3, 2012 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Grades, test scores, and pedigree can't predict success as well as the simple ability to confidently choose one course of action while abandoning others, suggests a two-decade study led by Timothy Judge of Notre Dame. In the face of complexity and uncertainty, most people lack the mental acuity to kill pet projects or close doors on distracting opportunities. The rare few who can may boost their earnings by 50 to 150 percent—and sometimes create history. 

Steve Jobs excused himself from the steady march toward a college degree and focused all his brainpower on his real passion instead, eventually partnering with pal Steve Wozniak to create the first Apple computer. Later, Jobs's decision to cut 70 percent of Apple's product line paved the way for the company's current success.

In 1981, Howard Schultz left Starbucks—then a roasting company—when employers rejected his idea to build coffeehouses. In 2008, Schultz (by then the owner) saved the company by refocusing its resources on coffee and eliminating off-the-mark products like breakfast sandwiches, teddy bears, and calendars.

Henry Ford quit the family farm and moved to Detroit to work as a machinist, later using the skills he acquired there to help him create an automobile engine. Ford offered this quitter-takes-all advice to young entrepreneurs: "Be ready to revise any system, scrap any methods, abandon any theory if the success of the job demands it."