I saw that Vince Lombardi quote again today. You know, the one that goes:
Quitting is for losers. If you quit you deserve to be thrown to the hounds of hell and forced to watch their neverending game of table tennis. You should rather be marched barefoot through a city where the roads are made of Jellotm banana pudding and the buildings only exist in the mind of James Joyce, than to ever, ever quit. Refusing to quit will lead you to the very thrones of Renaissance Europe, while quitting will make you forced to rearrange them on the decks of the Titanic.
Wait, maybe that wasn't Vince, let me look that up in my quote book. OK, what Vince said was:
Winners never quit and quitters never win.
But that's pretty much the same thing. It's important to read between the lines when Upper Midwesterners say things. Sure, Lombardi was born in New York, but he's associated with Wisconsin, and that's good enough. (Note: this is the only time a Minnesotan will ever consider that good enough.)
Anyway, that brings me to one of my favorite philosophers, Tommy Angelo. If you've heard of Tommy, you might not think of him as a philosopher, and if you follow philosophers I very much doubt you will have heard of Tommy, unless you follow philosophers to a poker game. (Usually a very good idea but don't take an i.o.u.)
Tommy's a poker coach and author, but nearly unique in that field in that his writings are applicable outside of the game and across many life situations. And one of the things Tommy really obsesses about is the skill involved in quitting. He writes in Elements of Poker:
I have always had very strict policies when it comes to quitting, even when I first started playing poker. Back then I had two main quitting rules that I never broke. I would always quit if I was out of money and nobody would lend me any, and I would always quit if nobody else did.
Eventually I quit all that stuff. I quit running out of money, and I quit being the last guy to quit. Nowadays, I think of quitting a a skill set unto itself, with branching subsets of skills for each type of quitting situation.
Gambling is a rich field for quitting theory, because there are all sorts of times when gambling is a bad idea, and they can come up quickly and with little warning, even in the middle of a session. Plus it comes up a lot; as Tommy says later in that chapter, "I realized that every session of cash-game poker I ever play will end on a quit."
The lesson Tommy learned here is that one of the major ways to be better than the other guy is to be better at quitting than the other guy; to stop when you're not playing well, or even when the risk of you not playing well is too high. Becoming good at quitting made Tommy's average play quality much better than his opponents', which leads to profit.
a few years after that I realized that no action is an island, that everyone else's sessions always end on a quit too, and that the real reason there is money to be made by quitting well is because sometimes my opponents don't.
This is pretty true in life, too. Do you persist in throwing effort into friendships with people who don't treat you well? I sure did, for a long time. But then I got better at quitting.
Do you cast negative thoughts at yourself for neglecting things you used to do, and enjoy? I used to do that a lot too. Then I got better at quitting.
In the crypto-sphere, do you obsess over hodling, follow the siren song of fomo? I don't do much of that because I was good at quitting before I got here. One of the key components of being good at quitting is accepting your losses rather than chasing them, and knowing that the goal isn't to avoid losses but to have your wins outnumber them. (Another skill poker teaches.)
Vince, up there, is very much like Early Tommy. He only quits when they have to carry him home on his shield. And that can get you a long way, if you happen to be the most brilliant football coach who ever lived. It can also carry you down in spectacular destruction if you aren't.
Tommy Angelo offers a more measured, more useful perspective. Rather than never quitting, get good at quitting. Get good at knowing when it's best to quit, and do it when you need to, because there will always be more battles to fight if you don't get yourself killed in this one.
Tommy Angelo's books are Elements of Poker, Painless Poker, and A Rubber Band Story and Other Poker Tales. He also has a bunch of free articles on his website. They're worth reading even if poker isn't your thing.