On the art of quitting and the philosophy of Tommy Angelo.

in philosophy •  2 months ago

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.)

Image from Tommy's website.

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.

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The "never quit" idea is only valuable when you are playing a game without real consequences. Sports are usually set up to ensure that all of the participants can give 110% without loss of life or financial ruin. It is a dangerous misapplication of the principle if you vow to "never quit" in real life, where you are exposed to real risks.

Mountain climbers, at least the ones who live to middle age, are always ready to quit. Same thing for pilots, cave divers, and other adventurers.

Sports is an activity that benefits from a "never quit" attitude, but there are others that are frequently overlooked. Academics is the one that comes to mind. College is set up to ensure that students can take on big tasks and apply the "never quit" principle without taking on serious risk. Very few students see it that way, though.

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I quit college four times and can't say I think any of them was a bad idea, although at that age my methodology wasn't good.

Its about being conservative with the finite resource of your own personal time and energy that you have in life. We need to monitor the consumption of that energy and where we direct it and recognise how we allow it to be taken from us. We can then guard it closely, conserve it for ourselves and be more efficient with it, otherwise we may never manifest our true desires.

Language is such a crude tool sometimes. The word "quit" is bundled with negative connotation. But actually it allows one to reallocate the finite resource of their own energy! Interpretation and judgement of others in these situations without knowing the deeper personal story involved does not help matters of psychology such as paranoia and anxiety.

I see it as hugely positive when someone gains the strength to quit when the time is right to take control of their life when something is causing them pain and make space for something else they yearn to do. The right decision does not always feel good and the word "quit" really does not help when you are on the edge of doing it for your own personal sanity and you have to communicate it to someone else, one cant help but build preconceptions. In my experience quiting always made time and space in my life for a fantastic new beginning.

A good opportunity isn't necessarily the right opportunity for you. Bide your time, enjoy what you have, do what you love and the right opportunity will present itself when the time is right. But if you're too busy doing something that is not getting you where you want to go, then you wont have time to notice the easier path that could be on offer that does take you where you want to go (and beyond).

We can make the most of any situation by visualising and selecting the best potential outcome that aligns with our true desires and will have a positive impact on us. Then you can channel as much of your energy into that as possible to increase the chances of that being the reality you create for yourself. Its like an investment. If you are passionate about something you will give it more time and energy and it will manifest itself quickly and easily. If you are doing something you hate every day just to get that big house it will hurt every step of the way and you will manifest things that do not serve your true desires (such as needing to keep a job you hate to maintain the lifestyle that isn't serving you).

Effectively.. recognise how economically viable your current endeavour is in terms of your own personal energy. And don't be afraid to cut your losses to make space for something more awesome right now, that will be less painful and more fulfilling. Start taking steps in the right direction.

Multitasking is not the answer, focus on what you love! Quit if you must! Unfortunately you have to find the task manager before you can kill all those other processes!

.. Just my 2 cents!

Peace :)

As stated in the article, quitting is an art. Nothing to be ashamed of, nor feared. If used prudently, it can also teach us a lot about ourselves. Our limits, our boundaries and more.

That doesn't mean we have to accept those limitations. It simply means they exist within us at that moment in time. We can then strive to overcome them. Perhaps its a physical limitation that more exercise/workouts will overcome, perhaps its a mental fear/block that we need to look within to overcome.

By knowing when to quit it does not mean you are giving up, simply that you have recognized you are not at a stage where you can conquer or master that particular moment in life.

As @professorbromide mentioned the idea that has been beaten into society for eons (mostly into us males) comes from participation in sports or other "external" activities. While these moments certainly do have value and importance, some fans/players are quite rabid, they in general do not have long lasting, life impacting implications. They are for entertainment when distilled down to the base element.

Therefore, quitting is seen as quite distasteful, an anathema in fact. It denotes poor sportsmanship (another topic altogher), laziness, lack of team spirit/support. All the traits you are supposed to learn to go on and be a productive member of society.

However, like most things that are taught to us as children, the effect or impact becomes magnified exponentially as we grow up. What we once did for fun, becomes a hobby, then a job, then a multi-million dollar career and suddenly the idea of quitting is one as Vince L. describes.

What does that say about us as a society? We need more coaches/books/teachers such as Tommy Angelo who realize that quitting does not equal giving up and sometimes the strongest thing an individual can do is recognize their failures and work to overcome the, bettering and improving themselves, rather than banging their head against a moment they will never succeed in. Thing long term, not short.

Interesting thoughts. Rather than just sticking in there and not giving up no matter what, he has made an art out of knowing when it's a good time to quit, and when it's a good time for someone else to quit (even if they don't... which can lead to profit for him).

To listen to the audio version of this article click on the play image.

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We never give up in life

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Only one thought in my heart is that the winner will never run and the runner will never win.


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