Like most Chinese fathers, my dad is a stoic man. When faced with hardships, he doesn’t complain much and just trudges through it. So it’s no surprise that growing up, I shared his work philosophy. Anytime I wanted to quit, I’d just suck it up and follow it through. For the most part, I’m glad my dad taught me how to persevere. (A little tangent note: in college, I’ve toyed with the idea of dropping out of Computer Science and Engineering because I was struggling to get good grades in the beginning. Thank god I’m too stubborn and too proud to have done that.) Quitting, in my eyes, was admission of failure.
So in college, I worked part time in Bruin Online as student tech support. Hours were flexible, pay was decent (for college kids at least), and the labor wasn’t too much, if not monotonous. In my eyes, I couldn’t have done better in finding a “chill” job (oh yeah, I used to love chilling at work). Customer service, as much as I despised it, was actually a job that I excelled in. I’d spend extra time with customers if they needed it and adjust my approach with them depending on how knowledgeable they are about technology or how pissed they are about their forgotten email password. Since I’m pretty technical and generally a nice guy, I was a natural.
But very soon I realized the work had very little satisfaction. I was simply appeasing customers and their frustrations, yet I had no power to actually improve our services. Within a couple of months, I’ve grown tired of my place within the business. A part of me wanted to quit, but another part of me was scared. If I were to quit, I’d have no “better” job on campus with the flexible hours and relatively good pay ($12 per hour was $2 more than what any of my friends could get). I’d have to actually go and search for a real job as an engineer, and with my shitty grades and lack of experience, I only foresaw rejection. So I kept on working there for another year.
I could have done so much more in that year’s time. I could have interned at another company or discovered a personal programming project of my own. Or I could pull a 180 and just enjoy life, spending more time with friends and basketball (something I never have time to play nowadays). Regardless, anything was better than being stuck in the purgatory known as “The Comfortable Average.”
I want to remove that negative connotation that’s deeply ingrained the word “quitting.” Don’t delude yourself and say that quitting should be the last things explored when the going gets tough. Quitting is not an admission of failure; quitting is recognition that there are better alternatives. Ironically, quitting is much like opportunity costs that they teach you in economic class. Opportunity cost is the potential cost of doing one thing instead of the alternative choice (which could be better). Instead of shaming yourself in avoiding the idea of quitting, take a moment to think and ask yourself what’s your alternatives. You’ll be surprised how high your opportunity costs are.
Now, I’m not telling you to quit your job right this second (especially if you’re in college and need that cash to buy cute girls a drink at the bar). Take away the stigma that surrounds quitting, and what do you have? Another tool in your belt to get ahead in life. So don’t quit just to quit; instead, quit to do something better.