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Common Reading 2023: Sometimes Winning Means Knowing When to Quit by John A. List

Sometimes Winning Means Knowing When to Quit — John A. List

“Sometimes Winning Means Knowing When to Quit” makes the case for why people should quit more. Quitting does not have to be a bad thing; it can mean making a change, setting smaller and more achievable goals, or going after a better option.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think about Vince Lombardi’s statement “Winners never quit, and quitters never win”? Have you heard it before, and do you think there is any truth to it?

  1. When was the last time you quit something? Do you regret it or are you proud of it?

  1. Can you think of a time when maybe you should have quit something but didn’t? What did you learn from that experience?

Class Activity

Think of a long-term goal you want to accomplish. Break up that goal into a smaller, more near-term goal. Create a plan for how you can achieve that smaller goal.

Introduction — Griffin Erdely

Playing sports and being part of athletics was one of the biggest influences that made me who I am today. I grew up a fan of all the teams in Pittsburgh, a passionate sports town that treats its teams, the Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates, like royalty. That passion for sports translated to my upbringing, and I played ice hockey for more than half my life. But the biggest challenge was knowing when it was the end, when I could not take the next big step.

I did not have the talent, or maybe the work ethic, to become a professional sports athlete like my younger self may have dreamed of becoming. For some of us, when that dream does not become a reality, it can feel like we are betraying what we set out to accomplish. But just because that dream never becomes our present, it doesn’t mean we automatically fail. John A. List gets to a similar point in this essay. The beauty of life is that we can make our own decisions, and sometimes that means giving up something to gain something else. It is in our nature to try new challenges. We can learn more about what we enjoy and other passions that will make our lives more fulfilling by putting something we previously wanted aside. Quitting is not always a sign of failure. Often, it is better to look at is as a sign of change and way to make a new plan.

Related Video

"The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale" from WGN News

Additional Resources

The Voltage Effect: John A. List

Check out John A. List's website, which includes information on the book this article is adapted from.

Lombardi: a Winner who Quit

This Medium article by M.M. O'Keefe delves deeper into Vince Lombardi's (in)famous quotes about winning and quitting and debunks the idea that winning is everything and quitting is bad. The author explains how Lombardi contradicted his quotes several times in his life by quitting.

The economics behind 'quiet quitting' — and what we should call it instead

This NPR article discusses the rise of "quiet quitting". The article delves into what quiet quitting means, why it has become relevant in a post-pandemic era, and how people have been talking and thinking about it.

About the Author

John A. List’s passion is using field experiments to explore economic questions. He views field experiments as representing a unique manner in which to obtain data because they force the researcher to understand everyday phenomena, many of which we stumble upon frequently. Merely grasping the interrelationships of factors in field settings is not enough, however, as the field experimenter must then seek to understand i) the mechanisms underlying those relationships, and ii) more distant phenomena that have the same underlying structure. Until these dual goals are achieved, one cannot reap the true rewards of field experimentation.


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