Seven days ago, I wrote something about quitting which sparked a great conversation at a BBQ today. It seems quitting, or even talk of quitting, ignites much passion and thought in many so I thought it deserved at least one more go around.
As we gathered to celebrate our mutual friend’s 30th birthday by devouring partially burnt snaggers and imbibing libations, the conversation drifted toward quitting and our desires. The two go hand in glove. Just like sausages and beer.
One wise, young friend maintained that quitting must have a purpose. Quitting requires intent and a deliberate choice. Without intent, quitting is simply giving up. Quitting is making the decision to stop one behaviour and replace it with something else. The something else can be nothing, but even this nothing is a deliberate nothingness.
But to give up is to stop a behaviour without concern for what will replace it. Without this intent, anything can and does replace the first behaviour. Giving up means we take no active part in what comes next. We are blown and tossed by the sea, driftwood at the mercy of the tide.
Another friend, let’s call him Ash, described how he likes quitting to gain clarity. He said that when he quits an activity for some period, he finds out quickly whether or not he wants to return to that activity. Quitting for him sharpens the sword.
For many, Michael Jordan represents athletic excellence and determination. Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because he wasn’t good enough. This experience drove him to train hard to win a place on his high school team, go to college and then advance to the NBA. Jordan’s career is a thing of legend. Six NBA Championships, scoring titles, MVP awards, accolade after accolade confirming MJ as the greatest of all time. Hustle, intensity and an insatiable drive to be the best propelled His Airness to the pinnacle of his sport.
However, many people forget that Jordan quit basketball three times.
You could argue that strategic quitting shaped the G.O.A.T.
After winning three NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan rocked the sporting world by quitting basketball to take up his lifetime passion of baseball. Without Jordan, the Bulls weren’t the same and did not win any more championships. That is of course, until Jordan returned. Quitting basketball allowed Jordan to delve into previously unexplored territories such as baseball, as well as helping to make the greatest Looney Tunes movie of all time: Space Jam.
Sometimes the worst to happen to a person is for them to get what they want. Countless times I have desired an object or experience and worked hard to achieve my goal only to be disappointed by the result. It turns out that I never really wanted it; I just thought I did. Nevertheless, it clarified by degrees what I did want.
Maybe this is what happened to Jordan.
Quitting the NBA to try baseball wasn’t satisfying. The thing that he thought he wanted wasn’t it. Deep down, Jordan wanted to make movies with Bugs Bunny.
Or play basketball.
Jordan returned to the Bulls and won three more NBA Championships before retiring again, this time, to become an administrator. Once more, though, time away sharpened his resolve to play basketball as he returned to the court. Not nearly as many comebacks as John Farnham, but he’s getting close.
What we see with Jordan is that quitting isn’t fatal or final.
Sometimes it brings contrast. Quitting can provide the light and shade to confirm or deny desire.
This reflects well the Christian discipline of solitude. Time in silent reflection. The opportunity to quit whatever it is you are doing and replace it with a deliberate nothingness. Intentional space.
Try this now: stop reading this article for ten minutes. Turn off the radio. Disconnect from whatever else you may be doing. Be still. Close your eyes if you need to and let go of the thoughts that currently occupy your mind. Set a timer. If you want, you can return to those thoughts afterwards.
Ten minutes of silence
The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
What you choose to comeback to is up to you.