Lessons in Quitting with Rory McIlroy

After Rory McIlroy walked off the golf course in the middle of his ninth hole last week, some commentators took issue. McIlroy blamed his exit on wisdom tooth pain, prompting tough-guy columnists to tell him to wise up… Grin and bear it… Quitting is inexcusable… When the going gets tough… and so on… I suppose some corporate bigwigs and maybe even some fans had invested a lot in McIlroy trudging on through his miserable round, but it’s hard to feel bad for Nike, and who wants to see their favorite golfer shank into the woods again and again? Was McIlroy really failing anyone?

Quitting is often good for you. I have some clichés of my own as evidence. Say you are stuck in a rut in this wagon train we call life. You could just keep going and end up somewhere in Utah, but maybe Utah is not your promise land. well, then you have to stop and quit the wagon, and gather the scavenged branches of life, and jimmy the wagon wheel out of the rut. Only then can you get where you want to go.

My wife was actually stuck in a rut once. This was the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where life is more like a wagon train. There, during mud season (the thought of a season devoted to mud is enough to make me want to quit something), cars dig tracks in the roads which then freeze over in winter. The tires of Emily’s little Nissan got locked in these frozen ruts. She couldn’t turn right when she needed to. She kept heading straight and – bam! – she smacked right into a brand new pick-up truck.

Quitting sounds like the easy way out, the pansy move. But it’s not always easy to drop everything you are doing, to just stop. It’s often easier to muddle through without asking yourself wherefore. Quitting takes cojones, and sometimes it’s the only way to wisdom (tooth joke here).

McIlroy seemed to realize this the other day. Quitting, he said, “just sort of released a valve… and all that sort of pressure that I’ve been putting on myself just went away. And I was like: ‘Just go out and have fun. It’s not life or death out there. It’s only a game.’ I had sort of forgotten that.”

My brother tells this story: In high school, he had a summer job as a bagger at Acme grocery store. His boss called him to Aisle Five (pasta, tomato sauce) one day. There was a crowd gathered around something. It was, for lack of a more evocative word, a big piece of shit. Joe was pretty sure it was of human origin. Oddly, the shit was covered in cinnamon. This had something to do with grocery store training. When there’s a turd in the aisle, the manager believed, you are supposed to put cinnamon on it. Now it was my brother’s job to clean up this spiced shit.

“I was in high school,” Joe says, “and there were all these hot college girls working there. They were all watching me. I couldn’t deal with the shit in front of them.”

“I didn’t really know how to quit,” he says, “except from watching cop shows, so I took off my vest and my name tag, and handed them to the boss like I was turning in my badge and gun. Then I walked out.”

Maybe, instead of moralizing about struggle for struggle’s sake, we should teach our kids how to quit – or maybe we should just give them vests and name tags. Turn them in when you’re done.

A good article, Austin. But is it right?
I hope so!!!!

Tom Farrelly    Mar 8, 11:33 AM    #

I love this. And yes, it is exactly correct.

— Emily    Mar 8, 01:48 PM    #

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