When Serena Williams announced she was retiring from tennis earlier this year, critics were quick to judge her for quitting.
“Everybody was talking about how she was quitting and she said, ‘No, I’m not quitting, I’m evolving.’ So what’s going on here? The idea of quitting is so loathsome to us that we have to wrap it up in a euphemism,” author and poker champion Annie Duke said in the latest episode of the Best New Ideas in Money podcast.
Duke is a decision strategist and consultant who has written several books about decision making. As a former professional poker player, she not only took home more than $4 million, she won the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions — the only woman to do so.
Our cultural bias against quitting is impacting our decision-making in all areas of life, whether it be in our personal relationships, workplace decisions or investing choices, Duke said on the podcast.
“One of the problems that we have is that the way we think about quitting is very negative, and the way we think about grit and perseverance is really positive,” she said on the podcast. “We view grit as a virtue and quit as a vice. Grit builds character, whereas quitting is an act of cowardice.”
This societal fear of quitting stems from a few factors, Duke said. One is sure-loss aversion — how opposed people are to taking a loss on paper and turning it into a sure loss.
Another is the sunk-cost effect — that people have a tendency to continue an endeavor if they’ve already sunk money, time, or effort into it, even if it’s not the most rational decision to keep going.
Why are we so reluctant to quit? How do we become better at it, and is there ever a right time to throw in the towel? Learn more in this week’s podcast.
Tune in every week to MarketWatch’s Best New Ideas in Money podcast with Stephanie Kelton, economist and a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University, and MarketWatch reporter Charles Passy. Each week, they explore innovations in economics, finance, technology and policy that rethink the way we live, work, spend, save and invest.