A Winner Never Quits?

by Matthew Arnold Stern

This speech won at the Area F-4 International Speech contest on March 24, 2007.

A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins. Do you agree with that statement?

My son recently quit baseball. That was a tough one for me, because I enjoyed participating in it with him. I was a coach, a manager, a board member, and the league’s secretary. The problem was that I was enjoying my son’s baseball experience more than he did. At the start of this season, he said, “Dad, I really don’t have it in my heart to play baseball right now. I just want to quit.”

I am also a believer in a “winner never quits,” but I’m a bigger believer that parents shouldn’t force their kids into activities that they don’t want to do. I let him quit, but I was very disappointed.

Then, I thought about the times when I quit.

When I was a kid, my thing was Scouting. I started as a Cub Scout, made my way through Webelos, and then I joined a Boy Scout troop with a dedicated Scoutmaster. Unfortunately, he was dedicated to furthering the Scouting experience for his sons and their friends at the expense of everyone else. Guess where I sat in that circle.

What was even worse was that dads were expected to participate, but mine wasn’t around any more. My dad cheated on my mom. And with my parents going through a divorce, Scouting didn’t seem so important any more. So, I quit.

I was out of Scouting for about a year when my brother, who was about to move up to Boy Scouts, learned about a troop that was supposed to be better. I decided to give Scouting another try. Two years later, I earned my Eagle Scout, the highest award in Scouting. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this in my old troop.

Let’s move ahead a few years when I went off to college. I went to UCLA, home of the Final Four Bruins! (We were also in the NCAA tournament when I was there.) I was proud to go to UCLA, but things began to change. Tuition went up, and the financial aid I depended on disappeared. I couldn’t afford to go to UCLA anymore. So, I quit UCLA and went to a less expensive college, Cal State Northridge.

Northridge didn’t just save me money; it saved my college career. They had night classes so that I could get a better paying job during the day. Instead of 500-student lecture halls, there were classes where I could interact with my professors. Some of them became my mentors. In 1985, I graduated Summa Cum Laude.

Now, let’s move ahead to recent times. Four years ago, the company where I worked had a merger of departments. They laid off my boss, someone who had brought me to that company and who was and still is a personal friend. They assigned me to this other manager. This is someone who had seven people leave her department within four years. The economy was rough then, and some of my colleagues in my field had been unemployed for two years. I was determined to make this situation work. Unfortunately, as my coworkers later reported to me, this manager was equally determined for me to fail.

I soon found myself in a situation where I had to quit or my manager would find a way to get rid of me. Even though I didn’t have another job lined up, I resigned. When I told my family this, my daughter, who was ten at the time, cheered, “Hurray, Daddy! You’re a hero! You didn’t chicken out!”

Two months later, I really became a hero. I found a new job at the company where I’m working at now. I really enjoy this position. I’m learning about new technology and an exciting new system for project development. I wouldn’t have experienced these things if I had managed to stay at my old company.

A winner never quits? Sometimes, you have to quit. You may be in a no-win situation or circumstances may force you to quit.

A quitter never wins? Every time I quit, it freed space in my life for something better and helped me regain passion that I had lost. I found the troop where I earned my Eagle Scout, the university where I graduated with honors, and a job I enjoy.

By quitting baseball, my son reminded me of something very important: Winners do quit, and quitting can help us to win.