I believe I’ve slept on this topic more than any other that I can recall. “Quitting” or “to quit” conjures up conflicting reactions. To abruptly quit one’s job, or simply give up prematurely on a worthy endeavor, are negatives. To quit a harmful habit, on the other hand, or an abusive, dangerous relationship – those are positives. That said, to pursue a better job, or seek help toward achieving that worthwhile endeavor (or relationship), are positive, commendable, necessary and, indeed, admirable actions.

In the title role in the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke,” Paul Newman always emerged bloody but unbowed. Warner Bros. Entertainment, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Now and then in my life (and frankly, quite recently), someone said: “Buddy, I don’t know how much more you could have done. I don’t know a more tenacious person. You gave it all you’ve got, man.” The reference was to a business venture that failed several years ago. I steadfastly refused to “quit” – to accept failure or defeat when the handwriting was clearly on the wall. Yet I survived to be able to write this.

Many of my favorite movies and books are populated by characters who refuse to “quit.” When I was a much younger man, I was mesmerized by Paul Newman’s portrayal of Luke in “Cool Hand Luke.” In the prison yard fight scene, when a bigger, stronger George Kennedy (in the role of Dragline) says, “Stay down. You’re beat,” Luke gets up, grins and responds, “You’re gonna hafta kill me.” He endures more brutal punishment but wins the respect of Dragline and the other prisoners – by not “quitting.” Later in the movie, he wins a bet, to even greater acclaim, by eating 50 hard-boiled eggs.

A few years later, Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky” endures a savage beating by Apollo Creed, only to win not just Apollo’s respect but also Hollywood’s. I think we’re up to “Rocky XXIII” at this point. Talk about enough already, huh?

In literature, I drove over to a Camden book signing a few years ago to have David McCullough autograph copies of his biography “The Wright Brothers” to my grandsons. Orville and Wilbur were classic never-give-uppers. Failure after failure eventually led to the birth of modern aviation.

I’ve a picture of a 50-ish Frank Sinatra (a Jersey Boy) on my wall. The quote below, attributed to (actor) Robert Mitchum, reads: “Sinatra’s the only guy in town I’d be afraid to fight, I might knock him down – but he’d keep getting up till one of us was dead.” Perhaps a bit extreme, that.

Courage, tenacity and perseverance are all admirable qualities. But so is “seasoned intelligence”; i.e., wisdom. The issue is not “quitting” – it’s knowing when enough is enough.  When it’s time to “stop the bleeding” – to live to fight another day.

I hope to have made my point, and contributed to this discussion. But it’s time now to quit, and hard boil a few (2) eggs for lunch.

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