Tim Gittos

I'm an Australian currently living in Austin, TX in the USA.

I currently earn a living programming, though I wouldn't call myself a programmer. If I had to attach a label to myself, I'd use the term autodidact.

I love learning, and my favorite things to learn about are programming, computer graphics, AI & machine learning, robotics, painting and creativity.

You're an Adult - It's OK to be a Quitter

Last updated on 18 Oct 2013

Since April, I’ve been working on an MVP for Adventurin’, mostly before work and on weekends. Then I got an email from Coursera stating that two of the courses on my watch list were being offered again. I enrolled in both, and started watching lectures, taking notes and completing assignments at work, during lunches and late afternoon downtime when your brain starts to feel like mush.

I was plugging along for nearly a month in this fashion, then work hit me like a tonne of bricks. All of a sudden I had projects to finish on tight deadlines, and I started to starve the online courses so that I could finish actual work. Before I knew it, I found myself 3 weeks behind on one of my courses, and I’m currently 2 weeks behind on the other. Until recently, I was determined to finish everything, and it was causing me a lot of stress.

I started to have trouble sleeping, and was constantly preoccupied by what I should be doing at any given moment. I had so much to do and so many deadlines. Then it occurred to me one night that half of my deadlines are self imposed. Not only are they self imposed, but they’re for things that don’t really matter right now.

So I quit the online courses.

Yes, I would have loved to finish. I think they’re worthwhile and will help me improve my day-to-day programming. But the amount of stress they were causing me was robbing my family and myself out of piece of mind and ultimately wasn’t doing me any good. I can always go back and pick them up where I left them off.

When we’re growing up, a lot of us a taught that quitting something is bad. That you should be ashamed that you couldn’t follow through with an obligation. While I’m not going to analyze that in much depth, I can see some merit – you’re teaching grit and building a character that won’t just quit because something is hard. Some of those feelings carry into adult life and it’s important to recognize that the same rules no longer apply.

That’s not to say that you can just drop all your obligations when things do get hard. I didn’t quit my job and I’m not stopping work on the MVP. I’m quitting the extra stuff that isn’t essential. I’m not letting anyone else down but myself, and that’s OK because I’m gaining piece of mind. In fact I’m also helping my family – I’m not a pleasant person to be around when I’m distracted or stressed out.

It’s easy sometimes to push yourself past your limits, to a point where it’s negatively affecting your life. If you ever find yourself in that situation, it’s OK to quit doing some of the things that are causing stress. Just be mindful of who you might be disappointing. You don’t need to be ashamed that you quit if you’re doing it for the right reasons.