Archives for quitting



Failure Is Your Friend: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This week’s episode is called “Failure Is Your Friend.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

This is a natural followup to last week’s episode, “The Upside of Quitting.” Why are so many people so reluctant to quit projects or jobs or relationships that have soured? One reason, Stephen Dubner argues, is that we tend to equate quitting with failure, and there’s a huge stigma attached to failure. But … should there be? In their new book Think Like a Freak, Dubner and Steven Levitt  argue that perhaps we’re not thinking clearly about failure. Failure, they say, can be your friend:

LEVITT: I always tell my students — fail quickly. The quicker you fail the more chances you have to fail at something else before you eventually maybe find the thing that you don’t fail at.

Read More »



The Upside of Quitting: A Freakonomics Radio Rebroadcast

This week’s podcast is a rebroadcast of our episode called “The Upside of Quitting.”  (You can subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript.)

You know the saying “a winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.” To which Freakonomics Radio says … Are you sure? Sometimes quitting is strategic, and sometimes it can be your best possible plan. To help us understand quitting, we look at a couple of key economic concepts in this episode: sunk costs and opportunity costs. Read More »



How to Make People Quit Smoking: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is called “How to Make People Quit Smoking.” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.) The gist: the war on cigarettes has been fairly successful in some places. But 1 billion humans still smoke — so what comes next?

In the U.S., roughly 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit. But when they try, some 90 percent of them fail. So what does get people to smoke less? Something must be working: the smoking rate in the U.S. has fallen by more than half.

Kenneth Warner, an economist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, has been doing tobacco-policy research since the 1970’s. One of the most powerful smoking deterrents, he says, is making cigarettes more expensive. Read More »



Anthony Weiner’s Sunk Costs?

Anthony Weiner is still running for mayor of New York as I write this, though that status may soon change. Not coincidentally, a reader named Jon Creem (an unfortunate aptonym in this case?) writes in to say:

Yesterday I enjoyed listening to your show about “Quitting.” The segment where you explained “sunk cost” was especially interesting.

I took the explanation as people’s unwillingness to give up due to the amount of investment (time, money, etc) they have already made.

Then, when catching up on the latest Anthony Weiner mayoral saga, I couldn’t help make a connection.

Is this guy refusing to remove himself from the race because he feels he has done too much already to drop out now? In my opinion the odds are stacked against him regardless of how good a politician he is.

I assume continuing to campaign will only cost him more time and money. Is it worth it for him to continue?

Insofar as pride and ego are components of sunk cost, I guess Jon is right. On the other hand, it doesn’t strike me that Weiner’s continuing to run is really about sunk cost. Modern politics is so often an exercise in ego, hubris, and narcissism — and if I were to armchair-analyze Weiner, I’d suggest that these factors are much more important than the sunk costs of time and money. Read More »



Let’s Quit Together

If you’ve heard our podcast “The Upside of Quitting,” you’ll know that we think that strategic quitting has its place. A new paper looks at the peer effects of quitting. From the introduction:

Quitting is an important issue but its determinants have not received extensive research. Quitting lets an individual benefit from alternative opportunities but it usually also has costs, either monetary or moral, or both. There are also many reasons to believe that quitting is affected by social interactions and by observing others’ quitting decisions. This is particularly the case when thinking about quitting addictive behavior.

The researchers paid 104 undergrads to work for up to 75 minutes: a compulsory 15 minute followed by 60 minutes in which the participant could stop working at any time. Researchers Julie Rosaz, Robert Slonim, and Marie Claire Villeval found that if workers are not alone and allowed to interact with each other, they are more prone to quit at the same time: Read More »



Confessions of a Racecar Driver

Last week we got an email from a reader named Daniel Herrington. He had just finished listening to our podcast, “The Upside of Quitting,” and wanted to tell us about a big quit he’s been pondering recently.

Daniel is a 25 year-old race car driver. He’s also an engineering graduate student at Duke. On the race track, he’s had enough success to keep at it: he’s won at Chicagoland Speedway, and had multiple top ten finishes. But it’s not quite enough to convince him that racing’s the right path. The sport is super expensive; plus, Daniel’s success has been a bit spotty. He’s only completed 2 full seasons in the last 7 years. Keep at it, and he might wind up a star. But he could also end up a middle-aged, burned-out race car driver with no other career to fall back on. So Daniel is hedging and pursuing a graduate degree.

Daniel agreed to answer some of our questions. The result is an honest, revealing piece, one that (especially given the tragic death of Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon last weekend) sheds light on the tough decisions many young drivers face, where they have to weigh the considerable risks of the sport against its obvious thrill. Read More »



Should I Quit My Job?

In our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “The Upside of Quitting,” we talk about strategic quitting. You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.

One of the hardest things in life to quit is probably a career: what if you were great at your job, making decent money, but it’s just not what you want?

Dubner talks to a very interesting woman who was faced with such a choice, and how she came to her decision to just quit.

From the Freakonomics Radio live show in St. Paul, MN earlier this year (part of which was another podcast earlier this year), here’s the interview with Allie – with an animation by the talented Benjamin Arthur. Read More »



The Upside of Quitting

Season 1, Episode 5

You know the bromide: “a winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.”

To which Freakonomics Radio says … Are you sure? Sometimes quitting is strategic, and sometimes it can be your best possible plan.

That is the gist of our latest Freakonomics Radio podcast, “The Upside of Quitting.” This is the last of five hour-long podcasts we’ve been putting out lately. Some of you may have heard them on public-radio stations around the country, but now all the hours are being fed into our podcast stream. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen live via the media player above, or read the transcript here.)

To help us understand quitting, we look at a couple of key economic concepts in this episode: sunk cost and opportunity cost. Sunk cost is about the past – it’s the time or money or sweat equity you’ve put into a job or relationship or a project, and which makes quitting hard. Opportunity cost is about the future. It means that for every hour or dollar you spend on one thing, you’re giving up the opportunity to spend that hour or dollar on something else – something that might make your life better. If only you weren’t so worried about the sunk cost. If only you could …. quit. Read More »