Do You Know When to Quit?

Sometimes you have to walk walk away -- either for a few hours, a few days... or perhaps forever.

I "quit" a specific task at least once per week -- abandoning my home office to escape a technical bug or business hurdle that seems insurmountable. It's rather amazing, but by the time I return a few hours later, the issue typically resolves itself. Or perhaps the solution popped into my head while I was actually away from the keyboard. Or maybe my business partner, Amy Katz, had a better way to attack the issue.

Of course, there are the longer-term "I quit" moments. 

Most of my resignations have involved a surprise opportunity that pulled me in a new direction. But once, more than a decade ago, I was passed over for a promotion. The employer preferred the "not invented here" route -- hiring an "expert" from the outside. Soon, the expert was quizzing me about how to run the department. 

Instead of resenting the situation, I changed it in a respectful way. I respectfully quit.

Why Can't You Behave?

Right now, I'm ready to "quit" again. And this time, it's one of those "short-term" resignations.

Our R&D project, involving a certain software platform, has taken longer than expected to sort out. It's wearing on me. And I'm sure it's wearing on our software developers. And therein resides the challenge: It's software.

Sometimes software behaves like a child. No matter how many times you make a demand; no matter how many times you shout an order; no matter how many times you write clear instructions... the child -- the software -- doesn't behave as expected.

The code seems right -- but the results (the digital behavior) is wrong. Even worse: The more demands you make the worse the software often behaves. 


Clean your room. Empty the dishwasher. Put your clothes away. Walk the dog. On their own, those are simple orders. But something breaks down when you string them all together... the child -- the software -- unexpectedly freezes or gets caught in an infinite loop of chaos.

10 Clean Your Room
20 Empty Dishwasher
30 Put Your Clothes Away
40 Walk Dog
50 If "true" then goto 70
60 If "false" then goto 10
70 Print = "Child succeeded."
80 End

Where's the bug? At this point I don't have a clue. And nobody really understands how much effort you're putting into the software because broken or partial code doesn't count as progress.

  • The dishes wound up in a dresser drawer.
  • The clothes are in the kitchen cabinets.
  • The dog is hiding from the chaos.

What's the solution? Like a child, maybe our software needs a nap. A break from parental orders. And maybe the parents need a break, too. We need to walk away for a bit. Some time away from the kids -- er, the software -- makes you remember how much you love the journey in the first place.

We'll be back soon. Maybe later today. Certainly by Monday, July 6.

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