Edgar Guest: On Quitting

October 27, 2016

With the coming of a new year (a new day, week even) comes various resolves about quitting. There was a man who quit his job every 31st of December to refocus and assess whether what he is doing is what he would want to be spending his time on. The more typical fare would be to give up select vices and abandon negative traits serving as the fetter that keeps us from where we want to be.

A certain lightness and agility is required to move from one place to another. Stuck or not, whether we are able to bring ourselves to that new point is most often a combination of what we gave up to be there and how strongly we fought to keep from going back.

In this rather hard-hitting poem, Edgar Guest links grit with quitting and builds the meaning of both by asking whether we  are still able to obey our ‘rigid orders’ to ourselves when faced with not a chance to win but a likelihood to fail. He makes turning away from what gives joy a litmus test of grit.

It is human to be tempted to give up and settle with what is known to be the way things are. But we also know that we need to wake up and fight (the last of Woody Guthrie’s simply but powerfully penned New Year’s resolutions) to realize our dreams.

As the week opens, may you and I, have the grit to continue playing this tough game of making the body obey the mind (and not the other way around!).


On Quitting
Edgar Guest

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you quit a thing that you like a lot?
You may talk of pluck; it’s an easy word,
And where’er you go it is often heard;
But can you tell to a jot or guess
Just how much courage you now possess?

You may stand to trouble and keep your grin,
But have you tackled self-discipline?
Have you ever issued commands to you
To quit the things that you like to do,
And then, when tempted and sorely swayed,
Those rigid orders have you obeyed?

Don’t boast of your grit till you’ve tried it out,
Nor prate to men of your courage stout,
For it’s easy enough to retain a grin
In the face of a fight there’s a chance to win,
But the sort of grit that is good to own
Is the stuff you need when you’re all alone.

How much grit do you think you’ve got?
Can you turn from joys that you like a lot?
Have you ever tested yourself to know
How far with yourself your will can go?
If you want to know if you have grit,
Just pick out a joy that you like, and quit.

It’s bully sport and it’s open fight;
It will keep you busy both day and night;
For the toughest kind of a game you’ll find
Is to make your body obey your mind.
And you never will know what is meant by grit
Unless there’s something you’ve tried to quit.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: