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On Quitting

Roy Takeno reading paper in front of office (LOC)
Roy Takeno reading paper in front of office (LOC); Adams, Ansel, photographer. (Library of Congress)

Last week Canadian television journalist Kai Nagata quit his job and blogged about why. It’s a long read, and worth it.

I enjoyed his post a lot, both as someone prone to quitting jobs, and as someone keen to see principled people speak up about how their chosen industry could do better.

This morning, CBC radio show The Current had Nagata on as a guest, and he’s as articulate and clear-headed while speaking as he is in writing.

The Current also played reactions to Nagata’s blog post from other Canadian journalists. Many of them seemed very critical of him for reasons I find baffling. I don’t understand why people take his quitting personally when Nagata did an outstanding job of not ranting or blaming or name-calling as he criticized the formulaic, entertainment-focused, ratings-enslaved system of television news.

Lots of journalists seemed put out by the fact that Nagata is 24 years old. They say that if he’d stuck around longer, he’d X, Y or Z.

Look, I’ve been there. Every damn job I’ve had I’ve been the young precocious one, rapidly taking on more responsibility and expectation. And with every damn job I’ve quickly come up against frustrations. Big frustrations. And just because other people don’t find the same things frustrating, or just because some choose to repress their frustration so they can get their job done, doesn’t mean my decision to act on my frustration is wrong, counter-productive, immature or impulsive.

People seem inclined to want other people to have the same experience they had. If they worked slavishly for thirty years to accomplish what they accomplished, then it’s somehow not fair or not right or not real or not deserved if someone accomplishes something similar in a far shorter period of time. That’s short-sighted, selfish bullshit.

The reason I’m unemployable is that I’m unhappy working in someone else’s organization. I think too fast and I’m too uncomfortable compromising some of my immoveable principles. I have a very hard time accepting a refusal to change or experiment when I think that change or experimentation will be productive.

It’s not immature of me to say these things. It’s the result of quitting enough jobs to have developed a very productive level of self-awareness.

Some of us aren’t wired to effect change from within. Some of us are wired to learn as much as we can while we enjoy it, and to let that learning stew until we’re ready to apply it to something else.

I’m sure I’m projecting far too much of my own experience and desires onto Kai Nagata’s story, but I don’t care. He’s done the television news industry a solid by telling his story, and he’s done the consumers of television news a solid. I very much hope he’s set himself up to continue shaking things up. I hope he finds tremendous opportunities to create an outlet for journalism that adheres to his strict standards.

It seems to me that Kai Nagata is the future of something. I’m excited to see what that something is.

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WordLily

I really like this post, and much of it resonates with me. This part — “Some of us aren’t wired to effect change from within.” — I need to think about a bit more.

Cynthia

Love it! I’ve rocked the boat a few times myself then quit when that boat refuses to budge. Funny though that after I’ve left, sometimes I hear that they put my ideas into action- like hey, she did know what she was talking about afterall! And sometimes they didn’t then wonder how I accomplished what I’ve accomplished and they are still stuck way back where in the old musty closet they live in. I don’t think I was made to work for somebody else either for the same reasons as yours. And a favorite saying of mine always comes up “Don’t conform, inform.” Keep on *rockin’* Kim!! You’re amazing & deserve much success!

Jean

You go girl! As someone who is approaching the age where a lot of people are retiring, I am still working for someone else out of financial necessity. I’ve run up against the same walls my entire working life — only one job that I can remember actually enjoying because my contribution was acknowledged and appreciated. Everywhere else it was the same old “we don’t do that here” or a matter of planting seeds and watching others take the idea, make it happen & take the credit. And like Cynthia, I’ve seen my ideas implemented after I’ve left, or seen depts in chaos because I was no longer there. Good luck to you, hang in there, and stand by your principles!

diandra jurkic-walls

Kim, loved this. Thanks! Di.

Matt Waldrop

Success and its oddly non-sequitor corollary, failure, have been rumbling around in my head all morning. It surprises me still that so many people see a course-adjustment–a personal choice to do things differently–as quitting. To remove one’s self from a path that is inappropriate is anything but failure; it’s the kind of choice that honors to its highest degree one’s true nature. It isn’t always popular, and it’s not always easy. Sometimes, it’s seen as abandonment, and perhaps there’s some truth in that. The willingness to abandon a faulty premise is at the core of progress. What’s more, it’s seldom done easily or painlessly. To those who would hurl their slings and arrows, I offer only my great hope that you will not suffer as the tide changes to follow those of us who correct our courses early on.

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