Martha Stewart is a quitter. She’s a pro at giving up. Doesn’t sound like the Martha Stewart you know? Think again.
Martha was: a model, a stockbroker, and a caterer before she became the Martha Stewart. She was successful at all of those things, but she gave them up. It was precisely this – her ability to see her future potential and to stay hungry for more – that enabled her to become the incredible success she is today.
Imagine if Martha had simply been satisfied with good enough. At any point in her career she might have said, “This is enough. I’m successful. Why take risks or leave a career that’s stable and respectable?” The people around her might have been encouraging her to stay. They might have thought she was crazy for giving up something that was well-paid and that was a decent thing to say at cocktail parties.
Martha the model. She was beautiful and admired – men wanted her, women wanted to be her. Isn’t that what every woman is supposed to want? Most likely, she would have been washed out and out of work by the time she was 40. She was, I’m guessing, forward-thinking enough to know that it wasn’t the right fit for her. So she quit.
Martha the stockbroker. She was making a lot of money and working at a prestigious firm. She was a woman in a man’s world, fulfilling all the promise of the women’s movement. She was probably working long hours and not seeing her daughter or her husband as much as she wanted. And maybe she found the work dull and uninspiring. She had the courage to say that even though the job was good, it wasn’t good enough for her. So she quit.
Martha the caterer. She was doing something she enjoyed and she was becoming ever more successful. She had bounced around in her career and maybe felt that she should just stick with this. But she knew that there was so much more. She could taste the possibility. She didn’t want to be just a caterer. She wanted to be the definitive source for everything lifestyle. So she moved on.
Martha spoke to us at BlogHer’12. I had never thought of myself as a Martha Stewart fan, but she won me over. She was funny, smart, and so confident in herself that it rubbed off on a room full of 5000 women. She talked about a wide range of things, but it was one image that stayed with me. The BlogHer organizers put up a slide of three pictures of Martha: Martha the model, Martha the stockbroker, Martha the caterer. In that moment, I realized that quitting and moving on is sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself.
We all make choices and we have to live with the consequences of those choices. But that doesn’t mean that we have to stay on one path forever. Think of your hero and look back on his or her life. I’m guessing she made a lot of false starts and wrong turns before she came upon the thing that made her into a hero. Let’s embrace the wrong turns. Let’s start quitting.