Author: Seth Godin
Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
Year Published: 2007
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In a world with infinite choices, how do you stand out so that clients choose you over every other choice they have? According to Seth Godin, the key is to know which projects and opportunities to focus on and which to quit. His book, The Dip, is a short, motivational guide that teaches you when to quit and when to stick it out.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Winners never quit.” According to Godin, that’s not true. Winners quit all the time, they just quit the things that detract from their main pursuit. They don’t take up several side projects and divide their resources. Rather, they commit to pushing through the challenges and growing pains and mastering that one thing.
Why don’t many people achieve mastery?
Most people are pretty good at setting goals and/or starting projects. They get excited for a short period of time. Then, they experience one of three things: a dip (“the long slog between starting and mastery” where they realize this is going to take time and require a lot of effort), a cul-de-sac (the dead end project that never seems to move forward), or the cliff (a rare occurrence where people become addicted to something bad like cigarettes and have a difficult time quitting until something terrible happens).
The Dip is the difference between mediocrity and mastery – and chances are, for anything worth doing, there will probably be a Dip. This is especially true in business where people don’t want to hire someone who is “good enough”. They want the “best choice” as in “best for them, right now, based on what they know.”
To be “the best”, you must devote considerable time and resources to mastering whatever it is you set out to do. But the rewards are great. You’ll be a scarce resource in a marketplace of “me too” products and services. That scarcity is what makes your products and services valuable.
Unfortunately, most people quit before they make it through the dip.
They quit when the going gets tough or when they realize they don’t have the resources (money, manpower, time) required to make it through the dip. This, Godin says, is the absolute worst time to quit because you squander all the resources you’ve applied to the project – resources that could have been applied to pushing through the dip in another pursuit where you were more likely to become “the best”. Worse are the people who continue to waste resources when they’re stuck in a cul-de-sac and can’t move forward.
The biggest question readers will probably have will be “how do I know if I’m stuck in a dip or a cul-de-sac?” Godin explains that evaluating forward progress is the way to measure your success. If you aren’t moving forward and have dumped considerable resources into it, you’re probably in a cul-de-sac. If you’re making some progress, you’re probably in a dip.
To make it through the dip, you have to be extremely clear on your goals from the start and have a way to objectively measure your progress over the long term.
Since most learning curves inevitably include a string of mini-successes and failures, you’ll need to look at the overall trend – for instance, have you been able to learn from those failures/setbacks/challenges to become more successful?
In other words, it’s a matter of opportunity cost – if you have several things you could pursue, which one has the highest payout (in terms of money, happiness, etc)? To determine that, you need to set up criteria before you start that will help you evaluate along the way whether your continued persistence will pay off in the long run or whether you should quit and devote your time and energy to master something else. Otherwise, it’s much too easy to panic or become overwhelmed and quit in the middle when you experience hardships.
Illustrated by Hugh Macleod and under 100 pages, The Dip will take maybe an hour or two at most to read yet its ideas stick with you. Its premise is so simple that many people will attribute it to “common sense” and toss it aside. Yet, in the business world, common sense isn’t always so common and sometimes it takes restating the obvious many times for something to sink in.
As Godin writes, “Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.”