I read Seth Godin’s book The Dip over the weekend. The subtitle is “A little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick)”. And honestly, that’s the best one sentence summary of this book!
I think my take-away from this book is to take a look at the projects I’m involved with and determine if the payoff at the end is worth it or not. If it is, and times are hard, I’m in a dip and I need to push through. If the end isn’t worth it, quit. But don’t quit a dip because of stress.
It all seems pretty obvious, no? Seth even addresses that:
It’s easy to complain that the advice in this little book is brain-dead obvious. I mean, who doesn’t already know that the secret to success is to be successful, that providing a great product or service is the right thing to do, and that you shouldn’t quit in the face of adversity?
You don’t. That’s the bad news. The good news is that your boss and your competitors don’t know either.
I mean, you know it, but my guess is that you’re not doing anything about it. (pg 22-23)
So what is this “Dip” we’re talking about? Instead of defining it, let me share this example Seth gives that I think can also serve as a decent summary of the book:
Snowboarding is a hip sport. It’s fast, exciting, and reasonably priced; and it makes you look very cool. So why are there so few snowboarders? Because learning the basic skills constitutes a painful Dip. It takes a few days to get the hang of it, and, during those few days, you’ll get pretty banged up. It’s easier to quit than it is to keep going.
The brave thing to do is to tough it out and end up on the other side — getting all the benefits that come from scarcity. The mature thing is not even to bother starting to snowboard because you’re probably not going to make it through the Dip. And the stupid thing to do is to start, give it your best shot, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the Dip.
A few people will choose to do the brave thing and end up the best in the world. Informed people will probably choose to do the mature thing and save their resources for a project they’re truly passionate about. Both are fine choices. It’s the last choice, the common choice, the choice to give it a shot and then quit that you must avoid if you want to succeed. (pg 24)
When he talks about being the best in the world, he’s not necessarily referring to being the gold medalist snowboarder. He means that you can be the best in your world — the world you live in, your niche. He argues that if you can’t be the best, then quit. But the idea of quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It’s okay to quit, sometimes.
In fact, it’s okay to quit often.
You should quit if you’re on a dead-end path. You should quit if you’re facing a Cliff. You should quit if the project you’re working on has a Dip that isn’t worth the reward at the end. Quitting the projects that don’t go anywhere is essential if you want to stick out the right ones. You don’t have the time or the passion or the resources to be the best in the world at both. (pg 59)
Just as an aside, I noticed he had a few sentences in italics throughout the book. I thought, “he must think these are important statements”. So here they are:
- [Winners] just quit the right stuff at the right time. (pg 3)
- Quit the wrong stuff. (pg 4)
- Stick with the right stuff. (pg 4)
- Have the guts to do one or the other. (pg 4)
- Scarcity makes being at the top worth something. (pg 10)
- The Dip is the reason you’re here. (pg 28)
- Quitting creates scarcity; scarcity creates value. (pg 36)
- The opposite of quitting is an invigorated new strategy designed to break the problem apart. (pg 51)
- If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try. (pg 76)
As I reflect on this book, I realize visualizing the end-value is the piece I often miss. I think this is when I need external help to endure the dip. And that help needs to show up relationally — be it friends, co-workers, professionals, and God.