The Dip

The Dip – by Seth Godin

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The Dip – by Seth Godin

A great short book that explains why there’s always a ‘dip’ in your projects on your journey to becoming the best in the world – be that getting a promotion, building a business, writing a book, falling in love… anything! At the start, as you put in more effort you’ll see good results. Then, there’s a dip. You’ll put in more and more effort but your results won’t improve. This is where most people quit. If you can push through the dip after everyone else has quit, all of a sudden you’ll appear to be an overnight success because you’ve become the best in the world.

“The extraordinary benefits of knowing when to quit (and when to stick)”

The Dip Summary

‘Quitters never win and winners never quit’ is actually bad advice. Winners quit all the time – they just quit the right stuff at the right time. When you have a lot of ideas and a lot of options ahead of you, it’s important to select the right project to start at the right time. 

In this case, the ‘right’ project is the one you’re going to stick with and the one that will end up with the best results. Before we dive into any calculations or mapping out a decision matrix, let’s talk about the three trajectories our project could take: a cliff, a cul-de-sac or a dip.   

Curve 1: The Dip. At the beginning of any new project, it is fun and very engaging. You will have some early wins – you’ll see rapid improvement, people will give you a pat on the back, you might make your first sale, you might write your first blog post or record your first podcast episode. But these early achievements don’t last long. Very soon you’ll hit ‘The Dip’. The Dip is the long hard slog between starting and mastery. In The Dip, increased effort doesn’t necessarily lead to increased reward. It tough in The Dip, because it might feel like you’re not making any progress. It may be tempting to quit. But if you stick to it and push through The Dip, one day you’ll get out the other side and achieve exponential success. These are the project we should be selecting.

Curve 2: The Cul-de-sac. For some projects, no matter how long you work on it, you don’t really go anywhere. It doesn’t get better or worse, it just is. The shape of the cul-de-sac is just flat – increased effort has no impact on results. The curve never really goes up, it never really goes down, it just stays the same. It’s not getting any worse, but it’s not getting any better. And it doesn’t lead to any big pay off at the end. The cul-de-sac is a dead end; every day you are on this curve is another day of learning something that isn’t useful.  

Curve 3: The Cliff.  For some activities you may make little improvements, it may be enjoyable at the time, but sooner or later you will encounter a big drop. Smoking is an example of a cliff. At first, you might get a sense of confidence or you might feel cool by being a smoker. But very quickly, the downsides start to stack up – people don’t want to hang around you as much, you can’t function without a smoke break, and your health rapidly deteriorates. Avoid cliffs at all costs.    

The Dip is obviously the project we want to select. But the worst possible thing we can do is quit while we’re in The Dip. When it’s getting boring or tough or repetitive and it doesn’t feel like we’re making any progress, it’s very tempting to quit. And most people do. But that’s precisely why The Dip is so valuable. Because so many people are quitting half way, it becomes scarce to make it through the curve to collect the pot of gold waiting at the end. This scarcity is your friend. Generally, to longer and harder The Dip, the more people quit, the more scarce it becomes, the bigger the pot of gold and the greater the rewards at the other end of the curve.   

For you, it’s important to pick your Dip and stick to it. The worst possible thing you can do is quit in the middle of the Dip. It means that the time and energy you’ve already invested is wasted. It’s OK to quit a project, but not in the middle of the Dip. The best time to quit is BEFORE you even begin. Recognise that any project worth doing is going to have a Dip. Understand that there will be a long hard slog in the middle that you’ll have to push through. If you’re not willing to push through it, it’s far better to quit now and pick a Dip that you ARE willing to commit to.   

Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one of the other‘.


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