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The Dip by Seth Godin

The Dip

RATING: 8/10…READ: May 10, 2010

A book about quitting the wrong stuff and sticking with the right stuff. It’s a book about intense focus on mastery. A short pleasurable read; a book I pick up every so often for a kick in the ass.

Get at Amazon

“Quitter never win and winners never quit.” Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

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

There are hundreds of brands of bottled water, and they’re all mostly the same. So we don’t shop around for bottled water. There is no top for bottled water. Champagne is a different story. Dom Perignon is at or near the top, so we pay extra for it.

Best as in: best for them, right now, based on what they believe and what they know. And in the world as in: their world, the world they have access to.

So if I’m looking for a freelance copy editor, I want the best copy editor in English, who’s available, who can find a way to work with me at a price I can afford. That’s my best in my world.

If you’re not going to put in the effort to be my best possible choice, why bother?

If “Well, on one better showed up” a valid strategy for success? Are you hoping to become a success because you’re the only one being considered?

-At the beginning, when you first start something, it’s fun

-Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning you experience keeps you going. Whatever your new thing is, it’s easy to stay engaged in it.

-And then the dip happens. The dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.

The dip is the difference between the easy “beginner” technique and the more useful “expert” approach in skiing or fashion design.

Successful people don’t just ride out the dip. They don’t just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go. Just because you know you’re in the Dip doesn’t mean you have to live happily with it. Dips don’t last quite as long when you whittle at them.

The Cul-de-Sac (French for “dead end”) is a situation where you work and you work and you work and nothing much changes. It doesn’t get a lot better, it doesn’t get a lot worse. It just is.

What’s the point of sticking it out if you’re not going to get the benefits of being the best in the world? Are you overinvesting (really significantly overinvesting) time and money so that you have a much greater chance of dominating a market? And if you don’t have enough time and money, do you have the guts to pick a different, smaller market to conquer?

A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty times on one tree and get dinner.

If you want to be a superstar, then you need to find a field with a steep dip—a barrier between those who try and those who succeed.

Not only do you need to find a dip that you can conquer but you also need to quit all the Cul-de-Sacs that you’re currently idling your way through. You must quit the projects and investments and endeavors that don’t offer you the same opportunity. It’s difficult, but it’s vitally important.

Being better than 98 percent of the competition used to be fine. In the world of Google, though, it’s useless. It’s useless because all of your competition is just a click away, whatever it is you do. The only position you can count on now is best in the world.

Manufacturing dip: It’s easy and fun to start building something in your garage. It’s difficult and expensive to buy an injection mold, design an integrated circuit, or ramp up for a large-scale production.

Sales dip: most ideas get their start when one person—you—starts selling it. Selling the idea to stores or to businesses or to consumers or even to voters. But the Dip hits when you need to upgrade to a professional sales force and scale it up. In almost every field, the competitor that’s first with a big, aggressive sales force has a huge advantage.

Relationship dip: There are people and organizations that can help you later but only if you invest the time and effort to work with them now, even though now is not necessarily the easy time for you to do it. That kid who started in the mail room—who was always eager to do an errand for you or stay late to help out—she’s now the CEO.

I’d rather have you focus on quitting (or not quitting) as a go-up opportunity. It’s not about avoiding the humiliation of failure. Even more important, you can realize that quitting the stuff you don’t care about or the stuff you’re mediocre at or better yet quitting the Cul-de-Sacs frees up your resources to obsess about the dips that matter.

Three common checkout strategies: The first is to pick the shortest line and get in it. Stick with it, no matter what.

-The second is to pick the shortest line and switch lines once (at a maximum) if something holds up your line—like the clueless person with a check but no check-cashing card. But that’s it, just one switch.

-The third is to pick the shortest line and keep scanning the other lines. Switch lines if a shorter one appears. Continue this process until you leave the store.

-The problem with the third strategy is obvious. Every time you switch lines, you’re starting over. In your search for a quick fix, you almost certainly waste time and you definitely waste energy jumping back and forth.

Selling is about a transference of emotion, not a presentation of facts. If it were just a presentation of facts, then a PDF flyer or a web site would be sufficient to make the phone ring.

If you’re not able to get through the Dip in an exceptional way, you must quit. And quit right now. Because if your order book is 80 percent filled with prospects where you just sort of show up, you’re not only wasting your time, you’re also stealing your energy from the 20 percent of the calls where you have a chance to create a breakthrough.

The opposite of quitting isn’t “Waiting Around.” The opposite of quitting is rededication. The opposite of quitting is an invigorated new strategy designed to break the problem apart.

When the pain gets so bad that you’re ready to quit, you’ve set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose. And someone with nothing to lose has quite a bit of power. You can go for broke. Challenge authority. Attempt unattempted alternatives Lean into a problem; lean so far that you might just lean right through it.

Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it. At the same time, the smartest people are realistic about not imagining light when there isn’t any.

The time to look for a new job is when you don’t need one. The time to switch jobs is before it feels comfortable. Go. Switch. Challenge yourself; get yourself a raise and a promotion. You owe it to your career and your skills.

Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.

3 Questions to ask before quitting:

1. Am I panicking?

2. Who am I trying to influence? –Are you trying to succeed in a market? Get a job? Train a muscle? If you’re considering quitting, it’s almost certainly because you’re not being successful at your current attempt at influence.

–It you’re trying to influence just one person, persistence has its limits. It’s easy to cross the line between demonstrating your commitment and being a pest. If you haven’t influenced him yet, it may very well be the time to quit.

3. What sort of measurable progress am I making? – too often, we get stuck in a situation where quitting seems too painful, so we just stay with it, choosing not to quit because it’s easier than quitting. That’s choice—to stick with it in the absence of forward progress—is a waste. It’s a waste because of the opportunity cost—you could be doing something far better, and far more pleasurable, with your time.

Your commitment to the market needs to be unquestioned—it’s much cheaper and easier to build your foundation in one market than to flit from one to another until you find a quick success.

Quitting a job is not quitting your quest to make a living or a difference or an impact.

Quitting a job doesn’t have to mean giving up. A job is just a tactic, a way to get to what you really want. As soon as your job hits a dead end, it makes sense to quit and take your quest to a bigger marketplace—because every day you wait puts your goal further away.

Quitting before you start: Write it down. Write down under what circumstances you’re willing to quit. And when. And then stick with it.

If you enter a market that’s too big or too loud for the amount of resources you have available, your message is going to get lost.

Questions to ask of yourself:

-Is this a Dip, a Cliff (ex. Smoking- the more you do it, the worse it gets), or a Cul-de-Sac?

-If it’s a Cul-de-Sac, how can I change it into a Dip?

-Is my persistence going to pay off in the long run?

-What chance does this project have to be the best in the world?

-Can we make the world smaller?

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.