The Dip – Seth Godin

Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you have ever wondered if you are barking up the wrong tree or if it is time to quit something but do not want to give up for fear of being seen to have failed, The Dip is a must-read for you. An impressive set of insights into when to quit and when to persevere. This is a significant consideration for individuals, as most organisations and societies count on people quitting.


“Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new.”

Big Message/ Key Quotes:

  • Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other, and you really cannot try to do everything, especially if you intend to be the best in the world. The desire to do everything means you will spread yourself very thin, which means nothing will get the priority it needs. Focus on becoming the thing that makes you “the best in the world at it”. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray all focus on playing tennis and strive to be world number 1, they do not do a hundred other forms of sport or activity and dedicate all energies to the thing they want to achieve the most 
  • Zipf’s law: Winners win big because the marketplace loves a winner. This applies to every facet of life, from getting into universities, landing key roles, writing a hit song. When it comes to looking at any form of ranking from music, films and flavours of ice cream, there is always an out-right winner, aka a short-head, and a long tail of everything else  
  • Why does number 1 matter – people are time-poor, and if your well-being is on the line, you will truncate a search process for finding someone that can help and go straight to the best in the field. In her recent book Banking on It, Anne Boden explains when she decided to start up Starling bank, she went to KPMG, as most from the industry will know they are the best at supporting organisations in acquiring their banking licence. Anne didn’t go to the “average” firm that could help her, and she relied on the number 1 in the market to help get her bank started   
  • The mass market is dying. There is no longer one best song or one best kind of coffee. Now there are a million micromarkets, but each micromarket still has a best. If your micromarket is “organic markets in Tulsa,” then that’s your world. And being the best in that world is the place to be. The key to deciding how you play in the market, as the world is getting larger and more comfortable to access, means variety grows exponentially for consumersAt the same time, the world is getting smaller because the categories are getting more specialised. I can now find the best gluten-free bialys available by overnight shipping. So while it’s more important than ever to be the best in the world, it’s also easier—if you pick the right thing and do it all the way. More places to win and the stakes are higher, too.
  • The Magic of Thinking Quit – The Don’t Quit mantra is the one that is most typically wheeled out when the going gets tough. We are taught to persevere, and good results will follow. But if that is true, then why do less talented people than yourself get promoted? And why do companies less progressive than yours win market share? Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organisations. Reactive quitting and serial quitting are the bane of those that strive (and fail) to get what they want. 
  • Almost everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip – The Dip is that period between starting something and getting good at that thing, i.e. mastering it. The Dip manifests in several different ways; the fun of quickly succeeding at a beginner qualification, versus the slog to passing exams to become an expert, the gap between luck and accomplishment. 2 curves come into play when you are trying to achieve a goal, or become an expert in something. Curve 1: The Dip and Curve 2: The Cul-de-Sac
  • Curve 1: The Dip – It’s easy to be a CEO. What’s hard is getting there. There’s a huge Dip along the way. If it was easy, there’d be too many people vying for the job and the CEOs couldn’t get paid as much, could they? Scarcity, as we’ve seen, is the secret to value. If there wasn’t a Dip, there’d be no scarcity. With curve 1 if you are in a Dip, stick to it. It will come right in the long run. The key here is that things should be getting noticeably better over time, unlike the Cul-de-Sac Curve 
  • Curve 2: The Cul-de-Sac – you slog, put lots of effort in over time, and nothing changes; it is not worse and nor is it better, a bit of a dead-end job. If you on this type of Curve, get off it quick! Being on this path has a significant opportunity cost in that it is keeping you away from something else that could be more worthwhile and satisfying 
  • The is another, rare, Curve 3: The Cliff – The best way to explain this Curve is the smoking cigarettes….smoking is designed to be almost impossible to quit, the longer you do it, the better it feels to continue smoking. The pain of quitting just gets bigger and bigger over time. I call this Curve a Cliff—it’s a situation where you can’t quit until you fall off, and the whole thing falls apart.
  • If It Is Worth Doing, There’s Probably a Dip – Tennis has a Dip. The difference between a mediocre club player and a regional champion isn’t inborn talent—it’s the ability to push through the moments where it’s just easier to quit.
  • Curve 2 and Curve 3 always lead to failure – if you are in either QUIT NOW! 
  • When Jack Welch remade GE, the most fabled decision he made was this: If we can’t be #1 or #2 in an industry, we must get out. Why sell a billion-dollar division that’s making a profit quite happily while ranking #4 in market share? Easy. Because it distracts management attention. It sucks resources and capital and focus and energy.
  • The Lie of Diversification—faced with the Dip, many individuals and organisations diversify. If you can’t get to the next level, the thinking goes, invest your energy in learning to do something else. In real terms getting through the Dip is a better option than starting something new. Just think what succeeding in your current area would mean if you stuck with it 
  • If you want to be a superstar, then you need to find a field with a steep Dipthere are significant barriers to overcome when you are looking to be better than anyone else in your chosen area, and this is why these barriers and subsequent Dips exist, otherwise there would be no Superstars
  • Know the reasons why you could fail before you start and plan to mitigate these; time, money, fear, not serious about it, lose interest, thinking short term, and not picking the right field. These seven areas need to be considered before a new venture is started
  • Life check-out queues – There are queues everywhere….not just at the supermarket, where frequently people change lines intending to get served quicker, the issue is as soon as you change lines you start from the beginning again. Do you know an entrepreneur-wannabe who is on his sixth or twelfth new project? He jumps from one to another, and every time he hits an obstacle, he switches to a new, easier, better opportunity. And while he’s a seeker, he’s never going to get anywhere.
  • If you hang around in a company too long, you get branded…if you have a made a couple of sideway moves, and yet you are successful, the organisation has not updated its image of you—time to move and re-invent elsewhere. 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
  • Three questions to ask before quitting – Am I panicking? In this case, quitting when in panic is normally an unbelievably bad decision. Who am I trying to influence? If you are trying to influence one person, i.e. your boss, persistence eventually will label you as a pest, so it is time to quit. What sort of measurable progress am I making? The aim here is to see noticeable, even if it subtle, progress being made as this is an indicator that you are moving forward 
  • Final thought – always question your motivations before quitting…a lot of the questions are highlighted above, as sometimes changing lanes is fruitful, and on other occasions, it can be costly

Why read this book?

We hear a lot about not quitting and sticking to things until you succeed. No one ever talks about the structure and strategy behind quitting, which is perhaps more valuable than blind faith. This book is written for anyone who thinks they may be wading through treacle in their careers and ensuring the best action plan. Genuinely informative and very thought-provoking. For me, this is a great checklist to ponder at least once a year, as the Dip is, as the author says, is the reason why we are all here. 





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