The Dip: When to Quit and When to Stick | Seth Godin

Author: Seth Godin
Author: Seth Godin

Main Theme: Strategic Quitting
For People Who: Are wondering when to quit and when to stick.

The Dip by Seth Godin is a book I have seen on a lot of reading lists. I hadn’t really given it much thought as of late, but decided I would give it a read. The subtitle of the book is: a little book that teaches you when to quit and when to stick. I found this to be an immensely applicable book for all aspects of life. We are all quitters. We all quit things all the time. Do you still wet the bed? No – you quit doing that when you were young. The point of the book is to point you toward strategic quitting. Sometimes we quit something under the worst of circumstances: when we’re in the The Dip. That low point between the high of starting out and the benefits that come with success. The Dip is when most people quit. It’s when things get difficult. It’s when you’re panicking. It’s when you’re wondering if you should get outa the game. It’s at this point that you have to decide if you quit or if you stick. Even if you’re not considering quitting your job, this is a wonderfully short book I encourage you to pick up.

Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspirational writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time. –The Dip, pg. 3

Brief Summary

Normally I give big takeaways before launching into a brief summary of the book. However, given Seth Godin’s style of writing without chapters, but in sections, my big takeaways will serve as headings.

The Best In the World Are Quitters

Everyone quits all the time. The important thing to remember is that you quit the wrong stuff, stick to the right stuff, and make a decision on which you will do. Most people, if not all people, start something (job, hobby, etc) in order to be the best at it. Nobody starts a new venture hoping to be mediocre. But the question of being the “best in the world” is a subjective one. Godin writes, “I (the consumer) get to decide, not you. World is selfish. It’s my definition, not yours. It’s the world I define, based on my convenience or my preferences. Be the best in my world and you have me, at a premium, right now.” (pg. 11) So your task is to focus on the niche of people you want to be the best for. Whatever doesn’t help you do that is something you should quit.

Strategic quitting is the secret to successful organizations. Reactive quitting and serial quitting are the bane of those that strive (and fail) to get what they want. And most people do just that. They quit when it’s painful and stick when they can’t be bothered to quit. –The Dip, pg. 16

Three Situations That Lead to Quitting

  1. The Dipis the long slog between starting and mastery.” (pg 17) This is the period in which you really want to give up. It’s the point that you have lost the high of starting something new but haven’t yet found the satisfaction of success.  It can be a real drudge and is where most people quit their venture. It’s what Godin calls the “artificial screen” that separates those who succeed and those who don’t. The Dip can be relativity short or it can be decades.
  2. The Cul-De-Sac is a “situation where you work and you work and you work and nothing much changes.” (pg. 19) You’re new adventure is not going to pan out and you know it. It’s a dead-end job with no potential for advancement. This is the situation you need to quit, and quit now.
  3. The Cliff (rare but scary) is a situation “where you can’t quit until you fall off, and the whole thing falls apart.” (pg. 21) Like an addiction to smoking, Godin says, when the pleasure continues to increase and increase and increase, until you find out you have lung cancer and everything falls out from beneath you. That’s a Cliff that’ll make you quit.

If It’s Worth Doing, There’s Probably A Dip

No, the opposite of quitting is rededication. The opposite of quitting is an invigorated new strategy designed to break the problem apart…The Dip is flexible…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. –The Dip, pg. 51-52

I love that extended quote! A person with nothing to lose has a great deal of power. When you set aside your fear of what others think, when you put aside your worry of being fired – then it’s time to get to work. The pain and the struggle will get you to that point of not caring about your fate. Anything worth doing is going to cause short-term pain and struggle. But don’t give up long-term success and benefits simply because you are experiencing short-term pain. If the long-term benefits far outweight the short-term pain then don’t give up! Lean into the Dip and press through it.

Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment. The Dip, pg. 64

Under What Circumstances Would You Quit?

This is a powerful question Godin asks. Have you ever thought about that before? What would make you quit and walk away from something? If you haven’t thought about that question, maybe you should ask three important questions before deciding to quit:

  • Question 1: Am I Panicking? Are your emotions getting the best of you? You need to decide, in advance, when you’ll be willing to quit and what circumstances would drive you to do so.
  • Question 2: Who Am I Trying to Influence? If you’re trying to influence just one person, persistence has a cliff. If you’re trying to influence a market, some may have thought about you, but most probably haven’t even heard of you yet. If that’s the case, now may not be a good time to quit.
  • Question 3: What Sort of Measurable Progress Am I Making? To get to the end and succeed, you’ve got to be moving forward. “The challenge, then, is to surface new milestones in areas where you have previously expected to find none.” (pg. 69) Define a measurable goal and reach for it. Celebrating wins, even small wins, can push you through the Dip.

Conclusion

I found The Dip to be a really fantastic book! It took me over a week to read it though, when I’ve normally read 200-300 pagers in a week. I think it was because it made me stop and think. To reflect on my life. And not just about the jobs that I have, but upon the things in my life that I need to quit because they are hindering me from being the best I can be. The Dip is a very real thing. I believe that’s why this book is so impactful and thought provoking: because we’ve all experienced the Dip at some point in our lives or are currently in the Dip. Read it – you’ll enjoy it!

Information and Personal Rating

General Information:

Personal Ratings (1-10)

  • Applicability: 10
  • Readability: 9
  • Originality: 10
  • Recommendation: Yes – whether you’re happy where you’re at or not is irrelevant.
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