Monday, February 1, 2010

The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches you when to Quit (and When to Stick)

There are many things that my parents and teachers told me as a little girl that still ring true today, and if I'd only followed their advice consistently I'd be in a much better place than I am now. A few examples - "Save your money," "Always be on time," and "Don't drive over the speed limit." Yeah. Sometimes mother really does know best.

According to superstar marketer Seth Godin however, she doesn't always. In The Dip, Godin maintains that children should not be told "Never quit!" and instead, be forced to memorize something a bit more profound: "Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can't deal with the stress of the moment." Page 64.

"...the stress of the moment" - aka: The Dip - is defined as the space between starting something and mastering it. Choosing a direction and arriving at the destination. Short term pain that can lead to long term gain. Easy to read and agree with, less easy to correctly apply to life.

My three take-aways from the 87 page text:

  1. Be the Best in the World at what what you do. In order to do this, find the right world (or market, or hobby, or relationship) in which to operate, and define what The Best means there.
  2. Define the instances ahead of time where you should recognize a need to quit: when you are coping with a situation in which your hard work results in no change whatsoever, and when you are sticking with something that will only get more difficult to quit the longer you stay.
  3. Have the guts to believe that your goal is worth accomplishing, and keep highlighting the benefits of making it through The Dip.
Buried deep down in the psyche of most people lies an equation that Godin is fiercely trying to combat with this little book. Quitting = Failure. Godin encourages replacing the equation with three better ones: Quitting the wrong things equals Failure, Quitting the right things equals the freedom to become the Best in the World and Not Quitting the right things equals Mediocrity which also equals Failure.

My favorite quote from the book, and the one that is most pertinent at this particular point in my life is found on page 63:

"Coping is what people do when they try to muddle through. They cope with a bad job or a difficult task. The problem with coping is that it never leads to exceptional performance. Mediocre work is rarely because of a lack of talent and often because of the Cul-de-Sac*. All coping does is waste your time and misdirect your energy. If the best you can do is cope, you're better off quitting."

How apropos that I actually live in a Cul-de-Sac. Hmm.

*Cul-de-Sac. French for dead end.

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