The Focus Course

Book Review and Notes: The Dip, by Seth Godin

I listened to the audiobook of Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, during a train ride up to Chicago. (The audiobook is read by Seth himself and is about the length of a podcast: just 90 minutes.)

During my recent conversation with Barrett Brooks, he mentioned The Dip. And so this week I wanted to compile and share my own book notes from The Dip.

My Number One Takeaway From The Dip

On every journey to mastery, there is a very difficult season of learning, persevering, and growth. This season is called the dip.

To push through the dip requires focus, diligence, and time.

And if you make it through the dip then you will do amazing things.

But if you quit when things become difficult, then you’ll only ever be mediocre (at that particular skill).

However… this doesn’t mean that you should always push through the dip. Because you cannot be a master at everything. And thus, there are times when you should quit the dip. This takes courage.

Rest assured, any endeavor or skill or enterprise that you take on, you will encounter the dip. If you know it’s coming then you can also be prepared to survive it.

Notes, highlights, quotes, paraphrases, and additional takeaways.

  • Quit the wrong stuff, stick to the right stuff.

  • Advantages go to those who either stick things out just a bit longer than most and end up getting the breakthrough. Or, to those who have the guts to quit early and move on to the next thing before wasting any more time / energy / resources.

  • Zipf’s Law — winners win big. Usually way bigger than than everyone else combined. (Such as Vanilla ice cream — the most popular ice cream flavor. It’s more than 2x more popular than Chocolate, which is the 2nd most popular flavor.)

  • Why does it matter to be number one? Because consumers intentionally seek out the “best” choice. Scarcity makes being at the top very valuable.

  • The mass market is dying. There are now a million micro markets. And thus there are lot of opportunities to be the best to your specific market. But it also means there is a lot more noise out there and it may be more difficult for you to get discovered.

  • When faced with infinite choices, people panic. They often just choose the industry leaders — they pick the default option. They settle for good enough. (Or maybe they pick nothing at all and simply move on.)

  • In a free market we reward the exceptional and we don’t care about proficiency in all areas. (Which is opposite of public education.)

    In the free market we want the absolute best dentist and we don’t care at all if she is a bad golfer or writer. However, in education, you have to be very good at everything.

    If you are trying to be remarkable, then you need to focus on the one thing you can do really well.

  • There is a difference between strategic quitting and reactive quitting. Which is why, if you know what the curves are, it can help you to make the right choice about quitting or persevering.

  • The Three Curves are…

    1. The Dip: the long slog between starting and mastering. Successful people don’t just ride out the dip; they lean into it and push through it. They work even harder during the Dip.

    2. The Cul-de-sac: this is a dead end. You just work and work and work and work and never make any forward progress. If you’re here, get out now. Don’t wait.

    3. The Cliff: This one is an extra curve. It’s an unhealthy situation where you can’t quit until you fall off. Such as smoking; you’re moving up and up and up and then drop off drastically.

  • If something is worth doing, it has a dip. Are you over-investing your time and money in order to dominate? Are you committing to power through the dip?

  • When you quit the dead ends (the Cul-de-sac), it frees up time and energy and resources so you can focus on the dip and focus on winning.

  • When faced with the dip, many people diversify. They try something new instead of focusing on one thing and wining.

  • If you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start. Find a dip you can conquer, and then quit all the Cul-de-sacs you’re

Seven reasons you might not become the best in the world:

  1. You run out of time and quit
  2. You run out of money and quit
  3. You get scared and quit
  4. You’re not serious and quit
  5. You lose interest or motivation and quit
  6. You focus on the short term and quit when it gets hard
  7. You picked the wrong thing because you don’t have the talent

You can plan for these 7 things. You can plan ahead to see if you have the time and resources. If you fail, it’s because you planned wrong or because you gave up too soon.

It’s possible that you don’t have the talent, but it’s not likely. Chances are good that you have the skills you need.

A few types of dips:

  • The Entrepreneur’s Risk Dip: Bootstrappers hit a wall and must invest to get through the dip. Such as hiring, or increasing infrastructure, etc.

  • The Relationship Dip: Build the relational equity now so that when the hardship of a relationship comes you have the foundation to continue.

  • The Ego Dip: You have to give up control and make it not about you or else you won’t make it through.

  • The Dip of Market Acceptance: Keep on pushing through even when the market doesn’t know you exist. Keep going until you hit that critical mass. You’re fighting against obscurity.

Quit the Dip or Else Push Through

  • Average is for losers (actual marketplace losers.) It feels safe, but it’s not. Because if you’re average then you’re not remarkable. And if you’re not remarkable then nobody is noticing you, buying from you, or talking about you.

  • If you’re not able to push through the dip, quit now and focus on what you CAN push through.

  • The opposite of quitting is not “waiting around”. The opposite of quitting is fighting harder, trying new tactics, focusing, etc.

  • Quitting in the dip is usually an emotional choice based on the feeling of short-term pain. Remind yourself of life at the end of the dip, and focus on the long-game so you can keep motivated.

  • If you’re not going to be #1 then quit now.

  • Getting off a cul-de-sac is not a moral failing. Don’t try to rationalize to yourself that the cul-de-sac is not a dead end.

  • ”Never quit” is bad advice. There are a lot of things we need to quit. Such as bed wetting, and our first high-school job at McDonald’s, etc. Good advice is to not quit on your journey to the top. But you should most certainly quit everything else that is a distraction or a hindrance.

Asking the question of if you should quit or not is the first step to success.

If you’re wondering if you should quit or not, ask yourself 3 questions:

1. “Am I panicking?”
Don’t quit. when you’re panicking. You can always quit later. Don’t quit under the pressure… because if you are under pressure then you are not thinking clearly.

2. “Who an I trying to influence?”
If you’re quitting, perhaps it’s because you’re not being successful with who it is you’re trying to influence. If it’s just one person, you may not succeed. If it’s a whole market, then you have far more opportunity than you think.

3. “What sort of measurable progress am I making?”
Forward, backward, or stalled? You have to be making at least some amount of forward progress. If you’re not making any progress at all, then you are in trouble. Are there other areas of progress you’re making that you’re not aware of?

To keep from quitting as a reaction, write down ahead of time under what conditions it is that you are willing to quit.

Plan ahead for when you’ll quit and outline your strategy before the discomfort kicks in.

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