Summary: The Dip by Seth Godin

Everybody wants to make their ideas happen.

In the beginning, all ideas are exciting.

You’re inspired.

Commitment levels are at a peak.

You get all of this support from your friends and family.

It’s an incredibly rewarding stage to be in.

But then comes a more difficult time that seeps into whatever you might be doing.

Your motivation starts to wane, you’re not garnering the regular support that you used to. It’s not a particularly rewarding phase to be in because rewards are so much scarcer than before.

In the Dip, it can feel like you’re running in place and not really progressing. You might be putting in all of this effort but nothing seems to change. You’re stuck.

This stage in your career, in your relationship, in pursuing your dreams, in making your ideas happen is called the Dip.

“[The Dip doesn’t] spoon feed you with little bits of improvement every day.”

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How to get past the Dip

The Dip is harsh. The Dip is difficult. The Dip hurts.

It is a breeding ground for uncertainty. It fills you with paralysing self-doubt.

The dip is a bit like a sieve. It’s designed to filter out the less committed, less passionate, less tenacious; to filter out those who, as Seth says, “don’t have the guts or wherewithal to take their work to the next level.”

Not many will be able to persevere when the going gets tough. Not many have the resolve to get through the times of constant uncertainty and near pathological self-doubt.

Sheer grit and determination will ultimately be the deciding factors whether you’ll get past the Dip or not. And if you’re passionate about something, you will be able to withstand the wherewithal of the Dip. 

“Passion yields tolerance – tolerance for all of the frustration and hardship that comes your way as you seek to make your ideas happen.”

– Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen

The Dip creates scarcity

Not many get through the Dip, though. People self-disqualify.

As Scott Belsky writes in Making Ideas Happen, “perspiration is the best form of differentiation.”

But few manage to put in the perspiration to reach the next level in their work.

This is what causes scarcity. And if we draw on Brock’s (1968) commodity theory, we’ll learn that scarcity enhances value.

“Where does scarcity come from? It comes from the hurdles that the markets and our society set up. It comes from the fact that most competitors quit long before they’ve created something that makes it to the top.”

-Seth Godin, The Dip

The Dip will test you

For many, the Dip will be a gruelling, uncomfortable time where there are more costs involved in sustaining our efforts than there are benefits.

Sure, that might be the case for a short while – but then it gets better. A lot of people though can’t bear to keep on going in the face of such difficulty.

People start the drop off one by one and give up on their dreams. Only the person that has the resolve to see through this arduous period by managing to persevere in spite of the circumstances will be the last man standing.

“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.”

-Seth Godin, The Dip

Consider Richard Branson for a second.

He wanted his own airline. But to make that happen, he couldn’t have just bought a bunch of planes and let skilled pilots fly them and that was that.

Before a Virgin Atlantic plane could take off from a runway, Branson had to get through the hurdles that the murky terrain of various laws and regulations have to offer.

On top of that, he had to deal with brand disparaging remarks of the competition who was trying to ruin his reputation and force him out of business.

That was Branson’s Dip. But he had the resolve to get through that challenging period where just about everything was turning against him. And he benefited greatly.

“If you can get through the Dip, if you can keep going when the system is expecting you to stop, you will achieve extraordinary results. People who make it through the Dip are scarce indeed, so they generate more value.”

When to quit

If you manage to get past the Dip, extraordinary results await.

However, that might not always be the case. Which is why you should know when to quit.

A Dip, as Seth says, is temporary. But a cul-de-sac (French for dead-end) is permanent.

The distinguishing feature of being in a cul-de-sac with your project, your idea, your job, or whatever, is that no matter how much effort you will put in, no progress will be made.

You just can’t move forward. It’s a dead-end.

You don’t want to be in a position where you’re wasting valuable time and expending precious mental resources on a project that isn’t worth the time investment.

“Why not quit? (…) because day to day, it’s easier to stick with something that we’re used to, that doesn’t make too many waves, that doesn’t hurt.”

That is why you need to be cautious of when to quit. You need to know when to quit so that you can free yourself up to pursue other, potentially more worthwhile projects that will have a higher Return On Investment.

P.S. Thanks for reading. If you want to get these posts delivered to your e-mail address as soon as they are published, you can sign up for my free weekly newsletter in the sidebar.

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