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Book Review: The Dip by Seth Godin

May 8, 2007

There are generally three phases that go into writing a book review.  In the first, I read a book. I like to read books, so it’s fun.  As I read I develop a few thoughts on what I might say about the book.  That’s fun, too.

In the second phase, I write the review.  That sucks.  Putting the ideas in a logical order, searching for the write phrases, trying not to write too much or too little.  Torture.

In the third phase, the review is done. I read it and feel satisfied with the work and proud of myself for the accomplishment. Except, of course, when the writing is bad, which makes me wonder if I wasted my energy.

Don’t worry, this is going somewhere.

In the words of Seth Godin’s new book, the actual writing of this review would be The Dip—the time where the fun and excitement of a new endeavor is over and you’re knee deep in hard work, with no guarantee of a satisfying conclusion.

Unless your company happens to be YouTube or you’re plucked off the sidewalk to star in a new movie opposite Jude Law, you will experience The Dip. It’s that time after people stop patting you on the back for starting a new company or getting accepted to medical school or deciding to run a marathon, when you actually have to do what it takes to get there.  If you’re strong enough, you suck it up and take the pain as your price of admission into the world of the high flyers, coming out on the other end smelling like roses, rolling around in piles of cash.

Except it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you put in all the effort and you get pretty much nowhere. You get enough clients to keep your business going, but not enough to make you even remotely wealthy. Or you hit Organic Chemistry and think maybe being a doctor isn’t for you.  Or you realize you don’t have enough time to train for a marathon. And you quit.  Or you don’t quit because you’re not a quitter.  Or you go back and forth trying to decide if you should quit or not. Hey! This is not what you signed up for!

The Dip is Godin’s attempt to encourage you to fight through on the worthy goals, to quit the goals that you simply can’t accomplish, and to figure out which is which.

If you’re starting something new, here are the key questions Godin suggests you ask yourself:

  • Can I/we be the best in the world?
  • Do I/we have the resources to make it happen?
  • Is the reward worth the effort?

If you believe the answer is “yes” to all three, slog through The Dip, keeping your eyes on the prize. Because most of the others will quit.  (Or, if they couldn’t answer “yes” to the questions, they’ll keep on trucking but get nowhere.)

If you answer “no” to any of the questions, quitting is not just OK but smart.  Quitting when you can’t win frees up you or your company’s resources to go after something that you can win. Godin convincingly makes the case that the axiom “quitters never win and winners never quit” is wrong, as long as quitters keep searching for the things they can win.

One point that Godin makes is sure to fly over some people’s heads.  It’s the question of whether you can be the best in the world.  Godin uses the “world” to mean your world, the world you’re competing in.  If you run a flower shop, you don’t have to be the best flower shop on Earth, but you’d better run the best flower shop in your city.  To the victor go the spoils.  Those in second place get the runoff. Do you want to spend your life living from the runoff?

As always, Godin’s writing is crisp, making The Dip a pleasure to read.  And, at just 76 pages, the book quickly but successfully makes its point, leaving you plenty of time to decide if it’s time to get back to work or back to the drawing board.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world.

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2 comments

  1. […] The Dip (Read a review | Buy), Seth Godin’s pithy little book about knowing when to quit, the author advises that […]


  2. Seth Godin is one of the most intuitive writers around. The Dip is his way of presenting instructive advice on a topic that’s engaged me for more than 30 years: human persistence.

    Yes, the initial enthusiasm of choosing a new direction is wonderful to feel but when the rubber meets the road and the fun must turn into work that’s when things get serious. It can quickly turn smiles upside down.

    That’s why I developed an on-line “machine” called H.E.R.O. that anyone can use free of charge. It’s designed to force the user to examine past personal victories in such a way that a general immune-like response to failure is triggered. Human physical (hard)immunity is tremendously intelligent but when some of that intelligence is made available to the thinking it becomes mindset (soft) immunity.

    To succeed at anything the motivation should be blasting upward from the gut (brain) to the head (brain). Not the other other way around.

    Once that’s all in place good instruction, like that which is contained in “The Dip”, is much easier to follow. If its placed on top of such authentic motivation it becomes more organic.

    With books like this added to the mix, one should be quite capable of beating the odds stacked against them. I’d hate to be the one to compete with such a force as that.

    Loved your review of “The Dip”.



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