The Dip – One Curve That Stops You From Being Exceptional

November 14, 2021

Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

The mass market is dying. There is no longer one best song or one best kind of coffee. Now there are a million micro-markets, but each micro-market still has ‘a best’.

In a free market, we reward the exceptional. The people who skip the hard questions are in the majority, but they are not in demand.

So while it’s more important than ever to be the best in the world, it’s also easier—if you pick the right thing and do it all the way. More places to win, and the stakes are higher, too.

To become the best you will need to go through ‘the dip’.

The Dip

Almost everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip.

The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery.

A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.

It’s not enough to survive your way through this Dip. You get what you deserve when you embrace the Dip and treat it like the opportunity that it really is.

It’s the incredibly difficult challenges (the Dips) that give you the opportunity to pull ahead. In a competitive world, adversity is your ally. That’s the goal of any competitor: to create a Dip so long and so deep that the nascent competition can’t catch up.

The Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value.

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.

A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.

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 refuse to settle for the average.

Average Is for Losers

Quitting at the right time is difficult. Most of us don’t have the guts to quit. Worse, when faced with the Dip, sometimes we don’t quit. Instead, we get mediocre.

Seven reasons you might fail to become the best in the world:

  • You run out of time (and quit)
  • You run out of money (and quit)
  • You get scared (and quit)
  • You’re not serious about it (and quit)
  • You lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre (and quit)
  • You focus on the short term instead of the long (and quit when the short term gets too hard)
  • You pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world (because you don’t have the talent)

The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realise that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional.

When to Quit

Simple: If you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start.

If the best you can do is cope, you’re better off quitting.

The best quitters are the ones who decide in advance when they’re going to quit. Define the stop switch before you start. Write down under what circumstances you’re willing to quit. And when. And then stick with it.

If you are making a decision based on how you feel at that moment, you will probably make the wrong decision.

Quitting when you’re panicked is dangerous and expensive. You can always quit later—so wait until you’re done panicking to decide.

The Opposite of Quitting Isn’t Waiting Around

No, the opposite of quitting is rededication. The opposite of quitting is an invigorated new strategy designed to break the problem apart.

Lean into a problem; lean so far that you might just lean right through it.

Short-term pain has more impact on most people than long-term benefits do, which is why it’s so important for you to amplify the long-term benefits of not quitting.

Persistent people are able to visualise the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it. At the same time, the smartest people are realistic about not imagining light when there isn’t any.

Influencing the Market

If you’re considering quitting, it’s almost certainly because you’re not being successful at your current attempt at influence.

Influencing one person is like scaling a wall. If you get over the wall the first few tries, you’re in. If you don’t, often you’ll find that the wall gets higher with each attempt.

Influencing a market, on the other hand, is more of a hill than a wall. You can make progress, one step at a time, and as you get higher, it actually gets easier.

People in the market talk to each other. They are influenced by each other. So every step of progress you make actually gets amplified.

If you’re trying to succeed in a job or a relationship or at a task, you’re either moving forward, falling behind, or standing still. There are only three choices.

To succeed, to get to that light at the end of the tunnel, you’ve got to make some sort of forward progress. Even during the dip, you need to be making progress, no matter how small.

Commit to the Dip or Not At All

The brave thing to do is to tough it out and end up on the other side. To become exceptional—getting all the benefits that come from scarcity. The mature thing is not even to bother starting because you’re probably not going to make it through the Dip. And the stupid thing to do is to start, give it your best shot, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the Dip.

This post is based on Seth Godin’s book ‘The Dip’. If you enjoyed this, consider reading the full book.

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