The Dip

The Dip


I love Seth Godin’s books and his blog. I think he’s just incredibly good at articulating distinctly memorable ideas backed by both data and stories in a way that we could all learn from.

Godin, more than just about anyone, understands both the power of technology (he’s founded several technology companies, including an early direct marketing co that he sold to Yahoo) and how technology has shaped markets and human opportunity.

I took these notes back in 2008 and rediscovered them recently. A lot has been paraphrased but there are some direct quotes as well. Bolding is mine.

The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

The Dip’s Big Idea

Don’t be afraid to quit the wrong stuff and have the conviction to stick with the right stuff because being “the best” (in a given market, category, etc) is worth it.

On Being the Best

  • Vanilla is far and away the top ice cream flavor – 22% of all sales, (Chocolate is 8%)
  • The top movie of the week usually has 2x the ticket sales of the 2nd movie
  • Being the best in the world matters – no one wants an average product or service
  • Yet it’s easier to be the best in something than ever before – so many micro niche markets exist today
  • Jack Welch and GE – part of the transformation was making only #1 or #2 acceptable
  • Superstars – agents, dealmakers, artists, etc, get way more than everyone else, because they are the best
  • Average is for Losers – quit or be exceptional – those are the only two choices

On the Dip

  • The Dip is the hard part, the “moat” the prevents most people from being the best
  • The Dip is organic chemistry, law school, agent rejections, the last few pushups
  • Successful people don’t just “just ride out the Dip…They lean into it, changing the rules as they go”
  • If it is worth doing, there is probably a Dip
  • Woodpeckers don’t diversify – they peck one tree 22,000 times to get dinner
  • Men’s Health cover models pushed through the Dip to get washboard abs
  • Being mediocre sucks – and so many people and organizations have simply settled for this
  • The space shuttle is not a Dip, it’s a cul-de-sac, because it’s going nowhere and NASA needs to drop it (editor’s note – and eventually they did!)

8 Dips

  1. manufacturing on a larger scale
  2. growing a sales team
  3. getting more education
  4. taking a risk to venture big
  5. investing in a longterm relationship
  6. giving up ego/control
  7. reshaping one’s worldview
  8. getting your product into better distribution channels like Walmart.

Further Advice

  • Market acceptance is a big Dip, but worth pushing through
  • There is a difference between quitting a tactic (action or behavior) versus quitting a strategy (or long-term goal/outcome)
  • Don’t quit in the Dip – push through short-term pain by visualizing the great long-term results – AKA no one quits the Boston Marathon at mile 25
  • “Never Quit” is a terrible piece of advice but “Don’t quit something with great long-term potential because of the stress of the moment” – much better advice!
  • Michael Crichton quit medicine after graduating Harvard Med and doing a prestigious fellowship. If he can quit – so can you.
  • Before quitting ask yourself
    1) Am I just panicking, scared or hurting? All three are bad reasons to quit.
    2) Who am I trying to influence? A single person is hard to bring around, but a market is almost always climbable.
    3) Am I making measurable progress? As long as you are making some forward progress, there is hope.

Final Thoughts

  • You are astonishing – how dare you waste it on half-assed efforts.
  • Quit mediocre things and use that additional energy, time and resources to assault the Dip that really matters. Make a dent in the universe.
  • It’s almost impossible to over-invest in becoming the market leader.
  • Last page:
    “All are successes are the same. All our failures too.
    We succeed when we do something remarkable
    We fail when we give up too soon
    We succeed when we are the best in the world at what we do.