Pushing Past The Dip

by Stephen Mills on August 10, 2009


Seth Godin wrote a wonderful little book called The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).  The premise of this book is that on the way to being the best, there is an initial period of quick progress, learning, and excitement.  This is followed by a dip that eliminates almost everyone from the race.  The dip is a long slow slog through a difficult period that precedes the breakthrough to the top.  The dip is hell and it creates scarcity because virtually everyone quits.  The scarcity is what creates value for those who can get through it.

A second theme of the book is that winners quit a lot.  They quit tactics that are Cul-de-Sacs (i.e dead-ends) and switch to a different tactic, possibly within the same strategy.  Losers stay caught in the Cul-de-Sacs never knowing when it’s time to get out.  So if your strategy is selling a product online you might go through many failed tactics (Cul-de-Sacs) before hitting on one that works.  Eventually you find the one that works and and if you can push through the dip there is a huge payoff at the end.

The key to winning is to be able to identify when you are in a Cul-de-Sac and change tactics.  Also, to identify when you are in a dip and have the perseverance to push through it to success.  When you are are struggling in a dip:

“The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional.  Average is for losers.”

“When the pain gets so bad that you’re ready to quit, you’ve set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose.  And someone with nothing to lose has quite a bit of power.  You can go for broke.  Challenge authority.  Attempt unattempted alternatives.  Lean into a problem; lean so far that you might just lean right through it.”  — Seth Godin

This might be an oversimplification but I basically buy into the general theme.  If it was easy and there was no dip, there would be no scarcity and there would be no pay-off.  If it was easy, none of us would have jobs and would be sipping drinks on a tropical beach with a hula girl.

Most people quit whatever it is they do when the going gets tough and stays tough for a long time.  The big winners are the ones who have the awareness to figure out when to quit a Cul-de-Sac and the dogged persistence to hang on through a long drawn out dip.

Can you push through the dip?

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

steve cunningham August 10, 2009 at 8:43 pm

I agree that this book certainly has a simple premise. But, just like all of Godin’s work, it’s an amazing conversation starter that leads to some incredible discussions. I had the privilege to speak to Seth this week about the book, and the one thing he brought home was that the world doesn’t need more books, it needs more conversations. Thanks for starting one here!
.-= steve cunningham´s last blog ..Business Book Summary #14: “The Dip” by Seth Godin =-.


Stephen Mills August 12, 2009 at 12:05 pm

@steve, I agree completely on Seth Godin. You can start a conversation on most of his blog articles. He has great insight into the way things work. You are lucky to be able to talk to him directly.


Zeenat{Positive Provocations} August 11, 2009 at 6:27 am

I like your review on this book. I havent read it adn i think i have to go out and get it. It seems very insightful and true to human nature.
Knowing when to quit something that isnt working for you is the key to overcoming the Dip. “Knowing” which is easier said than done though. I think a reevaluation of my current situation is a must for me to start with…and the taking it from there…But thanks for sharing this…its really something.
.-= Zeenat{Positive Provocations}´s last blog ..Looking Inward To Find Your True Self. =-.


Stephen Mills August 12, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Zeenat, yes knowing when you are in a dip vs. a Cul-de-Sac is the key question. Seth tries to help with that in the book, but in the end it will be your own experience and judgment that is the key.


Free Life Believer August 11, 2009 at 9:12 am

My question is how do you know when you are in a Cul-de-Sac and should quit or when you are in a Dip and need to keep on pushing forward. Let’s say I have this great idea and after months and months of having no one else buy into it I quit thinking it was a Cul-de-Sac. But possibly it was a Dip and I needed to go on trying just a little longer and I would find success.

Interesting to think about though hard to recognize the dips from the cul-de-sacs I would think. Maybe I should read the book.
.-= Free Life Believer´s last blog ..One Goal =-.


Stephen Mills August 12, 2009 at 12:09 pm

@Free Life Believer, that is a very valid question. As I stated to Zeenat, I’m not sure I can answer that question for you. Free Life Believer. The book does help but it doesn’t really prescribe a formula for you to know. That ultimately comes from your own judgment.


Jodi at Joy Discovered August 11, 2009 at 10:39 am

Great post, Stephen!
I have experienced the dips and have pushed through many and let other projects go (that I realized I didn’t care as much about). I love the concept of leaning so far into something that you just might lean through it.
.-= Jodi at Joy Discovered´s last blog ..Your Environment =-.


Stephen Mills August 12, 2009 at 12:15 pm

@Jodi, love it that you have experienced and pushed through the dips. The experience you gain each time will allow you to make better decisions next time on when to push and when to let it go. Thanks for stopping by!


meatlessmama August 11, 2009 at 11:06 am

I like this- “When the pain gets so bad that you’re ready to quit, you’ve set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose. And someone with nothing to lose has quite a bit of power. You can go for broke.” It’s a great way of putting it, and a great way of looking at the situation.
.-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Quick Cucumber Roll-Ups =-.


Stephen Mills August 12, 2009 at 12:41 pm

@meatlessmama, it is a great way to look at it isn’t it? If you are going down anyway you might as well give it one last hurrah and either win or go down in style 🙂


Robin Easton August 11, 2009 at 1:54 pm

My husband and I have learned to know what is a drain and dragging us down and when a dream simply requires good old stick-to-itiveness. I love a phrase he uses: “THIS is what stops most people”. Every time he says that it really hits me like: “Oh ya, no one said it would ALWAYS be easy. It’s not. Life takes courage. Well I have tons of that so I can push through this dip.” We also seem to know when something will keep us trapped in an eddy swirling ’round and ’round going nowhere. Hence we let it go. He and I make a great team, which is very exciting.

This is a good article Stephen, which makes an insightful distinction between when to have courage and guts to push on AND when to let something go and move on. Thank you my friend.
.-= Robin Easton´s last blog ..Turn Off the Bombardment =-.


Stephen Mills August 12, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Hi @Robin! I’m so glad you have found the way to know the differene and the courage to push through and be the BEST! 🙂


Stop smoking March 8, 2013 at 7:53 am

Yes! Finally someone writes about order dip online.
Stop smoking´s last blog post ..Stop smoking


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