The Dip

Seth Godin

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The Dip is what separate’s the best in the world from everyone else. When you decide to try something new it’s exciting. You get instant feedback which makes you feel good. As you continue learning, there is a shift. The activity starts becoming difficult. This is what Seth Godin calls The Dip.

The Dip separates the beginners from the masters.

The Dip can either be natural or created. Examples of Dips include organic chemistry (created), the bar exam (created), job prerequisites (natural), and become a professional athlete (natural).

The Dip: The biggest results are gained after continuing to exert effort during a period when less results are obtained.

Beware of Things that Seem like Dips

Dips deter people from becoming experts. But, people spend time — our most limited resource — focusing on the wrong activities. Godin addresses these by introducing two other curves. The Cul-de-Sac and The Cliff.

The Cul-de-Sac — French for dead end — represents an activity that no matter how hard you work, you aren’t getting anywhere.

The Cul-De-Sac: no matter how hard you work, you don’t get results.

The Cliff has no dip. The more you work, the better you get. But, at the end, there is a fall off. Activities which look like cliffs don’t deter people. Since there is no challenge, everyone can become and expert. Thus diminishing the value of the activity.

The Cliff: The more you work, the better you get. But, at the end, there is a fall off.

Abandon the non-dips

Abandon activities that look like Cul-de-Sac or Cliff curves. Anything worth doing has a dip. The other two curves represent markets and activities that aren’t worth focusing on.

There are times when you want to abandon activities that have dips too. Godin suggests identifying all activities, you’re working on, that have dips. Then ask: What will happen if you continue with these activities? Will you become an expert? Are you willing to slog through the difficulty of the dip? If not, drop it.

Getting through the dip is hard. Only people who want to be the best, lean into the dip and get through it. At the end of the book, Godin gives some questions to ask yourself.

  • Is this a Dip, a Cliff, or a Cul-de-Sac?
  • If it’s a Cul-de-Sac, how can I change it into a Dip?
  • Is my persistence going to pay off in the long run?
  • When should I quit? I need to decide now, not when I’m in the middle of it, and not when part of me is begging to quit.
  • If I quit this task, will it increase my ability to get through the Dip on something more important?
  • If I’m going to quit anyway, is there something dramatic I can do instead that might change the game?

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