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Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2010 (Minneapolis, MN) with: James Morrow
Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2010 (Minneapolis, MN) with: James Morrow ( @jmorrow_dev )

The Dip By Seth Godin (Thanks Jack Welde)

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Subtitled as "A Little Book That Teaches You When To Quit (And When To Stick)", The Dip by Seth Godin is a concise 80 pages, but delivers a huge message: you MUST quit when you know you're on a dead end path. Godin states that most people fail because they either quit too fast and too often or they fail to quit pouring the resources into activities that they know will not pay off in the long run.

Godin defines life-paths as curves. Of these there are two primary curves: The Dip and the Cul-de-Sac. The Cul-de-Sac curve is a dead end; you keep putting time, money, and effort into it and you just get no where. The Dip on the other hand looks something like this:


The Dip by Seth Godin - The Dip Curve Graph  

When you first start down a path, you are really excited about it so the reward is high. Additionally, other people are very happy for you and praise you - again, the reward is high. Then, in between the beginning of a task and its mastery, there is a potentially long period in which the reward vs. effort drops off. What The Dip [book] helps you to figure out is whether your current struggle is a "dip" or a "dead end", and emphasizes that the moment you realize that your situation is a dead end, that it is not only OK to quit, but it is, in fact, mandatory.

I have been having some personal and professional issues lately and Jack Welde, one of my de facto mentors / life coaches, gave this book to me to help me figure out if my current problems are symptomatic of a Dip curve or a Cul-de-Sac curve. It is a really quick read that I finished in two days and it has really helped me to see my various situations for what they are. The question now becomes, do I have the courage to do what needs to be done.

If you have any doubts about where you are in life, what you do, or doubts about anything really, I would highly recommend this book. As a teaser, here are some choice quotes from the text that I liked:

Page 27

The next time you're tempted to vilify a particularly obnoxious customer or agency or search engine, realize that this failed interaction is the best thing that's happened to you all day long. Without it, you'd be easily replaceable. The Dip is your very best friend.

Page 29

... the real success goes to those who obsess. The focus that leads you through the Dip to the other side is rewarded by a marketplace in search of the best in the world. 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.

Page 31

It's human nature to quit when it hurts. But it's that reflex that creates scarcity. The challenge is simple: Quitting when you hit the Dip is a bad idea. If the journey you started was worth doing, then quitting when you hit the Dip just wastes the time you've already invested. Quit in the Dip often enough and you'll find yourself becoming a serial quitter, starting many things but accomplishing little. Simple: If you can't make it through the Dip, don't start.

Page 43

The most common response to the Dip is to play it safe. To do ordinary work, blameless work, work that's beyond reproach. When faced with the Dip, most people suck it up and try to average their way to success.

Page 55

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

Page 64

... never quite something with great long-term potential just because you can't deal with the stress of the moment.

Reader Comments


the theory is not for everyone.

I'm in "the dip" at the moment - it has some positive aspects where I'm "lining up the ducks" to dive headlong into the reward "slope" on the other side. and great "obsessive" rewards they'd be.

but the trouble is I'm running out of time: through organisational changes, I'll have to finish up before I reap the rewards. Even my boss is being honest and suggesting I bail now.

sometimes no matter how much hard work you put in, you still can't win.



I am sorry to hear that. Yeah, I guess some things are just out of our control. The fact that even your boss tells you to bail... not a good sign :( I wish you luck.


Quoting Seth Godin on your blog Ben, be still my heart. This is probably the only recent Seth book I haven't read yet. You've inspired me to make the purchase. I think that makes you an expert "sneezer". Great post.


Thanks for this post. A friend talked about The Dip and the chart and I was very intrigued. I did a Google search on Seth Grodin and gravitated towards this link.

Thanks for the great post and for adding the chart and the quotes.


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Ben Nadel