Each Sunday, The Simple Dollar reviews a personal development or personal productivity book.

do da dipI’ve been an avid reader of Seth Godin’s blog for a long time (since mid-2002, I think). He largely writes about marketing topics, but often branches out into related things: careers, self-promotion, and so on.

I decided to follow this up and read The Dip because he’s a compelling writer and the topic of The Dip – identifying when one should quit and redirect their efforts to another task – is of interest to me as I try to decide if I should switch careers and focus on something new.

The Dip is short. It measures in at about eighty one pages and can easily be read in an hour and a half. In fact, it’s the shortest book I’ve reviewed so far on The Simple Dollar. Does that mean the content isn’t valuable or compelling, or does brevity really help the case here? Let’s find out.

Leaping Into The Dip

The concepts in this book can really be boiled down to just a large handful of simple points. Godin explains these very well with juicy metaphors and examples, of course, but this short book exists just to drive home a few points.

Everyone quits. That seems obvious, but it’s true – everyone quits things that they’re not good at. In parallel to that, quitting something you’re not good at means you have more time to work on the things that you are good at. The people that do the best are the ones that give up the most – they give up many, many things in order to hone in on that one thing.

It pays to be the best at something. Why do that? The person (or small group of people) who are tops in a field always take the biggest share of the spoils. They get the recognition, the income, and the opportunities with being at the pinnacle.

There are three stages along the way to mastering something. The first is the initial stage, where the learning is quite fun and enjoyable and you’re excited by learning new things. The third stage is mastery and continual growth, where you feel very confident in your skills. “The Dip” refers to the period between the two, which is often a slog filled with lots of practice and hard work, but no sense yet that you are mastering what it is you’re working on.

Sometimes, situations don’t allow an escape from “the dip.” Godin refers to these as a “cul-de-sac.” For example, a dead-end job without real promotion opportunities and without opportunities to really grow your skills is a cul-de-sac. These should be avoided if you want to build a career.

If something’s worth doing, it has a dip. Any skill worth learning, any job worth doing, any business worth running has a dip involved. That dip is what separates the wheat from the chaff. I know there have been times when writing The Simple Dollar that it’s felt like a giant slog, but I’m always glad I’ve persevered.

Don’t be afraid to quit. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t quit when they should. Pride is a big one. A rigid adherence to the “winners never quit” mentality is another one (it’s a good motto, but it doesn’t apply – you’re not a “winner” yet if you’re in the dip).

At the same time, don’t quit too easily. Many people are habitual “switchers” – they jump to something else when the road gets rough. If you do that, you’ll never really succeed at anything at all.

The best approach is to start something with a plan that includes some benchmarks for quitting. For example, if you’re writing a blog, you can say that if you get to a certain number of posts and have put in appropriate legwork in promoting it, if you haven’t reached a certain audience threshold, you should give it up and move onto something else.

Sometimes, it’s the right choice to quit something you enjoy. You might really enjoy something you’re doing, but if you’re stuck in a cul de sac with no chance for promotion and a decent chance of the project simply ending at some point in the near future, it’s time to move on. Similarly, if you dream of building a successful career, you should move on from any cul de sac situation.

Buy or Don’t Buy?

The Dip was enjoyable, no doubt about it. Godin is a very good writer – he’s quite good at taking simple ideas, illustrating them with examples, and turning the mundane into the interesting.

That being said, the idea behind The Dip is pretty conceptually simple and, once the idea is picked up, it doesn’t need to be reviewed. This book is a great one-time read, but it has very little that would make it a great reference read – I’d be shocked if anyone came back to this one for future readings.

That means definitely read this one, but check your local library first. This is a quintessential “check out from the library, go ‘a-ha!”, then return it” type of book – a really great idea to think about and apply to your own life, but not really one that will be returned to for future reference and guidance.

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