Book Notes: Seth Godin “The Dip”

Figured I’d write some notes on this book.  This is my “cliff notes” version for anyone who is too lazy to read the book (or just wants a refresher).

This book hits home to me as I’m currently trying several entrepreneurial journeys (I’ve started two LLCs in the last month) and the idea of when a project should really be invested in or quit is often non-obvious.

Anyway, here are my notes:


A large portion of the pie goes to the #1.  It pays to focus all of your effort in one thing (to be #1).  Superstars generates 10-100x.

3 curves:

  1. the dip
  2. the cul-de-sac
  3. the cliff

“The Dip” is the hard part before becoming successful.  It’s what separates those who merely want something from those who actually do it.  It’s the long-slog to mastery.

Example: snowboarders – the first several days are hell.  Another example: organic chemistry which sits in between pre-med and being a doctor

The dip actually creates scarcity, otherwise everyone would want to do it.

Trite phrases around not quitting are not true.  (“Quitters never win, winners never quit”).

Some things are worth quitting.  Others you should persist in.

Other things that are worth quitting:

  1. cul-de-sac – dead end job/etc.  not going anywhere
  2. the cliff – smoking.  marketers dream.  keeps getting harder to quit (more painful) and more pleasurable until the end, in which it is very painful (cancer, emphysema, etc).

Successful people lean into the dip instead of just going through it.  People are in a few camps:

  1. brave: best in the world
  2. informed/mature: save resources for something you are really passionate about
  3. stupid: start something, but quit in the middle of the dip

It’s ok to do #1 or #2, but not #3.

Jack Welch GE – killing dead ends.  Stopped a bunch of parts of GE that were profitable but weren’t #1 or #2 in their markets.  They were distractions to the business.

Good news: if it were easy, everyone would do it

Embrace the dip.  Lots of organizations + people actually diversify to ignore the dip.  Ex: record labels.

Real success goes to those who obsess.  It’s easier to be mediocre than to quit.

Workouts: You gain muscle when you are exhausted.  Quitting when you hit the dip is a bad idea.

Serial quitter: start lots of things, but have very little to show for it.

If you can’t make it through the dip, don’t start.

You need a dip that you can conquer. You should quit all the cal-de-sac’s that your are currently in.  You need to be the best, not at 98%, to succeed in this world of one click access.

Reasons you might fail:

  1. run out of time
  2. run out of $
  3. get scared
  4. not serious
  5. lose interest
  6. you focus on short term instead of long term when short term becomes too hard
  7. you pick the wrong thing because you don’t have the talent

you can plan for these – you can know before you start

dips are related to pyramids/schemes.  examples:

  1. health clubs.  if everyone who joined came, there wouldn’t be enough space
  2. netflix: if everyone watched every movie as quickly as possible, they wouldn’t be in business
  3. airlines: overselling flights
  4. etc.

quitting => scarcity => value

8 systems dependent on dips:

  1. manufacturing dip.  easy to start in garage, difficult & expensive for real manufacturing. guts to take work to next level
  2. sales dip. start selling an idea to stores, etc. dip = need to upgrade to a professional sales force
  3. education dip. re-invent yourself.  1 year of education (say for a doctor) reaps years of benefits
  4. risk dip – bootstrappers realize they can’t pay for everything.  investing to get through the dip = smart move
  5. relationship dip. difficult but not urgent
  6. conceptual dip.  dip = bigger set of assumptions than those you were previously operating in
  7. ego dip = giving up control, leaning into the organization
  8. distribution dip.  web, local retailers = easy, walmart = hard.  scarcity.  everyone is in the web, walmart is hard

Nothing wrong with optimism, but foresee the dip and don’t quit.

Goal of a company is to create such a dip that no other company could do it.  ex: word, quicken, etc.

Things you should quit:

  1. cul-de-sacs
  2. stuff you don’t care about
  3. stuff you aren’t good at

why?  it gives you the ability to focus on the dips that are important

better to quit before you start and give up in the dip.  average is for losers.  average feels safe, but it’s really just quitting.

he noticed that there are 3 common check out strategies at the supermarket:

  1. pick shortest line and get in it, stick with it no matter what
  2. pick shortest line and get in it, but switch at most once if the first line gets held up
  3. keep switching lines for shortest line

#3 – quick fix, but you keep on “restarting”.  “wantrepreneur” who never gets anywhere.

typical sales person = gives up at 5th time, but 7 times is the number of times most people need to be in contact to make the sale.

We’re seduced by the easy, quick fix.  The problem is a short attention span.

Most people, though, only buy when things are already accepted in the market – the things that have already matured + passed the dip.  Ex: Microsoft windows (1 & 2 were failures), first 4 versions of word were failures.

You MUST quit a product, feature, or design that doesn’t work.  But don’t quit a market, strategy, or niche.

The opposite of quitting is doubling down.  You set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose.  This allows you to try new & innovative things.

Most people quit when it gets hard.  Persistent people learn to picture the final result.

At the same time, if it’s ultimately going no where, you should quit sooner.  Every day you don’t quit you’re just avoiding the pain of quitting.  You could be doing something else which has longer term gain.  Better to take the pain now instead of having a lot of pain later.

If you aren’t going to get to #1, you should quit now.  If the dip isn’t worth it, don’t do it.

If you job is a cul-de-sac, you have to quit.

Coping = waste time.  it doesn’t lead to exceptional work.

Never quit is a terrible piece of advice.   You just shouldn’t quit something when the stress/hardship seems hard.

Quitting is worth your focus and consideration to becoming the best in the world.  Next step – ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Am I panicking?  Decide in advance when you want to quit.  (Ex: before you run the marathon, you should decide when you want to quit).  Never make a critical decision in the moment.
  2. Who am I trying to influence?  You’re frustrated because of your boss who won’t let up, or you’re a salesman and can’t sell that prospect. But a market is different than a person.  One person will make up his mind, and you’ll have to change it, which is difficult.  But markets are different.  Some people have rejected you, but most people have never heard of you. (Story about google: they were getting better every day, knew everyone would see it eventually.  so if you saw it tomorrow it would be better than seeing it today).  With individuals: it’s like scaling a wall, and each contact makes it harder.  But with a market, it becomes easier because people talk to each other about your product.
  3. What measurable progress am I making?  Often you feel like quitting because it doesn’t seem like you are making any progress.

Tactics vs. Big goals are different.  Quitting a job is different than quitting from earning income.  Quitting a marketing campaign that isn’t paying or a feature that people don’t want in your products is different than going after a totally different business / customer segment. It’s cheaper and easier to continue focusing in one area.

Assignment: write down under what circumstances you are willing to quit, and then stick with it.

Don’t spread too thin. To get through that dip, you’ll need to quit everything else.

There’s no way to over-invest in becoming the best in the world.

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