The Dip

So, I’ve got a question for you:  Did you set any New Year’s Resolutions last New Year’s?  Most everyone’s got one (or three), and most of those people have the best intentions of following through with those goals.  How are yours coming along?  If you’re not quite on pace (or you’ve forgotten about them entirely), you may be able to relate to a shocking stat I learned the other day  –

Roughly 15–20% of all New Year’s resolutions are realized each year in North America.  

(Thank you to Global Empowerment Coaching for that little bit of insight.)

15-20%???  How disturbing is that?  Can you imagine if your division only produced 20% of the projected widget volume this year?  If you hit 20% of your sales quota?  I can tell you what next year’s resolution would be: “Find a job”.   Which begs the question, why is it that we are able to make sacrifices, sometimes even work jobs we despise, to fulfill our work requirements and yet seem willing to give up on goals and aspirations in our personal lives?  In other words:

Why are we willing to work so hard for someone else, and yet not for ourselves?

In his “small but mighty” text, The Dip, author Seth Godin lends insight as to why we can be so quick to give up on some goals, while sticking with some things we loath long past the logical quitting point.  Godin has an extremely valid theory, not surprisingly named “The Dip.”

And it goes.  a little.  something.  like this…

Think of the last time you set a goal, started a new venture or new relationship.  Think back to the excitement, the enthusiasm.  Nothing you did felt like work, because it was all so new and fresh.  And then, regardless of whether it happened gradually or overnight, you reached a point at which the new endeavor no longer felt so new.  In fact, it felt like a lot of work. Congratulations, you just hit “The Dip”.  The Dip is that critical turning point when the joys of starting have faded and yet the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” is still out of reach.  What do you do?  Do you bail, find a new venture?  Do you stick with it; “tough it out”?  Your high school gym teacher would have told you to “Suck it up!  Winners never quit!”  Seth Godin humbly disagrees.

The Big Idea

Winners Quit More Often than Losers Do

No matter what your gym teacher told you, quitting is often the very best option available to you.  Imagine if you’d never quit your first job?  Where would you be now?

What if you’re 5’9”, like me, and never quit trying to play professional basketball?  How much time, energy and resources would you continue to waste trying to pursue a goal that is likely unattainable?

“Winners never quit” is terrible advice.  Instead, “winners never quit with a short term focus”.  Winners definitely quit from dead end paths; when “big picture planning” helps them realize that the end payoff doesn’t outweigh the work required to cross the dip.  Winners quit losing propositions in order to focus all resources on winning ones.  In one of his more vivid analogies, Godin compares an unfocused person to a woodpecker:

“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.”

The Dip, page 29

Moral of the story?  Choose your tree carefully, then stick with it.  The following two Insights offer some insight into how to do just that.

Insight #1

Think “Big Picture”

To borrow from Stephen Covey, “Start with the end in mind”.  What is your world going to look like when this goal/project/initiative is complete?  How will it impact your life?  What are the long term benefits?  Be specific and visualize them; write them down if it helps.  The truth of the matter is that most people quit a pursuit in a moment of short term weakness, based on emotional decision making.  If your resolution is to hit the gym at 6am, chances are that if you’re going to bail on the goal, it will be at 5:45am.  Emotional decision – “I’m tired”.

“Short term pain has more impact on most people than long-term benefits do, which is why it’s so important for you to amplify the long-term benefits of not quitting.”

The Dip, page 53

While this is good advice to help with not quitting, it also works in the reverse as well.  As mentioned, sometimes quitting is the best choice; completely necessary to allow you to move to the next level.  If you find yourself stagnating in a certain role, procrastinating from quitting when you know you should, perhaps you need to revisit the long term benefits of staying versus moving on.

Build and maintain clearly defined objectives and purpose, and you will find it a lot easier to make a decision based on long term benefit, rather than short term pain.

Or, after seeing it through the lenses of logic, you may choose to quit a particular resolution before you even get started.

Insight #2

Scout’s Motto

Be Prepared.

Fact:  You are going to hit a Dip.  With the exception of being showcased on Oprah or fluking into fame and fortune, any path you take (worth pursuing) will have a Dip.  Really let that sink in.  If you truly acknowledge the fact that you will have challenging times in your venture on the road ahead, will that effect your decision to pursue it?  Will you be willing to put in the effort to make it through the Dip?  Is the reward on the other side big enough to justify the effort?

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

The Dip, page 32

Use your understanding of “The Dip” to focus your energy and attention on projects you’re actually serious about.  Quit everything that you’re not.

Within the seventy-eight pages of The Dip, Seth Godin elaborates on these concepts and many others, making it a great, quick read early in the New Year, or before considering any major new venture.  Definitely worth the price of admission.


I look forward to the updates in 357 days.

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Chris Taylor

ABOUT Chris Taylor

Founder of Actionable Books, Chris Taylor is a writer, entrepreneur and speaker. He spends his daylight hours helping consultants and employees alike find meaning in their work and discover rich team relationships through his company, Actionablebooks...
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