The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)

June 19, 2008 in 5 out of 5 stars, A book

What is it?

The Dip: A book dedicated to a simple, but powerful and inspiring idea. I'm struggling to decide if it's Seth's best or not. It's certainly a contender.


Who makes it?

Seth Godin

Why is it the killerest?

First of all - it's short (80 pages). And as anyone who writes can tell you, shorter is harder. And in this case, it's also better. The writing is focused, the idea is well developed, and the impact, at least for me, was very, very powerful.

A buddy of mine and I were whining the other day about how hard it was to invest significantly in creating something that should be great, but realize that creating it was not enough. Not nearly enough. We thought it would be hard to go from concept to reality, and it was. But how surprising it was to realize that the really hard part had just begun. Taking that reality, and becoming a market leader, taking that hard-won reality, and turning it into the success we dreamed about when we started, that was the hard part. The really hard part.

And boy, those early dream-filled days were great. That dream motivated us to tear into our projects with vigor and excitement. It was novel, and fun, and a fresh start, and endless opportunity. And that dream pushed us on in that way only the entrepreneurially-minded can appreciate. Past hurdles, and challenges, and finally our hard work and investment bore fruit.

And there we stood at the great unveiling, the shroud lifted from our creation, and the response? Awkward and empty silence. Because while creating the thing is required (you can't get anywhere without doing that) it's not enough. It's not nearly enough. Because many have done that. But only a few — a very successful few — have pushed through the next stage to actually realize The Dream.

And then I remembered that Seth had named this period we were starting to push through, he called it "The Dip." And suddenly the genius of the premise of his book struck me. I hadn't read it yet, only read about it. So I started here, my appetite was whetted. The idea had taken root, and then I bought the book and read it carefully. Letting his persistent presentation of the idea seep into me deep enough to last. And then I closed the book, carefully inventoried my situation, and made some drastic changes.

I don't want to oversell this, because your experience may be different from mine. But I can honestly say that this book, perhaps because of the timing of when I read it, has had a dramatic and positive impact on me. 

In it, Seth defines "The Dip." He discussed the value of pushing through it (because so few are willing to do it, the competition at the other end is thin, and the rewards are enormous), how to do it (over-invest, quit everything else taking your energies), why we don't do it (his list of excuses stung with familiarity!), how you can quit a tactic, but retain a strategy, and how to recognize when you're not actually in a dip, but just think you are.

Oh, and inspiration. Did I mention it was inspiring? There were sections of this book that had me clenching my fist in determination to make it through.   

And he ends with some probing and through-provoking questions. Like this gem: "If I'm going to quit anyway, is there something dramatic I can do instead that might change the game?"

So I finished the book a few weeks ago, and now I have a new perspective. I see with new eyes those around me who have pushed through The Dip.

Here are a couple examples:

Ira Glass - world-class host of This American Life. Here he talks about pushing through the dip. He doesn't call it that, but that's exactly what he's talking about.

And Dean Kamen. Is there any question that he pushed (and pushes) through The Dip? Sure the Segway was a joke, but you watch this and tell me he isn't one of the greatest examples in the world for pushing though the dip. When the Dept. of Defense needed the best in the world to tackle the most difficult of jobs, I suspect the list was pretty short, and now Dean is truly changing the world. (And don't forget this awesomeness too). 

And there are more. Just from this week's news: Tim Russert and Tiger Woods.

And someday, maybe, you. And me.

How much does it cost?



Reviewed by Carson McComas

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Fantastic book.

Short, sweet, and to the point. I found myself completely motivated around ... page 7. By page 12 I put the book down and got back to work on a project that was really draining the life out of me. Couldn't WAIT to get back to it.

And the genius of this book is that it highlights the benefits of excellence - which can be its own motivation for anyone working towards that goal.

Just don't loan this book out - you'll never get it back. (Though, at $11/copy - it makes a great gift for everyone - not just entrepreneurs).

Posted by: Michael K. Campbell | Jun 19, 2008 10:04:11 AM

The Dip is excellent - a really useful resource for anyone in this business.

Posted by: Bob Walsh | Jun 19, 2008 10:50:32 AM

I'll check it out - thanks for the recommendation.

Am I the only one for whom the very public flop of Squidoo has made Seth Godin loose credibility? I'm curious how he's has followed his own advice in this book with regards to that project. It sure seems like hitching his ride to an actual project/product was a HUGE gamble, and one that he unfortunately lost. It would be great to get a post-mortem (though I know the plug hasn't been pulled) from him analyzing what happened and how that affects his views on previously written books.

Posted by: --Josh | Jun 19, 2008 11:27:57 AM

That's a good question Josh. It's not quite what I expected it to be when it launched (i.e. The Next Big Thing), but I don't know that it's really a flop either. It's got a wide base of users, pageviews, and I would therefore assume - revenue. I'm not sure what the exact success metric for the site was, but I've certainly seen less successful ventures.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Jun 19, 2008 12:02:45 PM

Thanks for the review, I'm off to amazon to purchase. I suspect like you it could be good timing for me.

I do think squidoo has damaged the brand name that is "Seth Godin". Success is relative and giving how successful hes own brand is before this venture I think it hasn't come close to what they wanted it to be. Still there is time yet for things to happen with it.

We watch and wait.

Posted by: Derek Organ | Jun 20, 2008 6:03:00 AM

I have this book, and agree wholeheartedly with your review. Seth Godin is one of my all-time favorite small business thinkers/authors who has lit a fire in me. I'm constantly finding a way to reference back to some of his eloquent works. Also, I find that I need to continually repurchase them because I keep giving them out to colleagues.


Posted by: Kevin Elliott | Jun 23, 2008 11:40:53 AM

Definitely a must buy. I'm glad you reviewed it.

I would say that dip is overall a good thing and reminds you of the real world application of your creation. The emotional/psychological dip maybe not as fun, but overall it is a challenge.

Seth Godin's writing and experiences continue to provoke thought. I noticed that even his blog posts are particularly thought-provoking and critical. What is the role of the critical writer like Seth Godin to the up-and-coming venture?

Chris Hearse

Posted by: Chris Hearse | Jun 24, 2008 8:58:40 AM

Anybody who liked this book would probably also like John Assaraf's new book "The Answer," co-written with Murray Smith. Assaraf and Smith are mega-successful entrepreneurs. They talk about how rewiring how your brain works will lead to ultimate success. You have to engineer your neural pathways. You do this through mediation, continuous affirmations, vision boards, and more. Carson, I would love to hear your opinion/review on this book. Here it is...

Posted by: John Jeddin | Jun 26, 2008 2:38:40 PM

I read Seth Godins The Dip: The Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit and When to Stick over the weekend. (In about an hour actuallyI was slow.) It has some interesting approaches to life and work.

Posted by: eric | Jul 9, 2008 6:09:15 AM

Excellent book. Easy to read, fun and to the point. Provides great examples and in my opinion can be used at work and in life in general.

Posted by: Eva | Jul 12, 2008 2:43:46 PM

Wow, this sounds like an excellent book, and I'm buying it tonight. (-: Not sure how it applies when there's an external "dip cause" like our current economy, which affects lots of businesses at the same time. But the fact is that lots of us are in a dip right now, and any helpful ideas are welcome. Thanks!

Posted by: Deanna Keahey | Oct 14, 2008 9:24:44 PM