Saturday, June 16, 2007

the dip - Seth Godin

Subtitled: A Little Book That Teaches You When To Quit (and When to Stick) One of the many things I love about is how they recommend books to me based on what I've purchased, or perused, in the past. That's one good reason I buy my books there. So this book recommendation actually came to me as an email one evening. Sounds pretty unremarkable up to this point, except it was a few days after I quit my job of five years in a company that I had been affiliated with for most of the last 20 years. I saw it as a "sign." And now that I've read the book, I'm even more convinced that some cosmic force out there was sending me a well timed message about the virtues - yes I said virtues - of quitting.

Culturally, quitters are not held in high esteem. It comes back to the old Vince Lombardi axiom about "Winners never quit, and quitters never win." It's a valid point, but he left out an important bit of information. A footnote about making certain you are pursuing something worthwhile. The Heath brothers (Made to Stick) would call this a "knowledge gap." Coach Lombardi presumed that we universally understand that not all things we pursue are created equally - that not everything we do is worthy of our time, talent and passion. He was talking about not quitting at those things we decide are worth winning. That's what this book is about.

Seth Godin is an accomplished writer and he hits his target again with a much needed work on why quitters do in fact win. It's important to evaluate what the long term benefits are of what we do, versus the short term pain of working through a "dip." Dips actually create value by eliminating competitors who don't stay the course to make it to the upside. Work through a dip, and you are on your way to being "the best in the world."

Cul-de-Sacs (French for "dead end") are another matter entirely. Staying the course is not going to bring us out on any upside. We get stuck in a place where we cannot move forward. As Godin points out, coping and muddling through, rationalizing a decision to stay in a cul-de-sac leads to mediocrity. That so struck a chord with me. He writes: "The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers."

I have always had a reputation for being persistent, and creative, and for working hard at what I do. There was never a shortage of passion or belief in the value of what I did every day, or in the company that I worked for. But at some point, I realized that it was a dead end. Godin points out, "Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can't see it. At the same time, the smartest people are realistic about not imagining light when there isn't any." And that's when it's time to quit that pursuit, and pour your energy into one worth pursuing. Coach Lombardi was talking about working through a dip, not floundering in a cul-de-sac, or going off a cliff.

This is a great little book. A very quick read and just the right investment of a Saturday afternoon that probably should have been spent pruning shrubs. The shrubs will be there tomorrow. I highly recommend this book. Godin has added his trademark uniqueness to the very last pages with his personal "best in the world" list, and a page that allows you to pass this book along to someone else who can pass it along to someone else, with everyone jotting their name on the list of those who have read it and passed it along. I love his Purple Cow thinking which is one of the reasons that Seth Godin is one of the best authors in the world!

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