Monday, August 24, 2009

The Dip: The difference between good stuff and bad stuff

I've been summarising Seth Godin's book, 'The Dip', which talks about how to deal with the powerful desire to give up on doing worthwhile things when they start getting hard or unrewarding.

Let me call on the power of enormous charts to illustrate what a Dip looks like:

See how this activity was worthwhile and rewarding when you started it. The halfway point on this chart represents feeling bogged down, like you're not making any progress or enjoying yourself. That's the Dip. If you push through, things become even more rewarding, and the curve rises up towards more results, enjoyment, and mastery. However, it's easy to imagine what the chart would look like if you quit in the middle of the Dip; instead of rising back up, the curve would crash down to zero.

In the last post, I talked about the idea of quitting bad stuff so that you can focus your energies on pushing through the Dip, and mastering or finishing your good, worthwhile projects.

Which raises the question: what is 'bad stuff'?

Seth describes these as 'Cul-de-sacs' - these are activities that you're not going to get any better at or that you're not going to enjoy any more than you already are. There are also cul-de-sacs where you not feeling that rewarded right from the start and it doesn't seem to be improving the longer you stick with it.

Cul-de-sacs suck away your time, when you could be doing better stuff.

Ultimately, these activities lead to either failure or giving up on them after sinking way too much time into them. They can also lead to perfectly enjoyable hobbies that you do for fun, without the intention of getting any better at. However, cul-de-sacs can also be stuff you don't really enjoy but you still keep doing it because you just don't think about it that much - you're on autopilot but ignoring the changing weather conditions.

The common element with cul-de-sacs is that you won't get any more enjoyment from it no matter how much you keep practicing or doing it. They look like this:

Or maybe like this:
Seth believes you can tell when you're in a Dip or a cul-de-sac. He says we have an innate sense about it (once the concepts have been pointed out to us). But while he's a big believer in relying on your intuition, later in the book he asks you to predefine the circumstances under which you'll quit. I'll talk about that in a couple of posts.

Next up, why it's good to quit. In the meantime, do you recognise any cul-de-sacs in your own life?

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The Dip is available at Wellington Library.
Seth's blog dedicated to the Dip is here.
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