Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Dip: An overview of how to succeed

Last time, I was describing Jenni's battle with her Inner Critic over whether her latest book was worth writing or not. I described that as a 'Dip': the increasingly powerful desire to give up on something because it's getting too hard.

Seth Godin talks about this in detail in 'The Dip: a little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick). What follows is my summary of some of his main concepts ...

Imagine you're learning something or creating something. It seemed like a great idea when you first started it, but at some point you start getting discouraged by the lack of results, or it starts hurting too much to go on (if, say, you're trying to do a measley 10 bicycle crunches a day in order to make a token effort to try getting a flatter stomach and yes that is personal experience talking). Perhaps it's simply a case that you don't know what to do next, or it's not fun, or you've found it impossible to make progress on.

Can you think of a situation you've been in like that?

When most people are faced with these sorts of obstacles, they quit. That's human nature. When faced with the unknown, when faced with embarrassment, or the prospect of failing, we quit.

Seth Godin recommends that we proactively quit. Essentially the advice in his book boils down to this:

To get through a Dip, quit the stuff that's bad for you, and stick with the stuff that's good for you.

Focus all your efforts on pushing through the dips of things that you really enjoy and that you could be great at. To gain that focus, you need to quit stuff that's distracting you, to quit the activities that are unrewarding (or only moderately rewarding) dead ends. "Quitting the stuff you don't care about or the stuff you're mediocre at or (better yet) quitting the [dead ends] frees up your resources to obsess about the Dips that matter," Seth says.

He's talking about being pro-active. You shouldn't just suffer through a Dip, waiting for it to end. Instead, actively work at getting through a dip quicker.

By quitting bad stuff and focusing your efforts on the Dip.

Quitting bad stuff gives you more time to focus on good stuff. And the thing is: anything worth doing probably involves you going through a Dip. So you need stick with the good stuff long enough to make it through discouragement and failure, so that you can start getting the benefits from it.

All of which raises the question of how can you tell good stuff from bad stuff? I'll summarise that tomorrow, and in the post after that I'll talk more about why quitting things is good.

Meanwhile, how does all this sound? Does this ring true to you?

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