Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Dip: The Big Picture

You'll remember this series on the Dip started out with Jenni's story. She engaged in a long battle with her Inner Critic over whether her latest book was worth writing or not. Eventually she decided to quit writing the book that she had so many concerns about, and started work on a new one that she enjoyed more (and finished quickly). She did this despite being concerned that she might develop a bad habit of quitting things that seemed too difficult.

Said another way, Jenni was faced with the eternal question that faces writers (and everyone else): should you abandon this project (or person or product) and start working on another one?

In The Dip, Seth Godin says that if you're considering quitting, you're probably trying to influence someone or some thing (like a book you're writing, or a song you're trying to finish, or a work role you're trying to master). Whatever (or whoever) it is, if you're considering quitting, then you're probably failing to influence it.

So Godin looks at what you're trying to influence in two ways:

The little picture is the project you're working on right now, trying to make progress on.

The big picture is the market you're trying to influence with this project. To illustrate this little picture/big picture (project/market) relationship:
  • you can write a book, but you're trying to create an audience for your books
  • you can write a song, but you're trying to become a better songwriter
  • you can work at a particular job, but you're trying to earn a satisfying living.
So, in a way it doesn't matter what the specific project is that you're working on, as long as you're still trying to make progress in the bigger market.

And this is the answer to Jenni's dilemma, which (unlike me) she figured out without having to read through an 80-page book:
  • If your new book turns out to be crap and you quit it and start a new one, you're still trying to be a writer
  • If you don't like this song, you're still going to keep figuring out what sort of songs you like to write
  • If you hate your job, you can quit it but that doesn't mean "quitting your quest to make a living or a difference or an impact."
The key is to be clear about why you're quitting - that you're still committed to overcoming the Dip in your market, and that you're certain the project you're working on isn't worth continuing at this point.

If you quit your market simply because you're in a Dip, then you've wasted all of your time. I don't want you to waste your time. I want you to succeed!

The value of not quitting, the value of persistence, comes from being firmly committed to the market that you're trying to influence. If you're 'market-committed', then you can change tactics, try different projects, quit a book or a band ... as long as you're confident you're making progress in the big picture.

So figure out what you're committed to, and work your way through the Dip!

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As always, The Dip is available at Wellington Library.

Seth's blog dedicated to the Dip is here.

... and that's it. Hope you've enjoyed this series. It's been tough to write, but it feels useful to me. Here are a few questions to finish off:

Is there anything you want to quit? And if you quit, will it give you more time and energy to get through the Dip on something more important?

If you're in a Cul-de-Sac, do you think it's possible to change it into a Dip? How would you do that?


debbie said...

Prison Break Season 4. I've decided it's a cul-de-sac and I'm quitting it after one and a bit episodes.

hix said...


I've found myself reading my first two books on poker strategy. I've decided to call it quits after I've taken notes from that and unlocked the next level of my cellphone poker game.

Then I'm out, dammnit. Which will give me more time to watch Supernatural Season 4, which is excellent.

debbie said...

I feel like I should have come up with a better example than watching a TV show but I couldn't think of anything.

Jenni said...

I feel like such a star, being written about in someone else's blog.


hix said...

Not just a star, you're an inspiration!