I wanted to quit so many times at different stages of my life especially at times when things got tough. However I did not quit when I should have had. Instead, I put up with the struggle that I did not need to endure and prolong.
Here is where it all falls i.e. when to quit and when to persevere?
Seth Godin, an entrepreneur, author, and a marketer wrote a whole book about this very particular topic. In his book “The Dip,” he explains the difference between quitting and strategic quitting.
“Quit the wrong stuff
Stick with the right stuff
Have the guts to do one or the other”
Here are some interesting highlights from the book:
What causes people to quit?
When you are starting something new, it is usually exciting. You could be developing a new skill or starting your own business. It is in a way fun and you feel pretty good about yourself. The speed of your learning is fast and satisfying. Then you reach the Dip.
What is the Dip?
According to Seth, the Dip is what comes between a beginner and a master. Whatever you are starting, the Dip is bound to happen.
(graph from page 17)
The Dip is the point that comes in the middle, which usually entails obstacles before you see exceptional results. It is the stage where you consider either quitting or keep going.
There are 3 choices people make when they reach the dip. These are: the brave, the mature, and the stupid choice.
He illustrates this with the snowboarding example:
Snowboarding is a cool and thrilling sport. He then questions why aren’t there more snowboarders?
It takes some time to pick up the techniques and during this time, you will fall and look incompetent.“Because learning the basic skills constitutes a painful Dip.”
It is usually easier to stop than continue. So, people either do:
- The brave thing: They toughen up, keep going, and become really good in snowboarding.
- Or the mature thing: They do not even attempt to snowboard because they know they
will probably fail.
- Or the stupid thing: They start, invest money and time, and then quit when they reach the Dip.
“A few people do the brave thing and end up the best in the world.”
The gift in the Dip
Seth interprets the Dip as the key to success. The Dip is the space that allows success to emerge. The people who strive through the Dip are the successful people in the world. They commit and do not quit and jump from one thing to the other or accept being just average.
“The dip creates scarcity and scarcity creates value.” Since not everyone chooses to embrace and lean into the dip, the people who cross to the other side are rare and exceptional.
“Almost everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip.”
I attempted to learn piano when I was 12. First class was fun and the notes were easy. Nonetheless, lessons got harder and I had to practice on an electric keyboard at home. The teacher started scolding me every week for not nailing my practice and I started to really dread those classes. I quit.
At the same time, my brother took on guitar which he absolutely loved. He continued to learn and still plays it till today. If you ever attempted to learn the guitar, you would know that initially your fingers might bleed from practice and you would struggle to get the basic chords right. It takes a lot of training and determination. Some people put up with it and practice harder and some quit after one week.
“Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.”
Surviving the Dip
As Seth mentions, the Dip is almost inevitable in everything. You have to decide before reaching the Dip if it is worth it or not. You pick the Dip you want to go through, whether it is falling on your bottom 100 times when you are learning to snowboard or stuttering and stumbling while learning a new language or surviving a different kind of battle when you are transitioning to a new career. Whatever it is, you decide if it is worth it and anything worth doing will most likely have a Dip!
“Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”
Successful people quit things that are not progressing and improving. Seth believes that if you are aiming to be the best in what you do, then you have to quit the things that are not improving and progressing.
We don’t need to be great in everything
Schools base success on being well rounded and Seth believes that we should not and could not be great in everything. He thinks schools are making a big mistake by reinforcing this belief in people.
“How often do you hope that your accountant is a safe driver and a decent golfer?”
I couldn’t agree more. I value education a lot. However, in most educational systems, there is a lot of pressure on students to excel in all subjects. Even worse, if you are skilled in Arts but you are flunking Math, then you are considered a failure, at least in my school that was the case.
Hence, we grow up with a mindset that we should be perfect in many things in order to be successful.
Strategic quitting is smart and necessary to grow and succeed in other things.
“A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.”
Seth provides 3 questions to ask yourself before quitting:
- Am I panicking?
Quitting when you’re anxious is risky and costly.
- Who am I trying to influence?
Are you applying for a job? Trying to thrive in a market? Training a muscle? If you’re thinking of quitting, it’s probably because you are not succeeding in your attempts at influence.
- What sort of measurable progress am I making?
If you’re trying to succeed in any endeavor, you’re either improving, falling behind, or getting stuck. To succeed, you’ve got to make some development even if it is small.
Beyond the Book
The Dip is a tiny book that is full of wisdom. However, there is a lot of emphasis on the importance of being the best in the world.
“If you are not going to put in the effort to be my best possible choice, why bother?”
Seth believes that being number 1 is all that matters. People usually ask for the best doctor, best restaurant, and best copywriter. No one asks for the average service or person and therefore ‘best’ is subjective to the consumer.
“Anyone who is going to hire you, buy from you, recommend you, vote for you, or do what you want them to do is going to wonder if you’re the best choice.“
As much as empowering it is to aim for the best, I do have another take on this.
Many people do not want to compete and win the Air & Style snowboarding competition. They just enjoy being in nature, on the snow, and on a kickass board without smashing their face every time they attempt to stand up.
On the other hand, some people dream to win every snowboarding competition in the world.
It does not matter. What is important for each person is remarkably different. I can still take dancing classes and look like a fool and not want to compete on “So You Think You Can Dance.”
If it is important for you to be the best in what you do, I highly recommend you read this book.
Nevertheless, if you feel like you want to quit the job, the relationship, the music, or the friendship, do consider the following:
- What does it mean to you?
- Are you freaking out and wanting to quit out of fear?
- What part of success scares you?
- What will it take from you to cross the dip?
- Are you willing to power through the dip?