The Dip

Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

Stefan Stern who writes for the Financial Times wrote this review for Accounting and Business, a UK journal found here:

Vince Lombardi is one of the most venerated American football coaches in history. The team he built, the Green Bay Packers, won the NFL championship five times in the nine years he was coaching them. And Lombardi came up with one of the world’s most famous motivational commands of all, beloved of managers everywhere: “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.”

Seth Godin, the marketing guru, blogger and best-selling author of Purple Cow, quotes Lombardi at the start of this slim new book. And Godin’s verdict on the great Lombardi’s views? “Bad advice.”

That is typical Godin, who possesses one of the cheekiest and most energetic voices in business today. That is partly why his latest offering is worth a look even though, at nearly £7 for 100 pages, it might not appear to offer the best value for money. (Well, I did say he was cheeky, didn’t I?)

Godin’s counter-intuitive insight is simply this: winners do quit, they quit all the time, it’s just that they pick the right moment and the right place to quit, so that they can concentrate their fire on an area where winning is a much more likely (and indeed more profitable) outcome.

The book’s title refers to that low point in any task or project where we have to decide whether to carry on with what we are doing – in the hope of overcoming a dip – or whether we should in fact abandon the work in hand and move on. One of our biggest problems, Godin says, is that we fail to recognise when a dip is in fact a cul-de-sac, a dead end. He hails Jack Welch, former chief executive of General Electric, as a boss who knew when certain business units were coming up against a dead end. “Be number one or number two in a sector, or get out of it,” was the Welch doctrine.

Quitting is important because winning is important, Godin says. “Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny majority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most,” he writes. “Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny majority with the guts to quit early and refocus their efforts on something new.”

Godin is the enemy of muddling through, making do, and coping. Either get through the dip and reach for the stars, or find something else to do, he advises. But don’t mess with “Mr Inbetween”.

“The most common response to the dip is to play it safe,” Godin says. “To do ordinary, blameless work, work that’s beyond reproach. When faced with the dip most people ‘suck it up’ and try to average their way to success. Which is precisely why so few people end up the best in the world… The problem with coping is that it never leads to exceptional performance,” he adds. “Mediocre work is rarely because of a lack of talent and often because of the cul-de-sac. All coping does is waste your time and misdirect your energy. If the best you can do is cope, you’re better off quitting.”

So that’s us told then. Sounds like a good place to stop!