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The Dip

Ten years ago, in 2007, I published a book called The Dip. I chronicled much of the launch and some of the lessons of the book in this limited-edition blog.

Since its publication, it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. It was a NY Times bestseller for four weeks, and people tell me that page for page, it changed them more than any other book I’ve written.

I’ve kept the blog as is, a time capsule of that idea, one that still resonates…

This is my blog about my new book, The Dip.

Updates and news and riffs are on the posts below. A podcast, here. The charts are here.

The Dip

The best in the world

Max writes:

There are a gazillion things, a gazillion truly different and differentiated thing, a gazillion things of genuine value, to be the best in the world at.

This is exactly what I’ve been trying to say. Best in the world just refers to the world of the consumer in that moment, and best means the thing that most appropriately fits his worldview. In other words, I don’t think you have to be the best in the world at classical violin. I think you can do great by making the best espresso on this particular block of downtown Chicago, or being the politician with the best stance on immigration (the one I agree with the most).

Compromise is the enemy of that. So is fear. So is the desire to fit in or be average. Overreaching is possible, but talent is almost never the problem.

The Dip

Quitter Contest #1

This guy quit his (amazing) job and ended up starting his well-known company at the age of 48. Never too late to confront your Dip. Free hardcover for the first person to send me a note with his name.

[boy, that was quick. It’s Enzo Ferrari. I am amazed at how many of you were willing to use the file name of the jpg in an effort to give yourself an unfair advantage. Don’t forget, I used to be a game designer. It’s a lot harder to cheat on me than that…]

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!

The Dip

A list of quitters

Thanks to the hordes who responded to my post about quitters. Books went out on Friday, and I wish I could have sent one to everyone.

So, who’s a quitter? Several people pointed out that Scott Adams (Dilbert) didn’t quit, he was fired. (This is a great interview, sent in by Nancy, one of the longest I’ve ever read with anyone about anything). Actually, my opinion is that Scott quit conceptually, even though he kept showing up.

Others: Jeff Foxworthy, John Legend, Scott Clark, Gandhi, Tom Peters, Shea Gunther, Ernie Mosteller, Francis Crick, Bill Gates, Ray Kroc, Howard Stern, Francis Obikwelu, Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, Harrison Ford, John Piper, Willem de Kooning, Jill Konrath, John Grisham, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Shawn Carter, Rowan Manahan, Ralph Roberts, Dan Schapiro, and even Apple, home of the Newton and the Apple III.

There were many more, but that ought to get you started.

The Dip

Not settling

TZ wrote to me today. Here’s his story about quitting and then becoming the best in the world:

I rose up the ranks in [name of bank] Bank Financial Group to become a Program Manager in Operations…specifically Change Management.

According to how my parents used to define success: I was a superstar. A 29 year old with a senior level position at a huge company with a safe salary, crazy benefits and a religious adherence to a 9-5 order.

The first 2 years were fueled with idealistic notions of changing the world: I entered my cubicle with enthusiasm every morning and left every day, hoping that next day would be different.

In the beginning, it didn’t even bother me that I wasn’t following my passion (music!), because I had a business card with my name, a fancy title (which was longer than the list of my accomplishments) and the beautiful logo of a major corporation.

I could sit at Starbucks with other bankers on company time and we could laugh about "fooling the man".

As time went on, I began to realize that I’m the one being fooled. With every promise of a longer title and bigger salary, I would salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs and automatically go along with whatever needed to be done to get that bigger office.

I realized that advancement was less about changing for better and more about maintaining the status quo. In big corporations, senior management always seeks out ideas from idealistic middle managers to give them a sense of hope and a promise of a better tomorrow that keeps the drones at least half alive.

So I continued to create fancy power point slides with generic expressions like:

"well positioned for growth"  – translation: we’re not saying we WILL grow…we’re just sayin….we might.

"adding value" – question: WTF did everyone think they were getting paid for? Not adding value? Why does it have to be on every slide?!

"leveraging" , – comment: i asked everyone on my team not to use those words. the frequency of use of words like "leverage" is inversely proportionate to the amount of original thought. the more you say "leverage", the less you’ve probably thought about what you’re saying.

Because I used the language of my audience, my presentations were always a big smash! As much as a presentations that "encourage change with minimal change" can be.

In short, I became resentful toward the corporation for setting up a hampster wheel and resentful toward myself for staying in that very wheel, in exchange for cash, titles and security.

So I left.

My wife and I moved to a cheaper place, I got rid of my BMW and we began to try to live on 30K a year.

From a huge corporation, I went to a music production house with 10 people.

I started at less than half my bank salary and I worked the longest hours I’ve ever worked. Good thing all the stores were closed when I’d leave the studio, that way I wouldn’t spend the money.

This was 6 months ago.

Today my salary has jumped, in direct proportion to my contributions, to almost what I made at the bank.

I have no clearly defined responsibilities….my title is whatever I want it to be….the only mandate is: do the things that make us the top production house in the city.

I’m having the time of my life and in less than 6 months, I have accomplished more in a small business with minimal budgets than I have in 5 years in a huge bank with billion dollar revenues.

The Dip

I need a few quitters

I’m trying to assemble a list of a dozen or so people who have achieved the status of ‘best in the world,’ but quit something else in order to get there. Example: Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, was a mid-level cubicle-dwelling drone at PacBell, and would be to this day if he hadn’t quit. Suze Orman was a broker at Prudential-Bache before she quit and created an empire.

If you know some great examples of people who have quit and been glad they did, I’d love to hear them (unfamous examples welcome). My top 10 favorite submissions get a free signed copy of the Dip, which I’ll mail out next week. Send your idea by email, don’t forget your mailing address.

[I got a TON of great entries. I’m processing them now. You can send more if you like, but chances of winning are close to zero. Thanks, guys.]

The Dip

One in a million

Ken sends us to this video.

There are more honor students (top quartile) currently in school in China than there are students (total) in the US. If you’re ‘one in a million’ in China, then there are a thousand other people just like you.

Best in the World gets more challenging all the time.

The Dip

Within reason

That’s the killer clause.

"We did everything within reason and we still lost."

Your competition beats you when they do things that are unreasonable. In large markets, the unreasonable competitor always establishes the new benchmark, always ends up as best in the world, always redefines what ‘within reason’ means.

I guess the only choice is to be unreasonable.

The Dip

The seven reasons

Seven Reasons You Might Fail to Become the Best in the World

  • You run out of time (and quit).
  • You run out of money (and quit).
  • You get scared (and quit).
  • You’re not serious about it (and quit).
  • You lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre (and quit).
  • You focus on the short term instead of the long (and quit when the short term gets too hard).
  • You pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world (because you don’t have the talent).

By “you,” I mean your team, your company, or just plain you, the jobseeker, employee, or entrepreneur. The important thing to remember about these seven things is that you can plan for them. You can know before you start whether or not you have the resources and the will to get to the end. Most of the time, if you fail to become the best in the world, it’s either because you planned wrong or because you gave up before you reached your goal.

Even worse than quitting in the first six cases: not quitting. Settling. Sticking with it but not succeeding.

Is it possible that you’re just not good enough? That you (or your team) just don’t have enough talent to be the best in the world? Sure, it’s possible. In fact, if your chosen area is the cello, or speed skating, then I might even say it’s probable. But in just about every relevant area I can think of, no, it’s not likely. You are good enough. The question is, will you take the shortcut you need to get really good at this?

The Dip

New venue for Dip Tour (and a possible)

Happy to announce New York for May 29 in the morning. (details here). There are only 120 seats in this theatre.

And Rajesh is working with a few people to set up a gig in Silicon Valley. If you think you might be able to help sponsor the event (by guaranteeing a set number of people, for example, or getting your company involved), drop a line to deepika.