The Dip

Seth Godin



March 05, 2022

Read time

10 minutes


Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out fun…then gets really hard, and not much fun at all. You might be in a Dip—a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac—a total dead end. What really sets superstars apart is the ability to tell the two apart.

Being the Best in the World is Seriously Underrated

I Feel Like Giving Up

You’re probably used to running into obstacles. Most of the time, we deal with the obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to quotes with bad advice: “Quitters never win and winners never quit”. This is really bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff.

The Best In The World

Believe it or not, quitting is often a great strategy, a smart way to manage your life and your career. Sometimes, though, quitting is exactly the wrong thing to do. There is a simple way to tell the difference. The key to quitting will come later in the book.

The Surprising Value of Being the Best in the World

If you look at the distribution of ice cream sales you see that the vanilla flavor counts for almost 30% of all sales alone. This is different from saying that vanilla is just the first flavor in the world ranking.

Winners win big because the marketplace loves a winner. ~ Zipf’s law

The Reason Number One Matters

You’re not the only person who looks for the best choice. Everyone does. As a result, the rewards for being first are enormous. It’s NOT a linear scale. It’s a steep curve.

The (Real) Reason Number One Matters

Scarcity makes being at the top worth something. There is only room for a few.

The Best in the World?

Anyone who is going to hire you, buy from you, recommend you, vote for you, … is going to wonder if you’re the best choice (in the world).

Best as in: best for them, right now.

In the world as in: their world, the world they have access to.

Everyone has a different world. I ca define my world to be exactly what I have an interest in–and find my preferences anywhere on the planet.

The Infinity Problem

Faced with an unlimited amount of choices, many people choose the market leader.

Is That the Best You Can Do?

People settle for less than they are capable of. For good enough instead of best in the world. Here is where most people or companies fail. They fail because they don’t know when to quit and when to refuse to settle.

The Biggest Mistake They Made in School

Everything you learned about life in school is wrong, but the wrongest thing might very well be this: “Being well rounded is the secret to success”. If you had B’s on multiple subjects you were doing great. But if you had an A+ and three C’s, you are not good. Fast-forward a few decades; are you choosing the restaurant because you hope the chef is a good golfer? In a free market, we reward the exceptional. In school, we tell kids that once something gets too hard, hove on and focus on the next thing.

The Magic of Thinking Quit

This part is a reference to the book The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz PhD. I have a note on that as well.

Most people will tell you that you need to try harder, put in more hours, get more training, and work hard. “Don’t quit!”. But if all you need to do to success is not quit, then why do individuals less talented than you win? It involves understanding the architecture of quitting, it means quitting a lot more than you do now.

Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations. Reactive- and serial quitting is for those that strive (and fail) to get what they want. And most people do that. They quit when it’s painful.

There are a couple curves that define almost any type of situation facing you as you try to accomplish something


The Dip Curve

At the beginning, when you first start something, it’s fun and interesting and you get good feedback. Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning you experience keeps you going. And then the Dip happens. A long slog between starting and mastery. The slog is actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.

Important note: Successful people don’t just ride out the Dip. They lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go. Just because you know you’re in the Dip doesn’t mean you have to live happily with it.


Cul-De-Sac is French for “dead end”

Cul-de-Sac Curve

This is a situation where you work and you work and you work and nothing much changes. It doesn’t get better or worse. It just is. These are dead-end jobs. When you find one, get off it, fast.


The Cliff Curve

This chart can be used in the context of the pleasure you get by smoking or drugs. The pain to quit just gets bigger because the rewards are.

Most of the time the first two curves are in force.

If It Is Worth Doing, There’s Probably a Dip

Every sport or game has a Dip. The difference between a mediocre player and a regional champion isn’t inborn talent--it’s the ability to push through the moments where it’s just easier to quit. De Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value.

The Cul-de-Sac and the Cliff Are the Curves That Lead to Failure

If you find yourself in the Cul-de-Sac or the Cliff Curve you need to quit. Not soon, but right now. The biggest obstacle to success in life, as far as I can tell, is our inability to quit these curves soon enough.

It’s so straight-forward and obvious advice that most people just don’t realise it. When it comes right down to it, right down to the hard decisions, are you quitting any project that isn’t a Dip? Or is it just easier not to rock the boat, to han in there, to avoid the short-term hassle of changing paths?

The Dip is Where Success Happens

The brave thing to do is to tough it out and end up on the other side — getting all the benefits that come from scarcity.

The mature thing is not even to bother starting because you’re probably not going to make it through the Dip.

The stupid thing to do is to start, give it your best shot, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the Dip.

A few people will choose the brave thing and end up the best in the world. Informed people will probably choose to do the mature thing and save their resources for a project they’re truly passionate about. Both are fine choices. You just must avoid the last one, the choice to give it a shot and then quit in the Dip.

The Reason We’re Here

The Dip is the reason you’re here. You’ve invested time and money to get into this point. This can be in anything; Weightlifting, sales, applying for a job, …. All you can do is confront this Dip. Right now.

It’s not enough to survive your way through this Dip. You get what you deserve when you embrace the Dip and treat it like the opportunity that it really is.

The Lie of Diversication

When faced with the Dip, many individuals and orgainizations diversify. This leads to record labels with thousands of artists instead of focused promotion for just a few.

Hardworking, motivated people find diversification a natural outlet for their energy and drive. Diversification feels like the natural thing to do. “Who knows? This might be the one..”

And yet the_ real_ success goes to those who obsess. The focus that leads you through the Dip to the other side is rewarded by a marketplace in search of the best in the world. Before you switch ‘markets’, consider what would happen if you managed to get through the Dip and win in the market you’re already in.

Most People Are Afraid to Quit

It’s easier to be medicare than it is to confront reality and quit.

Quitting is difficult and requires you to acknowledge that you’re never going to be #1 in the world. At least not at this. So most people don’t admit it and stay mediocre. What a waste…

If you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start.

If you embrace that simple rule, you’ll be a lot choosier about which journeys you start.

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

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

With ‘you’ Godin means your team, your company or just plain you. 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, its either because you planned wrong or because you gave up before you reached the goal.

You are good enough. The question is, will you take the shortcut you need to get really good at this?

8 Dip Curves

Here are a bunch of systems that are dependent on Dips. These Dips are in the places where organizations and individuals are most likely to give up.

You can choose (in advance) to do whatever you need to do in order to get through the Dip, knowing it’s going to be difficult; or you can give up before you get there. Quitting _in _ the Dip though, isn’t worth the journey.

It’s easy and fun to start building something in your garage. It’s difficult and expensive to design an integrated circuit or camp up for large-scale production. The time and effort and cost of ramping up your operation create the Dip. Most people don’t have the guts to take their work to the next level.

Most ideas get their start when one person (you) starts selling it. The Dip hits when you need to upgrade to a professional sales force and scale it up.

A career gets started as soon as you leave school. But the Dip often hits when it’s time to go learn something new, to reinvent or rebuild your skills. A person who sacrifices a year of her life for a specialty reaps the rewards for decades afterward.

It takes risk to rent a bigger space or invest in new techniques. Successful entrepreneurs understand the difference between investing to get through the Dip (a smart move) or investing in something that’s actually a risky crapshoot.

There are people and organizations that can help you later but only if you invest the time and effort to work with them now, even though now is not necessarily the easiest time for you to do it. Those shortsighted people who are always eager for a favor or a break never manage to get through the relationship Dip, because they didn’t invest in relationships back when it was difficult (but not urgent).

You got this far operating under one set of assumptions. Abandoning those assumptions and embracing a new, bigger set may be exactly what you need to do to get to the next level.

When it’s all about you, it’s easier. Giving up control and leaning into the organization gives you leverage. Most people can’t do this; they can't give up control or the spotlight.

Some retailers make it easy for your product to get distribution, while others require an investment from your organization that may just pay off.

The easy part is determining if you are in a Cul-de-Sac or a Dip. The hard part is finding the guts to do something about it.

The Big Opportunity

It’s all about the story you tell yourself

You grew up believing that quitting is a moral failing. Quitting feels like a go-down moment. Of course you are trying your best. But you just can’t do it.

I’d rather have you focus on quitting (or not quitting) as a go-up opportunity. It’s not about avoiding the humiliation of failure. You can realize that quitting the stuff you don’t care about frees up your resources to obsess about the Dips that matter.

If you’re going to quit, quit before you start. Reject the system. Don’t play the game if you realize you canrt be the best in the world.

Average is for losers

Not just surviving the Dip, but using the Dip as an opportunity to create something so extraordinary that people can’t help but talk about, recommend it, and, yes, choose it. There are two options: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.

“Am I being to harsh?”, Godin asks himself. He answers by saying; “Isn’t your time and your effor and your career and your reputation too valuable to squancder on just being average? Average feels safe, but it’s not. It’s invisible. It’s your last choice — the path of least resistance.

You deserve to be better than average

Facing the Dip

Please understand that if you’re not able to get through the Dip in an exceptional way, you must quit. And quit right now.

It’s easy to be seduced by the new money and the rush to the fresh. The problem is that this leads to both an addiction and a very short attention span. If it doesn’t work today, the thinking goes, why should I wait around until tomorrow?

Quitting in the Dip is Usually a Short-term Descision — and a Bad One.

No One Quits a Marathon at Mile 25

There are 26 miles in a marathon so Mile 25 is the last one before the finish.

Who is going to drop out when the finish line is in sight?

Persistent people are able to visualize the ideo of light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it. At the same time, the smartest people are realistic about not imagining light when there is’nt any.

The only reason to stay in a situation where you are “comfortable” is the short-term pain associated with quitting. Winners understand that taking that pain now prevents a lot more pain later

If You’re Not Going to Get #1, You Might As Well Quit Now

It’s okay to quit, sometimes. In fact, it’s okay to quit often. You should quit if you’re on a dead-end path. You should quit if the project you’re working on has a Dip that isn’t worth the reward in the end. Quitting the projects that don’t go anywhere is essential if you want to stick out the right ones.

Quitting is Not the Same as Failing

Strategic quitting is a conscious decision you make based on the choices that are available to you. If you realize you’re at a dead-end compared with what you could be investing in, quitting is not only a reasonable choice, it’s a smart one.

Failing, on the other hand, means that your dream is over. Failing happens when you give up when there are no other opinions. Quitting smart is a great way to avoid failing.

“Never Quit”

Quitting as a short-term strategy is a bad idea. Quitting for the long term is an excellent idea.

Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment.”

3 Questions to Ask Before Quitting

  • Am I Panicking?
    Quitting when you’re panicked is dangerous. The best quitters are the ones who decide in advance when they’re going to quit. You can always quit later—so wait until you’re done panicking to decide.

  • Who am I Trying to Influence?
    If you’re considering quitting, it’s almost certainly because you’re not being successful at your current attempt at influence.

  • What sort of Measurable Progress Am I Making?
    When trying to succeed, you’re either moving forward, falling behind or standing still.

To succeed, you’ve got to make some sort of forward progress, no matter how small.

The hard part is having the perspective to see this when you’re in pain, or frustrated, or stuck. That’s why setting your limits before you start is so powerful.

You’re Astonishing

If you’ve got as much as you’ve got, use it. Use it to become the best in the world, to change the game, to set the agenda for everyone else. You can only do that by taking all of your resources to get through the biggest possible Dip. In order to get through that Dip, you’ll need to quit everything else. If it’s not putting a dent in the world, quit. Right Now. Quit and use the void that remains to find the energy to assault the Dip that matters.

Go ahead, make something happen!

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Is this a Dip, or a Cul-de-Sac?

  • If it’s a Cul-de-Sac, how do I change it into a Dip?

  • Is my persistence going to pay off in the long run?

  • When should I quit? I need to decide now, not when I’m in the middle of it and it is “difficult”.

  • What chance does this project have to be the best in the world?

  • Who decides what best is?

  • Can we make the world smaller?

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.

It’s almost impossible to overinvest in becoming the market leader.

All our successes are the same. All our failures, too.

We succeed when we do something remarkable. We fail when we give up to soon. We succeed when we are the best in the world at what we do. We fail when we get distracted by tasks we don’t have the guts to quit.