Quitting or staying through the dip

Quitting or staying through the dip

Every day I feel like giving up. Every day there are moments when I think: is this really the best use of my time? I'm sure you feel that way at times, too. 

Although I'm dedicated to making a living from coaching, I have a little bit more to do before I see my efforts pay off. Now I have spent over a year setting up this practice and learning business skills, I notice that my enthusiasm and energy have waned a bit.  

It is at these times that I feel most vulnerable to push-back or to criticism. It is at these times that I also seek answers outside myself and think I can't do this work alone. Doubts, insecurities, worries leave me grasping for answers. Do I keep going? Do I need more information? Do I need to do something else than what I'm doing?

I begin to worry that I will do what I did at other times when I felt this way: I will quit. Give up. These moments of self-doubt feel like too much of a cost for the success I could experience if I continued on. 


There's an interesting little book I learned about through my coach. I was talking to her about my feelings, and told her it feels like I hit a "dip" in my journey of becoming a full-time life coach. It's like being stuck in a place where I can't see over the hill that's in front of me. Because I can't see the path forward, my energy is flagging. It's like running a 25-mile marathon and not knowing what mile I've reached. I might be at mile 10, or I might be at mile 24. Either way, I'm tired. 

She told me there actually is a book called "The Dip" by Seth Godin. I found it at my library and it talks about exactly this phenomenon. 

It's a very short, book, just 76 pages. 

He describes The Dip as having three options:

  1. A dip can just be a dip in energy, performance, activity because something is taking a longer time than you expected it would. This is when the going gets tough and the tough get going.

  2. A dip can actually be leading you to a dead-end, (he calls it a Cul-de-Sac) which is a project that you’re better off quitting because nothing will ever change, get better or get worse. A dead-end job is one in which the status quo remains the status quo. You won’t lose anything or gain anything by staying in it.

  3. A dip can be leading to a cliff. If you keep going, there’s no way you are going to succeed. There will be an ending, probably a painful one, at the end of it. It’s when everything falls apart.

Everything worthwhile feels like this:


Things I learned from this book:

  • If you don’t plan on being #1 in the world, don’t keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Being number one in the world is subjective. What does it mean to be number one? If being number one means standing head and shoulders above anyone else, you need to know what that looks like, how that will feel, how it will impact you, and what work will be involved. You have to be dedicated to being number one, because there is only room for one number one. When you make it to being number one, you will be standing on your own. You will notice that there are very few around you who have the success you have. Everyone else will be miles below you. And they might try to drag you down to their level. If you are committed to being number one, you have to have the stomach and stamina for it. To be number one, you must do something exceptional.

  • What world do you want to be number one in? What is your market? You need to know what world you’re trying to stand out in. You could stand out in the art world, you could stand out in the modern art world, you could stand out in the modern art world of computer art. The more specific your world, the more likely you can make it to number one, because your competition gets smaller and your world gets more focussed. That's why it's recommended that you do something that is unique to you. Because no one else will come up with the exact thing that you will or be able to do it the same way.

  • The dip is that moment when you can’t see the rest of the journey and have lost sight of what’s at the end of it. No one gives up within a half mile of the finish line of a marathon. At this point either rededicate yourself to making the finish line, or change course. “The dip is the long slog between starting and mastery,” writes Seth Godin. The dip is what keeps most people out of the race or from reaching the finish line.

  • Winners quit all the time. They just know WHEN to quit. Dead-ends and cliffs are there to show us it’s time to quit. Quit the stuff you’re mediocre at. Free up your resources for what matters. There are two choices. Quit or be exceptional. Average is invisible and the path of least resistance. You deserve better.

  • If the project/endeavor is worth doing, there will be a dip along the way. A dip is a sure sign that you are on the right track. The dip is where success happens. The brave thing is to work through the dip, stick with it and succeed. The dip is your friend.

  • Let go of all the things that won’t help you to get through the dip. Winners know when to say no to things, when to quit activities. This goes hand in hand with “Essentialism.” You have to know what is working for you and what isn’t.

  • Many people are afraid to quit. To quit their job, to quit a marriage. It’s because they don’t want to admit that they will not succeed in this situation. They would rather settle for mediocre, than to quit and find another thing to succeed at. They don’t quit because they don’t have the guts to.

  • Many people quit too soon. They quit when things get hard, when their muscles hurt, as do those who join gyms to work out and gain muscle. What they don’t realize is that it takes pain to get the muscles to grow. That’s the same for emotional growth. If you can’t make it through the dip, don’t start. It will be a waste of your time and money.

  • Seven reasons you might fail to become the best at what you do: 1. You run out of time. 2. You run out of money. 3. You get scared. 4. You’re not serious about it. 5. You lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre. 6. You focus on the short term instead of the long term (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).

  • There are many systems designed for the dip. For example, gym memberships. Netflix. They count on you not sticking with it. The more people who give up, the better off the company is financially. (In a sense, coaching is designed around the dip as well. Because people haven't had success trying to do certain things on their own, using their own will-power or strategies, they look for coaches -- in life or sports or business -- to hold them accountable or be their guide.)

  • Areas where you will experience a dip: Manufacturing (it takes time and effort and costs to keep up your production level), Sales (upgrading to a professional sales force to keep away the competition), Education (when learning something new to reinvent or build your skills), Risk (investing in a risky venture), Relationship (creating the relationships that are hard to get and not yet urgent, but will pay off later), Concepts (embracing new assumptions), Ego (giving up control or the spotlight) and Distribution (getting your product into a larger market space).

  • Entrepreneurs many have perfected the starting part, but often give up long before they pay their dues. Quit a product or feature or design, but don’t quit a market or strategy or niche. You have to stick with those to make it through the dip. The market wants to see you persist. It wants a signal that you’re serious, powerful, accepted, and safe.

  • The opposite of quitting is rededication. Decide. Is the light at the end of the tunnel worth the short-term pain of the dip?

  • Quitting is not the same as failing. You can quit to avoid failing. Failing is when you give up on your dream. Quitting is smart failing without giving up on your dream. Three questions to ask before quitting: Am I panicking? Who am I trying to influence? What sort of measurable progress am I making?

  • Set limits before you start. Write down under what circumstances you’re willing to quit and when. And stick to it.

If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.
— Seth Godin, "The Dip"
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