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The Dip – Seth Godin

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Seth Godin’s new book has been getting a lot of press. Primarily aimed at businesses, it is being touted as another book with ‘the answer’ about how to approach your work and your life. The back of the book proudly proclaims that it “will forever alter the way you think about success”. Well, I don’t know about that, but I wouldn’t just dismiss it as uselessly stating the obvious, like some have.

The Dip

The dip itself is the moment where your hard work stops giving you rewards. Any venture, says Seth, begins with a period of enthusiasm that rewards your efforts. Learning something new is the simplest example. Soon though, this honeymoon period wears off, praise from your peers peters out, and your efforts seem to go unnoticed. Sound familiar? This is the dip.

The good news is though, that getting through this period leads to great success and benefits. The rewards far out way those you started out experiencing. This is because getting through the dip on the big issues in your life makes you a rarity, and makes you valuable.

By way of illustration, let’s look at J. K Rowling. She is the perfect example of someone who struggled through a dip that lasted years while she created her world and tried to convince someone that others would want to read her stories about a boy wizard. Now look at her. In this case, getting through the dip, and not quitting, led to huge rewards.

The other side of the coin is that quitting is actually allowed, and required. Sure, our example author didn’t quit writing Harry Potter, but she quit an awful lot of other things in order to do it. Seth Godin’s book advocates strategic quitting in order to become the best in the world at something. After all, you can’t be the best in the world at everything.

What use is it?

So, with the nutshell description and example out of the way, how does it actually read? Well, it’s short. But even that doesn’t save it from waffle. The basic concept takes barely a page to explain, after all. After that there is some useful, practical advice about half-way through, and again at the end, but in between it’s a bit woolly. The problem is there’s very little structure, so the middle of the book feels like a series of flash cards, held up in no particular order. Seth seesaws between advocating quitting and sticking, rather than take them in turn. This makes it hard to pick out words of wisdom.

Where it is useful is as a consciousness raiser. He rightly points out that you know these things already, but by making sure that you recognise dips (and potential cul-de-sacs and cliffs), you can learn to react appropriately and with intent.
For example, after reading, you’ll realise
- the dip won’t last forever
- the dip is malleable, and working harder might get you through it quicker
- the rewards will be waiting
- if you’re in a Dip, you are likely on the right track
- working through the dip is actually the shortcut you’ve been looking for

More importantly, you’re more likely to recognise these things whilst in the dip, encouraging you not to quit, or before you start a new writing project if you realise you are not going to see it through. And if you’re not sure, the book is short enough that you can pick it up and give it a good read every now and then to keep you aware of what you are facing and why it is worth it.

And dips are everywhere in writing (and in life I guess). There is likely a dip in each project you do (writing a novel seems like a slog after your enthusiasm for the idea wears off); there is a dip in getting published, or in getting enough copies out there if you’re self-publishing; there is even a dip in just getting a writing routine going.

My experience of The Dip

I had my good writing experiences in primary school, and then later in secondary school. In primary school my stories always took longer than anyone else’s because I loved writing them. In secondary school I rediscovered my talent for it as a young adult, enjoying writing and getting praise for it from teachers.

But, I never got into the habit of writing, and the moments of inspiration, where I felt I had got something right, became fewer as I progressed through university. From then on, any time I started to have a go at writing, I was already starting in The Dip.

So, you can say that when I started this blog, I was already sold on the dip concept. That is the reason I started writing this in the first place – as a means to chip away at the dip of simply getting myself to write regularly. At the time though, I hadn’t read the book and would not have put it that way. Still, like my other recent attempts to motivate myself, this serves to reinforce my reasoning and attack the problem with renewed gusto. For that, I have to recommend it.

I’d like to know how many other writers have read this book. What did you think? Was it useful? Any other books in a similar vein that you can recommend?