The Best Lessons I Learned from the Dip



“The time to quit is before you wish you had.” — Kimberly K. Jones, Sand Dollar Summer

Winners never quit and quitters never win, right?


Winners quit all the time.

The Dip is a book about how to quit with skill.

Winners Quit the Right Things at the Right Time

Did you ever stick with something way too long?

Winners quit the things that aren’t working or the things that won’t pay off in the long run.  They move on to where they can be their best.  Perhaps the best in the world. Winners don’t quit when it gets tough.

In fact, that’s exactly the wrong time to quit.

That’s where the Dip comes in.

The Dip is About Quitting and Sticking More Effectively

The Dip is that long curve between starting out and making it to the top.  It’s where you find the resistance that can wear you down and make you want to quit.

But it’s that same resistance that creates the scarcity at the top.  And the top is where your greatest rewards lie.

In The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), Seth Godin writes about quitting and sticking more effectively.

30 Lessons About Quitting from the Dip

Here are my key lessons learned from the Dip:

1. Winners quit. 

Winners do quit and winners do win.

2. Being the best is the best place to be. 

Being the best in the world is seriously underrated

3. Winners quit more effectively. 

Quit the wrong stuff, stick with the right stuff.

4. Know the Dips.

If you know the dips in place that encourage quitting, you’re more likely to beat them.

5. Scarcity at the top makes it worth something. 

Those at the top get exponential rewards. 

See Zipf’s Law.

6. Best in the world is relative. 

It’s best for them, right now based on what they believe and in their world, the one they have access to.

7. The world’s getting bigger and smaller. 

The world’s getting bigger because you can look everywhere, but it’s also getting smaller because categories are getting specialized.

8. It’s better to be the best. 

People pick the market leaders.  People narrow their choices to the top

9. Be exceptional in the areas that matter. 

Being well-rounded is not the secret to success.  In a free market, the exceptional get the rewards.

10. Figure out what you don’t know.

Superstars don’t skip the questions they don’t know; they get really good at figuring them out.

11. Getting there is the tough part. 

It’s easy to be a CEO, but it’s hard to get there.

12. Lean into the Dip. 

Successful people don’t just ride out the Dip; they lean into it.

13. Where there’s scarcity, there’s value. 

The Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value.

14. Adversity is your ally.

It insulates you from the competition.

15. The winds of change turn easy problems into hard ones. 

Every function in an organization has a wind problem.  The wind is unpredictable.  

The difficult and unpredictable works to your advantage. 

We’re here to solve the hard problems.

16. Obsession and success go hand in hand. 

The real success goes to those who obsess.

17. Recognize when you’re in a Dip. 

Knowing that you’re in a dip is the first step in getting through it.

18. Stick with the Dips that make sense. 

Stick with the Dips that are likely to pan out, and quit the Cul-De-Sacs to focus your resources.

19. Pick your dip. 

If you enter a market too big or too loud for your resources available, your message gets lost.

20. Change your approach. 

The opposite of quitting is rededication – an invigorated new strategy to break the problem apart.

21. Have a realistic, long-term view. 

Persistent people visualize light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it and the smartest people are realistic and don’t imagine light when there isn’t any.

22. Stay committed to your outcome, but flexible in your approach. 

Don’t quit your long term strategy, quit the tactics that aren’t working.

23. Quitting isn’t failing.

Quitting is not the same as failing and coping is a lousy alternative.

24. Pride is the enemy of the smart quitter. 

Don’t let your ego get in the way of your effectiveness.

25. One person or organization will behave differently than a market of people will. 

The market doesn’t have just one mind.  

Different people in the market are seeking different things.

26. Influencing one person is like scaling a wall. 

If you make it over in the first few tries you’re in, otherwise the wall gets higher.

27. Influencing a market is more like a hill than a wall. 

The higher you get the easier it gets and people in the market influence each other.

28. Don’t quit a market or a strategy or a niche. 

Quit a product or a feature or a design.   Don’t fall in love with a tactic forever. 

Decide if you’re in a market and get through the Dip.  Your strategy – to be a trusted source in your chosen market – can survive even if your product is canceled.

29. The 7 reasons you might fail to become the best in the world:

You run out of time, you run out of money, you get scared, you’re not serious about it, you lose interest or enthusiasm and settle for being mediocre, you focus on the short term instead of the long, you pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world.

30. The 8 dip curves:

manufacturing Dip, sales Dip, education Dip, risk Dip, relationship Dip, conceptual Dip, ego Dip, distribution Dip.

3 Curves: the Dip the Cul-De-Sac, and the Cliff

Seth identifies 3 curves:

  • Curve 1: the Dip.  Almost everything worth doing is controlled by the Dip.   The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery.  The Dip is where success happens.  Stick it out, only if you’re going to get the benefits of being the best in the world.
  • Curve 2: the Cul-De-Sac.  You work and work and work, but nothing much changes.  These are dead-end jobs.  If you’re in a Cul-De-Sac or Cliff, you need to quit.  You need to quit these so you can refocus on something with promise.
  • Curve 3: the Cliff.  It’s a situation where you can’t quit until you fall off.

Brave, Mature, and Stupid

Seth says you can be brave, mature or stupid about a given Dip.

Seth writes:

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

The mature thing is to not even both starting to snowboard 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.”

The Real Success Goes to Those Who Obsess

Seth shows the value of focus through a woodpecker example.

Seth writes:

“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. 

A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere but stay busy.  Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.”

Remind Yourself of Life at the Other End of the Dip

Seth says to remind yourself of the end in mind to make it through the Dips.

Seth writes:

“Short-term pain has more impact on most people than long-term benefits do, which is why it’s important for you to amplify the long-term benefits of not quitting. 

You need to remind yourself of life at the other end of the Dip because it’s easier to overcome the pain of yet another unsuccessful cold call if the reality of the successful sales career is more concrete.”

3 Questions to Ask Before Quitting

Seth provides 3 questions to ask before you quit:

  • Question 1: Am I panicking?  The wrong time to quit the Dip is when you’re panicking.  The best quitters decide in advance when they’re going to quit.
  • Question 2: Who am I trying to influence?  Influencing one person is more like scaling a wall, but influencing a market is more like taking a hill.
  • Question 3: What sort of measurable progress am I making?  You’ve got to make some sort of forward progress, no matter how small.

Additional Resources

Seth Godin’s Blog

The Dip Blog by Seth Godin

But are you really serious about it?

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  1. I enjoyed reading The Dip too, and recognise a lot of the key points that you make here. I did find it frustrating that there was no real explanation of ‘how do you know which dip you’re in?’ which is kind of a killer question. Although that being said I have found myself asking myself that question as I go along, as a way of testing my reaction and challenging the nature of the dips I’m facing… so maybe we don’t need a guide, just the reminder to keep asking the question?

  2. @ Joanna

    I think you’re right — just remembering to ask the question is the key. I think Seth mentioned somewhere that he doesn’t have all the answers, but asking the right questions is a great start.

    For me, I ask myself:
    – Am I in a niche that’s worth it in the end?
    – Am I spending all my time and energy in a niche where I can be the best in the world?
    – How do I make the world small enough, so I can be?
    who’s a relevant model that I can learn from? (maybe the grass isn’t greener)
    – what other Dips should I test myself against?

    I think it’s also healthy to do a weekly or monthly checkpoint on where you think you are in terms of the 8 dip curves.

  3. Hi J.D. What an interesting concept. I like the example of the woodpecker. Persistence does pay off as long as we’re in a niche which will put us in the best position for ourselves. Over the years I’ve seen many who quit prematurely only later to regret it.

    My favorite nugget of yours is, “Adversity is your ally. It insulates you from the competition.” Ironically, it’s often when the competition faces adversity they quit.

  4. @ Barbara

    Seth is the man! Seriously.

    I had read his blog and knew about him. I stumbled on the Dip at a little hole in the wall bookstore. It was a like a Dr. Seuss on personal effectiveness. The words were fluid and rhythmic and the points were crisp.

    I think it took about a 1/2 hour to read, and he drilled the points home in a fun way. He’s got the gift of framing and creating a language for making sense of a space.

  5. Just got the book from the library…
    But after reading this post i know for sure that my favorite is:

    ‘Best in the world is relative. It’s best for them, right now based on what they believe and in their world, the one they have access to.”

  6. @ Alik

    I really, REALLY like scoping the world. It’s the simplest way to be overwhelmed, underwhelmed, or right-sized 😉

  7. I read The Dip and Purple Cow in 2 days on christmas eve and day. It made me re-think everything I have though on what I have been doing. Two great books, can’t say enough about them.

  8. @ AlexG

    Thanks for stopping by. I haven’t read the Purple Cow yet, but it sounds like a great book. It’s on my hit list.

  9. Brilliant read that has (will) have a profound effect on me. The real things I have taken to heart is;

    No one rewards mediocre
    You have to give things up to succeed at others

    I once worked with some guys from the Chasm Group (crossing the chasm) and they used to portray these very sentiments.

    Here are some immediate changes I have decided to make in my life

    – I used to be interested in software security and security software. I am giving up software security. I will continue to build software for software security but my primary interests lie in building security software and I want to focus on that and become the best in the world

    – I am unsubscribing from miriads of mailing lists and blogs. Focusing on whats important to me and not whats important to others will play a more dominant role in my future

    – I will be spending more time flying my kites!

    I am hitting a dip now. I have been in this dip for years, trying to get a framework built. Its literally been 4 years now trying tio get it done. I have been at the point of thinking this may not be worth it but the dip has given me some added self confidence that the short term pain will be rewarded by the long term gain.

  10. […] Lessons Learned from the Dip […]

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