When Quitting is Winning

6/30/2016 - 11:02 a.m.

At first glance, Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), doesn’t seem to be the book you would want to hand out to your team members and associates.  With all of the good business books out there with valuable information for running, improving, and profiting from your business, why would you want to read a book about quitting?

the dip hand drawn

But like most of Godin’s books, The Dip is special and actually offers more inspiration than you may imagine.  In this little jewel, (only a 76 page, 5 X 7 book), Godin emphasizes that it isn’t hard work or dedication or good luck that brings success.  It is quitting.  Godin stresses that successful individuals and organizations are ones who are not afraid to quit, and who know what to quit and when to quit it.  This book is a mind-changer, laying the ground work for a shift in how we look at perseverance and quitting.  Godin states that, “Most of the time, we deal with the obstacles by persevering.  Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspirational writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ Bad advice. Winners quit all the time.  They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

It is strange how such a small book can pack in so much good insight.  Not all can be mentioned here, but here are three key take-aways from The Dip you can begin digesting today:

I. Staying in the Cul-de-Sac

Godin says that there are many people who would otherwise be considered a success if they weren’t spinning their wheels in what they believe they should stay doing.  He says that sometimes, we commit ourselves to completing a project or staying with a company or relationship only to discover later that the situation has stagnated and there is no potential for real growth.  This is what Godin calls a “Cul-de-Sac.” Success lies in recognizing a situation or relationship as a Cul-de-Sac and not being afraid to quit when you do.  All Cul-de-Sacs do is drain your energy and resources, diverting your attention away from making it through a worthwhile Dip.

Key Point: When the going gets tough, perhaps it is time to reexamine your goals and mission statement.  It is time to study to find out if you are in a Cul-de-Sac or a Dip.  You may find that yes, perseverance is required, or no, you should quit and go on to something better.

II. Enduring the Dip.

Godin describes the Dip as the long, hard period between beginning something new and finally mastering it.  It’s after the excitement of those first beginning days has worn off and before the fulfillment of your dream.  It is the point between starting something and excelling at it.  Another way to look at it is the stretch from beginner to expert, or mile 20 in a marathon, or the realization that it takes time, effort, and skill to get better.

And while the Dip may seem long and painful, the good news is that it’s actually a shortcut to success. The Dip weeds out the competition and is also is the point at which many give up.  Those who survive the Dip receive the big rewards.  Godin gives Stephen King, Starbucks, and Microsoft as examples.

The Dip

Key Point:  Endure the Dip. Godin states that the secret to dealing with the Dip is to figure out beforehand if you’re willing to see your project all the way through and if it’s worth doing. If you’re not willing or the pay-off isn’t big enough, quit before you enter the Dip.

III. Recognize the Dip and avoid the Cul-de-Sac

Sounds simple enough, right?  We all have been in Cul-de-Sacs and some of us have made it through the Dips before.  The key is to know what both look like so you are not wasting your time in the Cul-de-Sac when you think you are pushing through the Dip.  But once the Dip is recognized, we need to give it our all to rise out of the Dip.  That doesn’t always happen as Godin says, “Worse, when faced with the Dip, sometimes we don’t quit.  Instead, we get mediocre.”

Key Point:  According to Godin, the Dip is not always easy to spot.  However, if you are passionate about being number one at something, you continue climbing until you reach the goal.  That is busting through the Dip.  If it is a Cul-de-Sac, Godin says you will know it based on the lack of passion you have in that task, job, or relationship.

The Dip is a great read I highly recommend.  It contains some eye-opening examples of how some businesses have used the Dip to their advantage.  A final quote from Godin best sums up the need for learning about going through the Dip or just quitting: “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.  Even more important, you can realize that quitting the stuff you don’t care about or the stuff you’re mediocre at or better yet quitting Cul-de-Sacs frees up your resources to obsess about the Dips that matter.”

Johnny Duncan, President of Duncan Consulting, Inc., is a business writer and consultant partnering with business leaders to provide workforce management solutions including leadership coaching, customer service training, people-to-job matches, copywriting, and conflict resolution.  He can be reached at johnny@duncanconsult.com or by calling 407-739-0718.

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