Liaken's Reviews > The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit

The Dip by Seth Godin
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it was ok
bookshelves: simple-life, self-help, declutter

This is a short book. Despite being short, it is very repetitive. It also advocates the philosophy that nothing is worth doing if you're not going to be #1, which is a philosophy I disagree with. However, I did find the basic concepts of this book to be interesting, even helpful. So, here's the nutshell of the book, in the book's own words. Now you don't have to read it. :-)

Excerpts from The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit by Seth Godin

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.

Most people quit. They just don't quit successfully. (pg. 3)

Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations. Reactive quitting and serial quitting are the bane of those that strive (and fail) to get what they want. And most people do just that. They quit when it's painful and stick when they can't be bothered to quit.

There are two curves that define almost any type of situation facing you as you try to accomplish something. (A couple of minor curves cover the rest.) Understanding the different types of situations that lead you to quit-or that should cause you quit--is the first step toward getting what you want.


Almost everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip.

At the beginning, when you first start something, it's fun. You could be taking up golf or acupunture or piloting a plane or doing chemistry--doesn't matter; it's interesting, and you get plenty of good feedback from teh people around you.

Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning you experience keeps you going. Whatever your new thing is, it's easy to stay engaged in it.

And then the Dip happens.

The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that's actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path. (pgs. 16-17)

Important Note: Successful people don't just ride out the Dip. THey don't just buckle down and survive it. No, 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. Dips don't last quite as long when you whittle at them.


The Cul-de-Sac (French for "dead end") is ... a situation where you work and you work and you work and nothing much changes. It doesn't get a lot better, it doesn't get a lot worse. It just is.

That's why they call those jobs dead-end jobs.

There's not a lot to say about the Cul-de-Sac except to realize that it exists and to embrace the fact that when you find one, you need to get off it, fast. That's because a dead end is keeping you from doing something else. The opportunity coast of investing your life in something that's not going to get better is just too high.

That's it. Two big curves (a bonus, the Cliff, follows). Stick with the Dips that are likely to pan out, and quit the Cul-de-Sacs to focus your resources. That's it.


Cigarettes, it turns out, were redesigned by scientists to be particularly addictive. ...Except for that nasty drop-off at the end (otherwise known as emphysema), smoking is a marketer's dream com true. Because smoking is designed to be almost impossible to quit, the longer you do it, the better it feels to continue smoking. The pain of quitting just gets bigger and bigger over time. I call this curve a Cliff--it's a situation where you can't quit until you fall off, and the whole thing falls apart.

It's no wonder that people have trouble stopping.

The thing is, a profession in selling isn't like smoking cigarettes. Neither is making it as a singer or building a long-term relationship with someone you care about. Most of hte time, the other two curves are in force. The Dip and the Cul-de-Sac aren't linear. They don't spoon feed you with little bits of improvement every day. And they're just waiting to trip you up.

If It Is Worth Doing, There's Probably a Dip(pgs. 19-21)

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

If you find yourself facing either of these two curves, 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. (pg. 22)

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 you're facing a Cliff. You should quit if the project you're working on has a Dip that isn't worth the reward at the end. Quitting the projects that don't go anywhere is essential if you want to stick out the right ones. You don't have the time or the passion or the resources to be the best in the world at both.

Quitting a Tactic vs. Quitting a Strategy

Yes, I know it's heretical, but I'm advocating quitting. Quitting often, in fact.

Not giving up and abandoning your long-term strategy (wherever you might be using that strategy--a career, an income, a relationship, a sale) but quitting the tactics that aren't working.

Getting off a Cul-de-Sac is not a moral failing. It's just smart. Seeing a Cliff coming far in advance isn't a sign of weakness. Instead, it represents real insight and bravery. It frees up your energy for the Dip. (pgs. 59-60)

"Never Quit"

What a spectacularly bad piece of advice. It ranks up there with "Oh, that's a funny dirty joke, let's tell the teacher!" Never quit? Never quit wetting your bed? Or that job you had at Burger King in high school? Never quit selling a product that is now obsolete?

Wait a minute. Didn't that coach say quitting was a bad idea?

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

I think the advice-giver meant to say, "Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can't deal with the stress of the moment." Now that's good advice.

Pride Is the Enemy of the Smart Quitter

Richard Nixon sacrificed tens of thousands of innocent lives (on both sides) when he refused to quit the Vietnam war. The only reason he didn't quit sooner: pride. The very same pride that keeps someone in the same career years after it has become unattractive and no fun. The very same pride that keeps a restaurant open long after it's clear that business is just not going to pick up.

When you're facing a Cul-de-Sac, what's your reason for sticking? Are you too proud to quit?

One reason people feel really good after they quit a dead-end project is that they discover that hurting one's pride is not fatal. You work up the courage to quit, bracing yourself for the sound of your ego being ripped to shreds--and then everything is okay.

If pride is the only thing keeping you from quitting, if there's no Dip to get through, you're likely wasting an enormous amount of time and money defending something that will heal pretty quickly. (pgs. 64-65)
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 13, 2011 – Shelved
September 13, 2011 – Shelved as: simple-life
September 13, 2011 – Shelved as: self-help
September 13, 2011 – Shelved as: declutter

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, he is very wrong about Nixon and the motive for continuing the Vietnam War. He undoubtedly thinks he's right; but I hate it when authors bring their partisan political views into books that are not about partisan politics.

Liaken AJ, your comment is right on. I think you've actually summarized the tone of the whole book. The author very much "undoubtedly thinks he's right." The whole book is rather smug and condescending in that "I have the right answer to life, the universe, and everything," sort of way. So, of course, his view of his own political understanding is that it is "obviously the right one." Alas.

I did find some useful ideas in the book, which is why I wrote the quoted review I did, just to put the ideas out there so you didn't have to read the rest of the book. (In other words, I'm not agreeing with his politics, just quoting useful passages that demonstrate his concepts.)

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Lia wrote: "AJ, your comment is right on. I think you've actually summarized the tone of the whole book. The author very much "undoubtedly thinks he's right." The whole book is rather smug and condescending in..."

Thanks very much, Lia. I did appreciate the benefits of your review and I'm glad to have thought about the ideas without having bought the book, even though I usually like to reward an author with payment! I gather that Godin is a successful marketer-writer, and probably it is hard for successful people, when it's all they've really known, to imagine that success and cleverness/talent/skilled effort don't invariably go together. Also, as other reviewers have noted, there are many different ways to define success, especially success in life as against earning a living.

I was interested in Godin's idea that art is about more than making objects -- that it's about being and the creation that is one's life -- since that is my idea, also. I am a writer, but I'm an artist before I'm a writer, and 'artist' suggests my approach to life much better.

Liaken Hey, I'm an artist and writer, too. Cool. And I agree, I prefer a different definition of success than the one Godin promotes.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Lia: Nice to meet you!

Liaken Nice to meet you, too, A J!

message 7: by Mia (new)

Mia thanks a lot for this sum up, I was about to purchase the book but now there's no need to.

Liaken You're welcome, Mia. :-)

message 9: by Ubaidah (new)

Ubaidah Thanks for the review

Liaken You're welcome

Runwright This is an excellent recap

Liaken Thanks!

message 13: by Scott (new)

Scott Thanks for kindly providing the equivalent of flipping through a few nugget-laden pages of Godin in a used book store.

Liaken My pleasure. Book flipping is a favorite pastime of mine.

Debbie I wish I had read your review before taking an hour on the book! :)

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