Keys to Success from The Dip

A few days ago I finished reading The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin. It’s a short book (96 pages) so it didn’t take much time to read. But, despite its shortness, I learn some lessons from it that I want to share with you.
Keys to success from The DipThe Dip is Seth Godin’s term for the time in your journey to success where things seem to be difficult, where what you get is not comparable to your effort, and where it’s easier to stop. It’s the time where the pain seems to be bigger than the gain. The ability to go through the Dip makes the difference between those who become the best in the world and those who are just mediocre.
Here are some keys to success from the book:
1. Aim to be the best in the world
This is something that many people never think of. Even if they think about it, many of them eventually forget it when the journey get tough. The fact is most people are satisfied with being good enough.
But there is a good reason why you should be the best in the world: the market rewards the winners and reward them handsomely. The difference between number 1 and number 2 in a market is often huge.
It reminds me of a saying:
Good is the worst enemy of best.
Why is good the worst enemy of best? Because many people stop trying to get the best when they already get the good. Since the difference between best and good is huge, you can see how much they have lost.
2. Expect a Dip ahead
Many people have big dreams but they aren’t prepared for the difficulties and challenges ahead. When they eventually meet the challenges, many of them get discouraged and quit.
So you need to prepare yourself from the beginning. Don’t expect the journey to be easy. Expect difficult times to come. If you are prepared with this possibility then the chance is much higher that you will be able to go through it successfully.
3. Choose your race carefully
You can’t be the best everywhere. You can only be the best in a field where you are uniquely equipped to conquer it. So choose your race carefully. Choose only the race in which you are confident that you can go past the Dip. It’s better to stop before you start because it saves you a lot of time.
4. Stop unproductive effort
If you want to be the best in the world, you can’t do too many things at once. That will only consume your resources and slow you down. The fact is it’s difficult to go through the Dip. If it’s not difficult, many people would have passed it. That’s why you need to put as many resources as you can to help you go through the Dip. Stop unproductive effort so that you can use the resources for the Dip. Sometimes it means that you need to quit unproductive career. Sometimes it means that you need to abandon a project you’ve worked on for years. It’s not easy. It requires sacrifice. But it will pay off.
Besides the four keys to success I just shared, there is one more thing I learned from The Dip:
Be concise
Seth Godin wrote at the end of the book that he learned from his readers the need to be concise. I think that’s a good idea. Why would you need 1500 words if you can get an idea across in only 400 words? The attention span of most people is short these days so being concise helps you get your message through and reach more people.
Photo by cpt.spock


  1. These are some good concepts, I’ll have to check that book out. These are all mindset changes, which shows that we have to take conscious effort to improve ourselves going forward.
    I am trying to get better at being more concise in my blogging – it’s difficult but a worthwhile challenge to get your message across in a way that you don’t feel you are short-changing your readers.

  2. Thanks for these concepts. It’s the kind of advice I apply every day especially since Ive launch my new blog.
    I’m gonna add The Dip to my ToRead list.

  3. Dip is one book that’s been on my to do list for long. The points you have mentioned are very practical. ‘Choose your race’ is what I find I have too keep reminding myself every now and then.
    I agree with the saying ‘good is enemy of the best’. But how does one know whether they are compromising by being good or striving for the unattainable perfection?

  4. Chris,
    You’re right, these are all related to mindset. That’s why they are important. Our mindset is the lens through which we see the world and it determines how we act and react.
    Congrats for your new blog! Applying these concepts could help you do right from the beginning.
    The book suggests that ones think and decide beforehand whether or not they have the resources to go through the Dip in a field. If their decision is yes, then they must stick with it until they make it.
    In my opinion, the best way to make the decision is by finding your unique value proposition. I wrote about that here:

  5. great summary! I haven’t the time to read this book.
    I think there is a misunderstanding on “being the best”. For me it is the “rat race”. Being the best usually needs a lot of work so the balance between your family, private and professional will be in danger.
    In most times good is enough !

  6. Wow…thank you for posting this valuable information!
    I have learned that genuine distinction comes only to those who have worked hard to achieve it. Oddly enough, distinction is a science (something that can be imitated and systematically reproduced) as well as an art (something that takes much grace and patience).
    Again, thank you for posting this information.

  7. Thanks for sharing this book from Seth Godin. He packs more profund thoughts into a few words than anyone I know.

  8. No. 3 is just so so so so important. It is also very difficult. I just seem to enter every race that i happen to pass by!

  9. I come from the IT myself and believe that many IT minded folks are concise. My posts are generally concise however, I’m still working on the balance. As Chris mentioned above, its a difficult but worthwhile Challenge. The most important thing is getting your message across. This book is on my reading list too, currently I’m reading Tribe.

  10. dd,

    Being the best usually needs a lot of work so the balance between your family, private and professional will be in danger.

    Yes, being the best needs a lot of work, but I think it can be done in a way that doesn’t sacrifice other aspects of your life. Choosing your race carefully (#3) and stopping unproductive effort (#4) could help you maintain the balance.
    I agree with you, distinction is both science and art.
    Yes, Seth Godin is among the most concise people I know. Many of his blog posts are short but contain creative ideas.
    Tickled by Life,
    I often face the same temptation myself. When you encounter a good opportunity, you could get distracted from the best opportunity.
    Frugal NYC,

    I come from the IT myself and believe that many IT minded folks are concise.

    I also come from IT and I can see that it’s true. People in IT are expected to solve problems in the shortest possible ways. It’s not easy to transfer the mindset to writing though.
    Tribe is a book I’m waiting to read.

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  12. Thank you for sharing this article with us! I never looked at the “dips” of life in this light. Most of the time when I am in deep “dip”, I tend to become more lost and out of focused. I also become emotional. That is why I admire those people who are able to do a quick rebound and be able to continue their “race”.
    Nevertheless, I would like to ask this question. In experiencing a “dip.” Is there also a time or period for reflection and grieving? Or is this a waste of time and considered “unproductive” ?

  13. […] the post Keys to Success from The Dip, the first point is “Aim to be the best in the world.” Don’t be satisfied with […]

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