Seth Godin on the Fine Art of Quitting

Seth Godin sent me a complimentary copy of his latest book – the dip.

It’s a book that begs you to examine yourself closely, where you’ve been, where you are, and where you plan to go.

If you want to know the basics, read this post about the dip at the personal MBA.

Let me share some observations inspired by Seth’s book…

Seth stresses the value of the dip and the value of quitting before you ever reach the dip. That’s right, the value of quitting before things get tough. He writes that there is no point in quitting once you are in the dip because you’re already experiencing the pain – if you are going to quit – quit before the dip – it’s cheaper and it’s smarter.

Seth also writes about getting off the cul-de-sacs that breed mediocrity. Getting off the cul-de-sac is the art of strategic and tactical quitting.

Reaching your goals is like climbing a ladder – to grab the next rung you have to let go of the rung you are clinging to. You get in trouble when you’ve climbed to a decent height, get comfortable, look down, become paralyzed with fear, and fail to keep moving, so you sit there… getting tense as you cling…looking up at your goal…looking down in fear…the longer you stay there the harder it is to grab the next rung and the more appealing it is to climb down to a safer level. I believe that this is the dip Seth writes about, and it separates good from great. The good hang on… but the great find a way to keep climbing.

I must admit, I have quit all my big ventures in the dip. But I don’t feel bad about quitting, because each time they were strategic decisions. The only regret I have is not quitting earlier. Let me give you some personal examples of how quitting can be smart.

I once set a goal to be a commercial airline pilot. I thought it was what I wanted… but the dip straightened me out… if I had done some research before I started, I could have saved a lot of time and money, because I wasn’t willing to pay the price – to negotiate the dip – to achieve my goal. I wasn’t willing to join the military and they wouldn’t have taken me anyway. I wasn’t willing to fly the bush in Alaska, the Philippines, or the Caribbean. I wasn’t willing to work 28 days a month for $800.00 flying for a small regional airline. So what was I doing flying airplanes? Wasting my time! I learned of all these hardships after I hit the dip. I quit, and wasted a lot of money. It was a strategic life decision and it was the right one to make before I wasted any more time and money.

About ten years ago, I decided I wanted to be a politician. I ran for office, and at first I loved it. But after meeting successful politicians – the less I liked it. I observed the brutal schedules they kept, watched the moral compromises they made, and saw political life change them. But the worst were the attacks and threats their families had to endure. I realized it wasn’t for me – I wasn’t willing to pay the price – even if I became the best I could be, I’d hate it. So again… in the dip, I made a strategic decision and quit.

I experienced the same scenario playing in a band and starting a dot com in 1998. I quit in the dip. I don’t regret quitting, because each venture and each quit taught me valuable lessons about life.

Well I’m in a dip right now… but I can see the other side…and this time it looks like the place I want to go.

So go ahead and pick up a copy of Seth’s book – the dip… you won’t regret it…it’ll be the best eight bucks you’ll spend this year.

Thanks for the book and thanks for the encouragement Seth. I’ll see you on the other side of the dip.

6 thoughts on “Seth Godin on the Fine Art of Quitting”

  1. That’s interesting. Speaking as somebody who always quit before reaching the dip, I can tell you that sometimes I wonder what if I stayed in longer? What if I reached the dip? Would I be wiser now, with some painful experience on my shoulders? I probably would. So don’t be sorry for not quitting earlier. Just move on! Good luck!

  2. You made a very dangerous statement. I agree with everything else you said. But the dangerous thing you said was:

    [[Well I’m in a dip right now… but I can see the other side…and this time it looks like the place I want to go…so I’m confident I’ll make it.]]

    You equated believing in your goal (a place you want to go) with getting there (so I’m confident I’ll make it). It’s your use of the word “so” that’s the problem.

    Belief, motivation, desire etc is necessary BUT NOT SUFFICIENT to achieving your goal – or getting through the dip.

    How not sufficient it is depends on the specifics. Very few of us have the genes to make it as an NBA player (let alone a star) no matter how much we desire it. On the other hand, almost anyone in the United States (almost) can succeed at making a decent living for their family if they are willing to do everything else that the goal demands.

    In my experience with entrepreneurs, too many believe that dedication and desire is all it takes to succeed. In reality, business is a dance between the business and the customer. If there aren’t enough customers who want to buy what you’re dedicated to providing, or it’s too hard or too costly to find them, then you won’t succeed.

    Bill Gates would not be the success he is if he’d been selling buggy whips – or even computer hardware or consulting services.

  3. A whole book dedicated to the concept that when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing that you do is to stop digging?

    Steve, you say, “if I had done some research before I started, I could have saved a lot of time and money.”

    My father always told his children to: “think before you act.”

    When I fail, I never regret. I go into each project knowing the risks because I follow another of my father’s admonitions: “there is no substitute for doing your homework.”

    I think that this post indicates that you have learned to do your homework – after a series of experiences that taught you the value of research. Am I reading you correctly?

    If I am reading you correctly then the next question is: how can you become a more reasoned entrepreneur? The answer to that question requires drilling down to the very bedrock of your beliefs and perceptions.


    FWIW, I hold a valid Airman’s License and presently fly only lighter-than-air aircraft. A Balloon Works FireFly 7.

    It is not, nor has it ever been, a business. It is a recreational aircraft and there is not much more fun to be had than to assemble 9-10 friends, the Balloon – a couple of coolers – 40 gal of Propane and have a nice spring evening flight of an hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Our deal: everybody who crews gets to fly at least once every four flights. What does it cost? About $150.00 per flight (up by a third with the current gasoline prices).

    No fixed-wing aircraft can come close to the economy – and LTA is far, far safer. You have to fly fixed wing aircraft daily to become and remain competent. My Beach Duchess twin ran me about $700/hr to fly (all inclusive – for the entire two years I owned it – I could post the spreadsheet) – I sold it to the local Beach club… I still can see her flying from time to time as I pass our General Aviation airport.

    Did I lose money on the Duchess? It depends on how you perform your accounting. Yes, I dropped about $30k over two years that I could not recoup. During that two year period I flew a minimum of 90 hrs/year – I also earned my ticket for IFR/Comercial and pressurized cabin. At the end of my second year of intensive flying, I flew to Europe and back. Quite an adventure – and my then 18-year-old son was with me. You can’t put an entry in the ledger that accounts for the profits I realized.

    Have you ever had an experience more precious than black ink?

  4. Grolaw,

    You have an interesting life, you should start a blog. I’d probably read it and might even link to it.

    I still love aviation, but it isn’t a priority right now… my kids are my priority. We’ll see if they develop the same love of flying that I did.

    Seth’s book is about far more than just “if you find yourself in hole, stop digging.” That was the part I decided to focus on.

    About research… think before you act… yeah it’s important… but you have to be careful there too…over analysis is as dangerous as acting without thought. I’ve had a lot of great experiences (and some really bad ones) and even accomplished a few things acting without thinking. There is nothing I find more boring than analyzing the shit out of everything and never acting. I see people do it, and they are the most boring unaccomplished people I know. You can never bee absolutely sure of anything. You know the saying “shit or get of the pot.”

    Most of my experiences lately are better than black ink. Last night – we had a Memorial Day barbeque with dozens of families. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was.


    I know it’s dangerous and it takes a lot more than believing. I don’t suffer from the “all you have to do is believe” delusion… I didn’t mean for it to come across that way… guess I need to keep working on the writing. But believing in yourself is an ingredient, you’ll never find anyone who did anything great say they never believed in themselves.

  5. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for sharing your review. I often experience this, too… Should I quit and move on, or should I pump up more effort to boost it?

    I’ll give The Dip a try.

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