NOTE: this post is part #2 of an interview with Seth Godin about his new book, The Dip. In this post, Seth is answering questions from Personal MBA readers. You can read part #1 of the interview here.
Steve Olson asks:
“The problem with the insanity of the cul-de-sac is identifying when we are on it. How do you identify Dips for what they are as opposed to cul-de-sacs?"
I think the things to look for are:
- Is it getting more difficult?
- Can you measure it?
- Have others gotten through this Dip before?
If the answers are ‘no’, then it’s a dead end, probably.
“How does someone separate their ego from their analysis? I see someone enamored of the idea of the Dip who is actually caught in a Cul de Sac… but is not ready to hear that truth… It is easier sometimes to persevere than to admit you picked the wrong road."
Exactly! Part of the reason I wrote the book is so you could give it to people. The only way someone is going to quit smart is for them to realize that they want to reach a goal, and you can’t do that for them.
“What was your (biggest) personal dip, and what would you have done differently in your life had you thought of the dip theory earlier?"
The list is really long. I started a record label called Zoomtone. We did all the hard stuff… the artists, the recordings, the art, the initial promotion. What I didn’t do was plan for the Dip. I was waiting for a miracle. It didn’t happen. The lesson learned: if you don’t have the time or resources to plan for the Dip, you actually don’t have the time or resources to start.
Ryan J. Parker asks:
“How long is too long? Is it better to focus on getting through a dip that you can push through sooner rather than later, or is it best to try and push through the dip that might be years off? Assume, of course, that the dip that takes longer to push through has more risk involved, but an appropriate amount of reward for pushing through. Depending on what you’re trying to do, being the best in the world can take a significant amount of time, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on how long is too long."
I think what you need to do is find a Dip where the effort is proportional to the reward and the risk. Running for President or trying to be #1 on the billboard have great outcomes, but are extremely risky and time consuming. You need to make your call on what makes it worth it for you.
Benjamin Atkinson asks:
“Can you provide an example of a company that crossed the Dip, dug it deeper to make it harder on competitors and ended up being outflanked by a competitor? I see risk in focusing too intently on the Dip I have crossed, to the exclusion of other opportunities/threats."
Microsoft built the Valley of Death around the OS and Word and Excel… very deep and very long. Alas, Linux and the web totally change the dynamic, making most of the valley they built not worth so much any more.
Thanks so much to Seth for this fantastic interview! If you found this interview interesting, pick up a copy of The Dip - it’s a quick read that will make you see your projects in a whole new way.