The art of knowing when to quit

If I’d try to sum up Seth Godin’s book The Dip in just a few words, I believe the above title should do the trick. His book is remarkable and the main reason I recommend it is its original approach. Libraries are already overcrowded with inspirational books related to the idea of not quitting, the idea that the ones who quit are the ones that will eventually fail, or how Vincent Lombardi puts it – “Quitters never win and winners never quit”.


On the other hand, Seth considers that winners quit all the time. This is exactly the thing that makes them winners in the first place. Only that there’s a catch here – they quit the right stuff at the right time. It’s a very direct and concentrated book with its content being boiled down to only around 80 pages. I wanted to share below a few of the things that stuck in my mind:

being #1 matters

A lot, regardless of the field you’re working in. And if you succeed in being #1, there’s a huge gap between you and the rest of the pack. People settle for less than they could accomplish. And companies make no exception. They settle for good enough instead of best in the world. Bottom line – if you’re not willing to invest what it takes to become number 1 (work, time, energy) then why bother?

becoming a Linchpin

Another idea, which Seth explains at great length in his book Linchpin, is the one in which he criticizes the school and the wrong way they use to approach problem solving. For example (and I think this is quite familiar to you too), teachers tell kids that if they get to one problem which is too hard to solve and takes too much time, they should go ahead and focus on the next one. Something like “the low-hanging fruit is there to be taken, no sense wasting time climbing the tree”.

Exceptional people will not avoid the problems they don’t know how to solve at a first glimpse. Best people in the world specialize in answering the questions they don’t know.

And here we get to the main idea behind the book. Basically, there are 2 curves that define any situation we are facing in which we’re trying to accomplish something:

the dip

The dip is the long slope between the moment you start something and the moment you become a master at that particular thing. Successful people don’t just get into the dip, buckle up and wait. No, they lean into the dip, they push their limits further and they change the rules as they go. The dip is where success happens. People who understand its role – and are sufficiently motivated to invest the energy and hard work required to get them through the dip – will become the best in the world.

cul de sac

This is the situation in which you work and you work and you work but nothing seems to change. Things stall – they don’t get worse but they don’t get better either. Seth Godin’s advice: when you acknowledge you’re stuck in a dead end, the best thing to do is to quit. Fast. Because a dead end will only keep you from doing something else, something that can be much more worthy of your time and skills.

Quitting is not the same as failing, although mainstream writers and mass media tend to portray it otherwise. Strategic quitting is a conscious decision that you take based on the choices you have at hand. If you acknowledge that you’re stuck and that you can reshift all your time and energy to doing something else, than quitting is not only the reasonable choice, it is also the smart one.

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