One Dip or Two? Lesson's From Seth Godin's The Dip

How do you know when to muscle through and when it’s time to stop? This concept, coined by Seth Godin as “the dip” is vital to understand in our own work and in our leadership of others.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”
~ Thomas Edison

Every now and then a young leader will approach me for my story, “what did you do to get here?”

When I share a bit about the less than glamorous journey, including commuting to the Bronx from Baltimore for months on an almost daily basis during my stint as a single mom or the travel I am doing now to small towns across the country where you can be sure to find a Waffle House, I get the same reaction. “Oh.”

Seth Godin writes well on this subject in The Dip. He describes the value of slogging through the tough times on the right pursuits, and knowing when to quit the wrong ones. As Kenny Rogers would say, knowing when to “fold em,” frees up time to work on what will make you great. He compares 3 scenarios and how to know them when you see them.

Godin’s Big 3

  • Dips (hard times you need to get through to learn, grow, and achieve)
  • Cul-de-sacs (dead ends, where more hard work and slogging is unlikely to help)
  • Cliffs (dangerous pursuits leading to disaster)

I am very familiar with the dip. I am currently in the deep throws of at least 2 or 3 big dip servings, and am keeping a keen eye out for some early signs of culdesac.

It is vital to pay attention to where you invest your time. His concept of quitting with integrity is important.

However, I disagree with his premise that “being the best in the world” is always a useful objective, and a reasonable criteria to judge quit worthiness.

Lots of important contributions are made from folks who are great, but not necessarily “the best.” If we have too much quitting going on, the world will lose out.

He uses the analogy of the Boston Marathon, and how most quitters, quit in the middle of the race, during the “Dip.” True. I’ve run it, and the middle is tough, and it feels great to get through it.

What I think he is overlooking is that just qualifying for the Boston marathon is a huge deal for many runners, a great goal and a fun achievement. Lots of regular folks have big fun and become stronger working toward this goal.

They have already pushed through a few dips. Most will not be the best in the world, and it doesn’t matter. There is value in journeys that do not end in greatness.

Godin shares, “the problem with infinity is that there’s too much of it.” That’s the fun part.

We have so many choices and so many chances. For ourselves, and to offer as options for those we lead.

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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.


  1. I struggled with years about when it was time to quit something. I always felt, if I just held on a little longer, tried a little harder, etc. I equated quitting with failure. Over the years though, I realized of course, quitting is sometimes necessary, important and the right thing to do. For me, the ultimate determination comes from a technique I learned from Martha Beck. I take a few moments to visualize my situation in all of it’s “stuckness,” adversity or whatever it is that makes me think it may be time to quit. I make myself really feel the situation. And then I imagine walking away from it. When I walk away, am I feeling like I am taking off shackles- or do I feel sadness, frustration or a sense of “shackles on” when I walk away? That sense of lightness or heaviness tells me if I stay to fight or if it’s time to move on.

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