If there is one common tenet that has been drummed into our heads with such sustained vigour and frequency, it is certainly the one that exhorts us “NEVER” to “QUIT.” Phrases such as “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”, and “Winners ever Quit”, are so commonplace that their employ has transcended beyond the use into unfortunate abuse. Thus, in this cliché laden environment, it is easy to get muddled and thereby miss the woods for the trees. Are we never supposed to keep ploughing on in spite of knowing that the desired result is only an wishful fantasy?
Seth Godin, the founder and CEO of Squidoo and one of the world’s foremost business bloggers attempts to show us the way out of this conundrum. In a book, titled “the dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick), Mr. Godin Encourages us to move beyond exhortations and euphemisms, all the while, emphasizing the fact that winners do quit and constantly. But it is the timing and context of their abandonment of an endeavor that still makes them the best. Mr. Godin highlights this feature by taking recourse to three key “curves”: The Dip, The Cul-De-Sac and The Curve.
The Dip, according to Mr. Godin is “the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.” Successful people are those who do not believe in restricting themselves to riding the Dip. “They lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go.”
The Cul-De-Sac (French for dead end) is “a situation where you work and you work and nothing much changes. It doesn’t get a lot better, it doesn’t get a lot worse. It just is.”
The Cliff is “a situation where you can’t quit until you fall off, and the whole thing falls apart.” The practical working of the Cliff is illustrated by Mr. Godin with reference to the habit of smoking. “Because smoking is designed to be almost impossible to quit, the longer you do it, the better it feels to continue smoking.” One only quits when one falls off the Cliff, let’s say due to emphysema.
So when does one quit and when does one keep striving? The “brave” thing is to develop grit and gumption and tough it out at the Dip so that one reaches the other end. The “mature” thing to do however would be to not even commence upon a task about whose outcome you are not confident. And finally, the “stupid” thing to do is to start, give it your best shot, expend efforts, resources and time, before finally calling it quits right in the middle of the Dip. “When Jack Welch remade GE, the most fabled decision he made was this: If we can’t be #1 or #2 in an industry, we must get out.”
Finally, Mr. Godin provides us with three questions, which he expounds, we must ask ourselves before we decide to quit.
Question No.1: Are we panicking?
“Quitting when you’re panicked is dangerous and expensive. The best quitters as we’ve seen, are the ones who decide in advance when they are going to quit. You can always quit later – so wait until you’re done panicking to decide.”
Question No.2: Who am I trying to influence?
“If you’re trying to influence just one person, persistence has its limits. It’s easy to cross the line between demonstrating your commitment and being a pest. If you haven’t influenced him yet, it may very well be time to quit. If you are trying to influence a market though, the rules are different. Sure, some of the people in a market have considered you (and even rejected you). But most of the people in the market have never even heard of you. The market doesn’t have just one mind. Different people in the market are seeking different things.”
Question No.3: What sort of Measurable Progress am I making?
“Measurable progress need not be a raise or a promotion. It can be more subtle than that, but it needs to be more than a mantra, more than just saying “surviving is succeeding.” The challenge, then, is to surface new milestones in areas where you have previously expected to find none.”
The Dip may be a short book. In fact, it is a very short book. But within its pages lie a wisdom that is commonsensical, logical and most importantly, practical.