My colleague, Megan Lane, is obsessed with business writer Seth Godin. Or, as we say at the office, she’s “ob-sethed.” Recently, she turned me on to one of Godin’s books, “The Dip.” After reading this short but powerful tome, I’m beginning to understand why Megan is so enamored of Godin’s brain (not a bad name for a sci-fi flick, by the way).
Godin is an original thinker and a contrarian, a combination not much in evidence these days. In “The Dip,” he sets one of our culture’s most-treasured maxims on its ear:
“Winners never quit and quitters never win. – Attributed to Vince Lombardi (and my Mom) “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.” – Calvin Coolidge
“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.” –Jim Valvano I’m sure there are hundreds more, but you get the idea.
The subtitle of “The Dip” spells out Godin’s different-drummer premise: “A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit and When to Stick.”
Sounds simple enough. But as with most things, “Easier said than done.” – The Essex (# 1 Billboard Hot 100, 1963)
According to Godin, quitting can sometimes be the smartest strategic move. You just have to know when. The key is to understand “The Dip,” which he describes as “the long slog between starting and mastery.”
So how do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel? When you determine you can’t be “the best in the world.”
I know what you’re thinking (because I thought it too). There can only be one best in the world. Does that mean we should all give up right now and crawl back under the covers until 2012 (the end of the world as we know it, or so say the Mayans). As appealing as that sounds, the answer is a resounding “no.”
Because here’s the good part. We get to define our own world. Of course, not everyone can be Eric Clapton or LeBron James or Meryl Streep (arguably the best in the world in their respective fields). But you can decide to be the best in your home town, your market niche or your own family. It’s up to you. And that’s quite empowering in my book.
Speaking of books, this is a positive message for those of us who write for a living. Way back when I thought I wanted to be a stand- up comedian (before I actually tried it and hated it), I had a hard time watching professional comics. Some of them we so good, they left me depressed. I’ve had similar feelings when reading truly great authors, knowing I’ll never reach that level. But I’m okay with that now. I’ve narrowed my world to “me.” (I know, it sounds really self-absorbed. Tough shit.) My goal is to be the best writer I’m capable of becoming. (Cue the Army theme song.) And if I can establish a reputation as the best author of quirky insider Vegas stuff in the process, that’s a nice bonus. But not absolutely necessary.
In the meantime, if you think working harder will save your career in the typewriter industry or the VCR factory (or even the traditional publishing biz), check out “The Dip.” Or just read the writing on the wall.