Book Review: The Dip - The Extraordinary Benefits of Knowing When to Quit (And When to Stick)

Summary and quotes from each chapter of Seth Godin's book The Dip.

June 23, 2018 - 4 minute read -

The Dip Book Cover

I recently read The Dip by Seth Godin. It was great short read book (only 80 pages) and refreshed my perspective on the idea of quitting things. Here are some sections which stood out to me from the book:


  • Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts do one or the other.

The (Real) Reason Being Number One Matters

  • Scarcity makes being at the top worth something.
  • Being at the top matters because there’s room for only a few.
  • Where does scarcity come from? It comes from the hurdles that the markets and society sets up. It comes from the fact that most competitors quit long before they’ve created something that makes it to the top. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. The system depends on it.

The Best in the World?

  • The mass market is dying. There is no longer one best song or one best type of coffee. Now there are a million micro-markets, but each micro-market still has a best.
  • Best in the world….Best is subjective. I (the consumer) get to decide, not you. World is selfish. It’s my definition, not yours. It’s the world I define, based on convenience or my preferences. Be the best in my world, and you have me, at a premium, right now.

The Infinity Problem

  • And in just about every market, the number of choices is approaching infinity. Faced with infinity, people panic. Sometimes they don’t buy anything. Sometimes they buy the cheapest whatever they’re shopping for. Faced with an infinite number of choices, people pick the market leader. (Notice the buyer trend, either really cheap or the most expensive)

Quitting is not the Same as Failing

  • If you realize you’re at a dead end compared with what you could be investing in, quitting is a smart choice.

The Biggest Mistake They Made in School

  • In school, we tell kids that once something gets too hard, move on and focus on the next thing…From a test taking book: “Skim through through the questions and answer the easiest ones first, skipping the ones you don’t know immediately.” …[this make work in the school system but not in the work world].
  • Superstars can’t skip the questions they don’t know. In fact, the people who are the best in the world specialize at getting really good at the questions they don’t know.
  • In the free market, we reward the exceptional.

The Magic of Thinking Quit

  • Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations (shitfting focus & markets)
  • The Dip (Curve 1)
    • is the long slog between starting and mastery. Overcoming pain, challenges and hardship.
    • no dip means no scracity and opportunity. Don’t quit here.
    • Successful people overcome the dip, lean in into it, push harder and turbo boost themselves ahead of the masses.
  • The Cul-De-Sac (Curve 2)
    • jobs dead-end jobs & endeavors.
    • Realize they exist and when you find yourself in one get off of it, fast.
  • The Cliff (Curve 3)
    • a situation where you can’t quit until you fall off, and the whole thing falls apart. Example: smokers who can’t quit until they get cancer.

The Dip is Where Success Happens

  • The brave thing - tough the dip out & reap the rewards of scarcity.
  • The mature thing - don’t waste time if you’re not willing to go through the dip.
  • The stupid thing - invest time, money and lots of effort and quit right in the middle of the Dip.

What Jack Knew

  • Quit the dead ends.
  • Free up resources to get through the Dips that matter most and are tied to your longevity.
  • Teach people in your organization that it’s okay to not be the best in the world in some areas.

The Lie of Diversification - What Woodpeckers Know

The gist of this section is that when times get tough, many seek to diversify their skill set since they can’t overcome a Dip in another area. They try knew things, times get hard, they seek something else again. Diversification isn’t always bad, but make sure you are absolutely doing it for the right reason.

  • A woodpecker can tap twenty times on 1000 trees and get nowhere. Or he can tap 20,000 times on one tree and get dinner.

Most People are Afraid to Quit

  • It’s easier to be mediocre than it is to confront reality, admit your’re not competent in area and quit.

Deciding in Advance to Quit

  • “Decide before the race the conditions that will cause you to decide to stop and drop out. You don’t want to be out there saying, ‘Well, gee, my leg hurts, I’m a little dehydrated, I’m sleepy, I’m tired, and it’s cold, and it’s windy…’ and talk yourself into quitting.” - Ultra Marathoner Dick Collins

  • If you’re making a decision based on how you feel in the moment, your probably (almost certaintly) going to make a decision you regret.

Pride is the Enemy of the Smart Quitter

  • If pride is the only thing keeping you from quitting, if there’s no meaningful reward or if overcoming the Dip isn’t helping you get closer to your end goal, you’re wasting an enormous amount of time and money defending something that can heal quickly - your ego.