The Dip

In the podcast series, Seth Godin’s Startup School, Seth Godin gave a guided tour to a group of highly-motivated early-stage entrepreneurs on some of the questions they will have to dig deep and ask themselves while they build up their business. Here are my takeaways from various topics discussed in the podcast episodes.

  • In our society, something is valuable when it is scarce. When we are the best in the world, the benefits are outsized. By being the best, people talk about us and what we do with other people. The world is not the whole wide world but the little place that our customers care about. Best also means the one option I will pick for whatever reasons at the time. The goal of what we are building is to be the best in the world.
  • There are two things about quitting. First, quitting is underrated that we quit things all the time. Second, we quit the wrong things at the wrong time. What we need to keep in mind is that we should not start anything unless we plan to invest what it is going to take to finish it. Do not start a project unless we are prepared to go to the end. There may be all this thrashing that happens at the beginning. Once we passed the thrash moment and we commit, we are going to finish it. We know getting through the dip can be very hard, but that is why we have chosen to do this. We will deal with the hard part of getting through the dip because, when we get on the other side, it will be worth it.
  • They are projects that are cul-de-sacs/dead-ends that are never going to get better. One way you know it is a dead end is to ask the question “Has anyone ever done this before by persisting their way through this in the way I am doing it now?” It is possible to be the first one to accomplish something, but, in general, it is a good approach to sign up for a path where we know there is an outcome.
  • The dip-quitting strategy says it is imperative that we quit everything we are not prepared to push through the dip. It also says we need to quit early when it is cheap as opposed to quitting late when it is expensive. Because early failures are all but certain, we need to have a process in place as a learning organization. We need to anticipate failures and be able to learn from failures so that we can improve.
  • There is a trust shortage in the market, so the goal is to figure out how to be on the list so that people will call you first. Building trust can be a multi-year process of owning a tiny market as opposed to running from one opportunity to another hoping the trust-building process will be short. Often, we fall into the trap thinking our work and us share the same identity. It is about how do we put our work on the line, not ourselves on the line. What are we willing to do to speak up for our work, even if that requires us failing along the way? It is a long process for many worth-a-while endeavors.
  • Sometimes when we fail, we need to look for the fear that kept us from succeeding. We need to know where our fear is and why we are protecting it. Some people cannot run very fast and get less done because they are so busy protecting their soft spots. When somebody keeps jumping from one quick thing to another and get stuck, it usually comes down to the fear. It is almost never about our talent; it is usually about why we are sabotaging our talent not going through the dip. Often, if we can somehow let go of our guard and expose that soft spot, we just might put ourselves in the position to do our best work.
  • When we get to a dip, we have only a few supporting options. We can have a rich uncle, a well-financed partner, or the third option. The third option is a business model that get us small sales to keep us in business while we continue our project work. Often, we need to have small dip projects to pay bills, so that, over time, give us a platform to do bigger dip projects. We must make sure there is alignment between our resource and our customers, as well as how big a difference.