A dinosaur
a blog by Jarrett Retz

Book Review: The Dip by Seth Godin

by Jarrett RetzMarch 19th, 2022


I conceptually agreed with the dip before I started reading it. I heard a quick description of what it was about and thought, yes, that's probably a great book.

The Dip was the final Seth Godin book in the trilogy that I owned. I assumed that I would read it last because I thought I would enjoy it the most.

As I am alluding to, it ended up not being my favorite, and I outright disagreed with it at times.

My Disagreement

I felt like Seth Godin was assuming some sort of clairvoyance on account of the reader. Like we're supposed to be able to look into the future and know how we'll feel when we are in the dip.

“The brave thing to do is to tough it out and end up on the other side- getting all the benefits that come from scarcity. The mature thing is not even to bother starting to snowboard because you're probably not going to make it through the Dip. And the stupid thing to do is to start, give it your best shot, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the Dip.”

Seth Godin, The Dip

I think it's pretty well known, as discussed by Danel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow and Dan Gilbert in Stumbling on Happiness, that people are really bad at predicting how they are going to feel in the future about their decisions now. Or, what happens to them in the future. I think that renders this piece of advice unhelpful.

If this activity or goal is new to me, how am I supposed to see all the effects it may have on my life?

A trip down memory lane

When I was 23, I tried a few new things:

  • standup comedy
  • Brazilian Jui Jitsu
  • Salsa dancing
  • backpacking

Two of those things I still do. Why? Because I couldn't stop doing them. If there was ever a dip or a time to quit, I couldn't. I didn't know that going in. The dip decided that.

Furthermore, these are hobbies, not even careers. So, am I just wasting time and money on my hobbies?

Back to my gripe

Moving in tandem with my disagreement was my confusion on whether he's talking about hobbies or one's career.

Sure, not striving to become the "best in the world"—a term he doesn't mean literally—can be seen as a negative in your professional career. But, I want to know, what's wrong with wasting some money and time if you take up a hobby like snowboarding, as he suggests?

At the risk of being cliché, there is the 20th century adage that the time you enjoyed wasting wasn't wasted.

Godin appears to bounce between hobbies and profession as if the approach should be the same.

It's Not All Bad

Of course, there are times when I think what Godin says is incredibly helpful. He expands on the phrase "Never quit!", writing:

“I think the advice-giver meant to say, "Never quit some-
thing with great long-term potential just because you can't
deal with the stress of the moment." Now that's good advice.”

Seth Godin, The Dip

At one point, he describes advice from an ultra-marathon runner who defines the circumstances that would cause him to quit before he starts the race. Therefore, he's not fighting with himself when things start to get difficult.

“When should I quit? I need to decide now, not when I'm
in the middle of it, and not when part of me is begging to quit.”

Seth Godin, The Dip

It feels like the book is philosophically at odds with itself. On one hand, I should know how I'm going to feel in the dip. Therefore, it would be better for me not to start or begin because that would be wasting my time.

On the other hand, I should devise a plan for the conditions that I should quit. But, if I quit, remember, I will have wasted all that time and money!

In Sum

One of Godin's biggest ideas that he wants to get across is quitting is not only OK, but it's also useful and one can enrich their life by quitting the things that are taking effort away from the parts of your life where you should be or want to be putting that effort.

It's the sunk cost fallacy.

Subscribe to the Retz

Get an email notification when new articles are published.