It starts with massive success. You pick up a hobby, new skill, or start a business, and you’re crushing it. Everything you touch just seems to work.
But it’s short lived.
Beginner’s luck dries up. It gets hard to nail even the basics. You feel like you’ve somehow gotten worse the harder you try. Effort no longer translates to results.
And worst of all, you’re not sure why. Something feels off, and you have no clue how to fix it.
Welcome to the Dip. This dark valley is when MOST quit. It’s the boneyard of business. It’s where you’re faced with a choice…
Quit. Or don’t quit. That’s it.
This is the premise of Seth Godin’s classic The Dip. It’s fast and uplifting, and every aspiring entrepreneur should read it.
Godin shares two critical ideas…
1. Winners quit all the time. The idea that only blind determination will carry you through is foolish. Instead, winning is about knowing when to quit.
2. The Dip creates scarcity, which can bring massive opportunity. The more people quit, the greater potential you have to dominate your industry.
His advice? DO NOT quit when you first encounter the Dip. In fact, you must embrace the Dip for what it is—the opportunity to become a leader. As your competitors collapse under the pressure, you’ll become one of the few options in your market. It’s a powerful—and potentially lucrative—position.
But that’s not all. The Dip can also be an opportunity to strategically quit. Why? Because it gives you critical information about whether you’re on the right path. Godin gives some criteria on how to tell if you should push through, or quit and invest in another opportunity…
1. You’re not positioned to become world-class. Almost all the rewards go to the greatest. It’s an exponential drop-off after. If you can’t become world-class in the business you’ve chosen, then it may be wise to quit now and invest in something else.
2. You’ve made no measurable progress. The Dip causes panic. It makes everything seem like complete and utter failure. But there are often signs of progress. You just can’t see them because the Dip has blinded you. If you’re just panicking, stay the course. Keep pushing. Payoff may be just a few steps ahead. But if you’ve hit a dead end, quit now. You’ll be glad you did instead of sinking more money and energy into a failing venture.
The Dip is something every entrepreneur wishes they had known about before they started. It could potentially have saved them time, energy, and heartache.
But now you know about it! And that means you can prepare. How? Here are a few ideas…
Get mentorship. Seasoned entrepreneurs have experienced the Dip before. Their insight and wisdom can help you decide if the Dip is worth fighting through. So before you start your business, seek a mentor. Shadow them, ask them questions, share your ups and downs with them. It may be the best investment you make!
Make a plan. The more detailed your plan to become an entrepreneur, the better prepared you’ll be for the Dip. Why? Because a plan short circuits panic. It gives you objective benchmarks for success that can help restore your confidence when progress seems slow.
Build mental toughness. It’s a fact—the Dip will test your fortitude. Tapping out too early could prevent you from reaching your true potential. The greater your mental toughness, the more likely you become to reach the rewards on the other side.
The Dip is a challenge that many entrepreneurs face. It’s when the work gets hard, the rewards dry up, but it’s when most of your competition collapses. The Dip won’t last forever. Once you push past this difficult phase, rewards are ripe for the taking if you can exploit it to your advantage!
But they don’t start where you might think. They’re actually both rooted in how you think about your ability.
The first mindset thinks ability is inherent. When you accomplish something, you’re proving that you have innate talent, and maybe even superiority over your peers.
The second mindset thinks ability can be developed. They see accomplishment as the result of problem-solving, practice, and effort.
See where this is going?
Adopt the first mindset, and you’ll see failure as an indicator that you are not enough. You failed because, on a fundamental level, you don’t have what it takes.
And those thoughts are the enemy of success. Why put in the effort if you believe you’ll fail just because of who you are?
Adopt the second mindset, and you’ll see failure as an indicator that you’re not quite there yet. Tweak this and hone that, and you’ll overcome your obstacles in now time.
That’s the mindset of success. Once you see your effort transform failure into triumph, you may find yourself almost addicted to developing your skills.
Which mindset have you adopted?
That doesn’t mean settling is easy. There’s a price for apathy. It just comes further down the road. And often, it’s unbearable.
The alternative? Striving for the things that are worthwhile.
If you’re reading this article, that likely means taking the plunge and starting a business.
Why? Because it’s the only way you’ll create the freedom you actually want. No other path gives absolute responsibility over your destiny.
And yeah, it’ll be hard.
Your business often comes before family.
Your comfort zone becomes a thing of the past.
Fun gets indefinitely paused.
It will be worth it—if you endure it.
And the only way you’ll endure it is if you embrace reality from the start. Recognize that the most rewarding success will be the most painful to earn right now. Own it. Then, start building your future.
Some will be small. You’ll try a marketing campaign that flops. You’ll launch a product that fizzles.
Others will be bigger. You’ll lose a key team member. You’ll make a strategic misstep. You’ll feel like you’re about to drown and not know which way is up.
Those failures suck. They hurt. But they’re absolutely critical.
Why? Because there’s no better teacher than failure.
That awful feeling you get when something goes wrong? That’s your brain telling you that you need to change what you’re doing.
In order to succeed, you have to be willing to fail. You have to be okay with making mistakes and learning from them.
So the next time you experience a failure (and you will), don’t beat yourself up. Embrace it. Learn from it. And keep moving forward.
There’s a stereotype that all successful entrepreneurs have borderline mythic powers of focus.
They wear the same t-shirt days on end to free up their bandwidth for big decisions.
They hone their mental acuity by reading dozens of big books per year.
They can move boulders with their minds and shoot lightning from their fingers…
You get the picture.
But you don’t have to be a Jedi Knight—or Sith Lord—to become a successful entrepreneur.
You just have to really love what you do.
Studies have shown that people with strong willpower actually enjoy the hard things they do.¹ The maniac who’s out running at 5:00 AM? He’s not necessarily a self-loathing monk—he might be having a blast.
The same is true of entrepreneurs. The fuel for their focus, their refusal to quit, and their seemingly limitless resourcefulness is that they’re having fun.
The takeaway? If you’re going to start a business, choose an industry and mission you love. It’s the best way to fortify your will against the challenges you face… and maybe have some fun while you’re at it.
¹ “Why willpower is overrated,” Brian Resnick, Vox, Jan 2, 2020, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/1/15/16863374/willpower-overrated-self-control-psychology
Here’s a thought that will make your heart race: Quitting your job to start a business. It’s the ultimate step away from security and routine to uncertainty and chaos. But it’s a step many think is necessary to become an entrepreneur.
But it’s not. For many, it might even be a mistake.
That’s because it may be too intense for first-time entrepreneurs. Without support and, above all, experience, diving into full time entrepreneurship can be the short road to burnout.
That’s why it’s often best to explore entrepreneurship in your spare time. It gives you the freedom to start slow and steady, making strategic steps to build momentum. If your spare time experiment falls through, no sweat! You don’t necessarily need it to make ends meet.
That freedom also can give you the boldness you need to create innovative—and possibly risky—solutions.
Put to rest the myth that you need to dive into entrepreneurship full time. Start small. Start strategic. Start building. It will serve you far better than making a rash decision before you’re prepared for making a full time commitment.