On strategic quitting

A few weeks ago, I bought this gem of an audiobook called ‘The Dip’ by Seth Godin. I must have listened to the entire thing for over ten times, and I am sure I will keep listening to it again and again until I milked everything out of it.
In this blog post, I am sharing the lessons from The Dip that I have collated from some of the best resources on the web. I have listed down the links to the references at the end of this post.
Throughout our life, we are only used to hear ‘Don’t quit yet. Hang in there. You can do it.’ as a motivational slogan from our friends, parents, and teachers. While they meant well, their advice did little to improve many of the areas in our life, especially those where we are actively seeking a return on our investment (ROI).
Any activity/project that we are involved in follows a path as shown below:
seth-godin-the-dip
Dips deter people from becoming experts. But, people spend time – our most limited resource – focusing on the wrong activities. Seth addresses these by introducing two other curves. The Cul-de-Sac and the Cliff.
The Cul-de-Sac – French for dead end – represents an activity that no matter how hard you work, you aren’t getting anywhere.
The Cliff has no dip. The more you work, the better you get. But, in the end, there is a fall off. Activities which look like cliffs don’t deter people. Since there is no challenge, everyone can become an expert thus, diminishing the value of the activity.
Anything worth doing has a dip.
However, we quit the right things at times without knowing they are worth pursuing. This is because the dip and the cul-de-sac feels the same.
Some quit due to slow progress never grasping the fact that slow progress is progress.
There are times when you want to abandon activities that have dips too.
But understand, getting through the dip is hard. Only the people who want to be the best, lean into the dip and get through it. At the end of the book, Seth gives some questions to ask yourself. Here is an abbreviate list:
– Is this a Dip, a Cliff, or a Cul-de-Sac?
– If it’s a Cul-de-Sac, how can I change it into a Dip?
– Is my persistence going to pay off in the long run?
– 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.
– If I quit this task, will it increase my ability to get through the Dip on something more important?
– If I’m going to quit anyway, is there something dramatic I can do instead that might change the game?
Quit a product or a feature – and do it regularly if you’re going to grow and have the resources to invest in the right businesses. But don’t quit a market or a strategy or a niche.
The timing is important when it comes to quitting. That said, if it’s something that genuinely brings you joy and you are not looking for an ROI out of it, you must keep doing it.
Other than hindsight, how does someone know when it’s time to quit?
It’s time to quit when you secretly realize you’ve been settling for mediocrity all along. It’s time to quit when the things you’re measuring aren’t improving, and you can’t find anything better to measure.Smart quitters understand the idea of opportunity cost. If you fire your worst clients, if you quit your deadest tactics, if you stop working with the people who return the least, then you free up an astounding number of resources. Direct those resources at a Dip worth conquering and your odds of success go way up.
What’s the worst time to quit? When the pain is the greatest. Decisions made during great pain are rarely good decisions.
If I’m in the middle of a dip, how do I know if it’s worth gutting it out to get to the other side?
The best time to ask this question is before you hit the Dip. Smart people can see Dips in advance and plan for them. In picking a Dip, you need to think about two things: First, do you have the resources to get through it; second, is it worth what it will take? If your goal is to displace Microsoft Word as the industry-standard word processor, the Dip is a whole lot bigger. The reward might be too, but you need to figure it out before you invest.
Is there a place for the intrinsic value of learning a skill—for example, playing hockey or the violin—even though you know you won’t be the best in the world?
Mastery is an addiction. Most people never master anything and never experience the thrill of being on the other side of the Dip. As a result, they don’t seek out new opportunities for mastery. As for being “best in the world,” it doesn’t have to mean you play like Joshua Bell. The world can be whatever world your market chooses from. The best acupuncturist in town or the best $45 shoes ever made. When you copy something that’s already on the other side of the Dip, you’ve already lost.
Of course, there’s room for passion—for doing stuff because you love it.  But my book is about investment and effort, in doing things not just for the pleasure of doing them but because you expect something in return.
Strategic quitting is however, different from merely quitting.
“Quitting is not the same as failing. Strategic quitting is a conscious decision you make based on the choices that are available to you. If you realize you’re at a dead end compared with what you could be investing in, quitting is not only a reasonable choice, it’s a smart one.
Pride is the enemy of the smart quitter. Richard Nixon sacrificed tens of thousands of innocent lives when he refused to quit the Vietnam war. The only reason he didn’t quit sooner: pride.
If quitting is going to be a strategic decision that enables you to make smart choices in the marketplace, than you should outline your quitting strategy before the discomfort sets in. If you’re making a decision based on how you feel at that moment, you will probably make a wrong decision.
Not giving up and abandoning your long-term strategy (wherever you might be using that strategy — a career, an income, a relationship, a sale) but quitting the tactics that aren’t working.
Figure out projects where there is cut-de-sac and quit those.
Figure out projects where there is deep dip as the dip keeps away people who don’t persist minimizing competition.
Seth suggests identifying all activities, you’re working on, that have dips. Then ask: What will happen if you continue with these activities? Will you become an expert? Are you willing to slog through the difficulty of the dip? If not, drop it.”
So, what is the bottom line?
Quitting is ok – when it is a strategy. Winners quit fast, quite often, and quit without guilt – until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons. Winners quit all the time – they just quit the right stuff at the right time.
Strategic quitting is the secret of successful organizations. By quitting things they can’t be #1 or #2 in an industry, they free resources to get other businesses through the Dip.
Everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip. At the beginning,
Successful people don’t just ride out the Dip. They don’t just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go. Just because you know you’re in the Dip, doesn’t mean you have to live happily with it.
The Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value.
It’s easier said than done but, strategic quitting is definitely worth striving for.
I am sharing below examples of two women who did strategic quitting, when complacency started to creep in, in order to pursue new bigger challenges in life.
References
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