The Dip

by Seth Godin
ISBN: 978-0-7499-2830-8, Publisher: Piatkus Books, 2007

Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

You will get better at anything you attempt if you put in the effort. After a while you will need to put in more and more effort for less and less gain. If you stick to your guns you will emerge as one of the few experts at whatever it is you chose to do. If you don’t stick to your guns you should quit fast before you put in too much effort for the gain you will get before quitting.

That is pretty much the entire message of the book. However, it is delivered in typical Seth Godin style with witty pithy observations and some astute criteria that will help the reader to decide when to invest the effort and when to cut their losses and run. In addition to ‘the dip’ of its title the book also describes two other curves that sum up most of my life’s experience: the cul-de-sac where you just can’t make progress no matter how much effort you put in, and the cliff, where effort is rewarded until sudden catastrophe strikes.

Anyone who has attempted to break into the world of the professional non-executive director will be familiar with the dip. At first it is all so easy, you work, you get qualified, you start to gain experience and then WHAM, the dip happens. This is where your hard-won experience and qualifications just aren’t enough to get you that important first paid directorship. This is where people start to say ‘stick with it for two years and if it hasn’t happened by then you should give up’. Seth says that is rot and I believe him. If you are going to give up, give up now before you waste any more effort. If, like me, you are determined to succeed, then love that dip. It is the dip that will eventually separate you from your competitors when you come out the other side and they quit trying right where the dip gets steepest.

The dip analogy works for everything from losing weight to becoming a champion golfer. The discussion of how to tell if you are approaching a dip, a cul-de-sac or a cliff edge is a bit lacking in specific differentiators. Even so; this is a helpful and practical book that gave me plenty of ‘Ah Ha’ moments.

There is a shocking error on page 19, where Seth talks about the ‘unchecked’ decision-making power of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies: Apart from insulting about three thousand Fortune 500 company directors, this book makes non stop sense.

Did I like ‘The Purple Cow’ more? Yes. That was a cute and sweet little book. This book is useful; more of a workhorse than ‘the cow’. It is a well observed analysis that I shall probably return to again and again. I know I will enjoy re-reading it and will find something new to apply it to every time I return to its pages.

*Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director and an AICD NSW Councillor. She is the author of “All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector” and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.

Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards