Seth Godin on Why Winners Quit

Seth Godin on Why Winners Quit

SHARE

Decide When to Quit

If quitting is going to be a strategic decision that enables you to make smart choices in the marketplace, then you should outline your quitting strategy before the discomfort sets in.

If you are in the middle of the Dip how do you know if it’s worth sticking it out until you make it to the other side?

The worst time to decide is when you’re in the middle of it. That’s my point: you need to decide in advance when you’re going to quit. Before you set out on a journey, figure out how much time and how many resources you’ll need.

You can figure this out by looking at the market, by looking at others, by understanding what it takes. If you don’t have resources enough to get through it, don’t start. But when you’re in pain and you’re stuck, of course you’re going to want to quit. That’s because the pressure is great and the benefits seem far away.

How do you know when it’s time to quit?

It’s time to quit when you’re in a cul-de-sac. It’s time to quit when there’s no asset being built, no progress to measure, no likelihood that today’s effort will increase tomorrow’s opportunity. On the other hand, if you’re meeting people, earning trust, gaining skills … those things indicate that this isn’t a dead end, just a long Dip. And it might be long indeed.

What do you do if you can’t quit?

Other than prison, I’m not sure there are things you can’t quit.

Quitting is not the same as failing. Can you explain why?

Quitting is something we do all the time. We quit sucking our thumb, we quit riding a tricycle, we quit going to school after we graduate. Failing is what happens when you set a goal and don’t reach it. The question on the table is: is succeeding at something beneficial enough to put in the resources it’s going to take to succeed?

If it’s not, quit now, while you have resources to invest in something else. On the other hand, quit too much and you’re a starter, not a finisher. My point is that you should have reachable goals, places you want to go where you will end up being the best in the world at what you do.

How do you determine whether to create a product or service when it’s something new and there is no established market for it?

Virtually all entrepreneurs enter markets where there is in fact a market. That’s human nature and it’s also smart. Competitors make it easier for customers to commit, because it’s an “either or”, not a “whether or not” question. Google didn’t invent search. They just made it work.

The Beatles didn’t invent rock and roll. They just took it to a new level. If you’re trying to do something completely from scratch, I applaud you and then I ask, “why?”

If you make it through the Dip, it’s likely that you’ll be stronger than your less committed competitors. Does this mean that entrepreneurs should look out for opportunities that are worthwhile, yet very demanding?

The Dip is your best friend! If there was no medical school, being a doctor would not be worth much, would it? Find Dips, power through them and then make sure they’re even bigger than when you found them.

How do you quit without sending a negative signal to the market?

I think it’s important to understand my point: if you are willing to quit, you’re actually less likely to quit, and certainly less likely to quit at precisely the wrong moment. You can’t quit in the middle of a project, or when a patient is on the table or when a client is depending on you. You quit when the work is easy and things are working, you don’t quit in the Dip.

How can the ability to quit be empowering?

Once you know you can walk away, you’re empowered to stay and make things better, empowered to see an opportunity, not drudgery.

In your opinion, do people tend to quit too soon, or do they keep trying for too long?

We quit the wrong things too soon, and the other wrong things too late.

Society has brainwashed us to believe we should stick out things involving institutions, so we waste huge amounts of time and money. On the other hand, entrepreneurs quit building their businesses years too soon, and it’s because they didn’t realise what they were signing up for and didn’t set aside enough resources.

Can you give an example of businesses that should have quit but did not and suffered as a result?

Microsoft has already wasted nearly $500 million on the Zune (an entertainment platform and portable media player). The company should have had the guts to quit after $10 million. Think of what they could have bought and developed online with $400 million.

The Best in the World

Anyone who is going to hire you, buy from you, recommend you, vote for you, or do what you want them to do is going to wonder if you’re the best choice. Best as in: best for them, right now, based on what they believe and what they know. In the world as in: their world, the world they have access to.

If you know that you are not going to be the best at something, is it worthwhile learning to do it?

Sure, if it’s enjoyable, sure if it makes your life happier. No, not if you don’t think you’re going to win in the market. Customers aren’t dumb. They buy the “best” when best means the best combination of price and quality and convenience and reputation. If you’re not the best for some customers, then why bother?

Not every plumber can be the best in the world. How does one define/delineate the area that you should be best in? Is it more about striving to do the best that you can, as an individual?

Of course a plumber can be the best in the world! My world. The world outside my house. The world of plumbers I can choose from has perhaps 100 choices, and I want the one who is talented, polite, clean and not stupidly expensive. And willing to come to my house right now.

If you can’t be the best in the world along those lines, you don’t exist as far as I’m concerned.

The Dip: a definition

Almost everything in life worth doing is controlled by the Dip. At the beginning, when you first start something, it’s fun. And then the Dip happens. The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. The Dip is the long stretch between beginner’s luck and real accomplishment. Successful people lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go.

The difference between Dips and Cul-de-Sacs

A cul-de-sac is simply a dead end, a situation that never changes. When you find one, get out of it fast. The opportunity cost of investing your life in something that’s not going to get better is just too high. The biggest obstacle to success in life is our inability to quit these curves soon enough.

Why does being number one matter?

Being at the top matters because there’s room at the top for only a few, says Godin. That’s the most important point he makes in The Dip: the Dip is a way of weeding out mediocrity and separating the winners from the losers.

Average is for Losers

The most common response to the Dip is to play it safe. To do ordinary work, blameless work, work that’s beyond reproach. When faced with the Dip most people suck it up and try to average their way to success.

You say that the temptation to be average is just another form of quitting. Why is it so bad to be mediocre?

Average means unnoticed, beyond reproach, easily defended, boring and unworthy of discussion. Companies pay people to be average. Consumers don’t.

Three Questions to Ask Before Quitting

Realising that quitting is worth your focus and consideration, says Seth Godin, is the first step to becoming the best in the world. The next step is to ask three questions:

1. Am I panicking?

Quitting is not the same as panicking. Quitting when you’re panicked is dangerous and expensive. The best quitters are the ones who decide in advance when they’re going to quit. When the pressure is greatest to compromise, to drop out, or to settle, your desire to quit should be at its lowest.

2. Who am I trying to influence?

Influencing a market – as opposed to an individual – is more like climbing a hill than scaling a wall. You can make progress one step at a time and it actually gets easier as you go. People in the market talk to each other. They are influenced by each other. So every step of progress you make actually gets amplified.

3. What sort of measurable progress am I making?

There are only three choices: you’re either moving forward, falling behind or standing still. To succeed, you’ve got to make some sort of forward progress, no matter how small.

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.