"Never, never, never quit," said Winston Churchill.
We've all heard this sentiment echoed repeatedly in grade-school gym class, college physics and company slogans.
That's why Seth Godin's diminutive new book, coming out in May, seems so scandalous.
The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick)
, Godin says winners actually quit all the time, and he enthusiastically encourages the practice.
He's is not some senile schoolteacher but the author of eight other worldwide bestsellers including
. He is also the founder of
Squidoo.com (a platform of user-generated pages) and a popular
In just 76 pages, Godin explains how people win biggest by getting through the dip, "the long, difficult stretch between starting something and mastering it," according to Godin.
While we may cringe in anguish at the thought of that long slog, Godin says that the dip is actually the quickest way to get you where you want.
But only stick with the dips that are likely to work out; otherwise, strategically quit when your situation looks like a cul-de-sac (what Godin defines as a situation where you work and things stay the same) or a cliff (a situation where you can't quit until you fall off).
"People often look at me like I'm crazy," says Godin. "The breakthrough that happens with the dip is that it gives people permission to believe something that they've known all along -- that they quit all the time, and most of the time, they quit at the wrong time," he explains, adding that quitting can actually become part of a strategy for success when an individual, corporation or small business sees it as a choice.
"An individual who is the best in the world at animation, for example, never has trouble finding a job, though an average animator always struggles," he says. "A small business that does a pretty good job at dry cleaning doesn't find people driving across town with a particularly valuable garment ... and a giant corporation, one that makes it easy for employees to add new initiatives but finds itself unable to cancel projects that are stuck in the dip is on a relentless path to mediocrity."
While encouraging people to be quitters, Godin also does away with other clichéd values we hold so dear.
Resolve to Quit
Beware of quitting when you're in the depths of the dip and the pain seems greatest, warns Godin.
Being a quitter isn't enough -- you have to be a premeditated quitter, advises Godin. "Decide before you start when you're going to quit ... Decide under what circumstances you'll know if you're on a dead end, a path with no win at the end."
The whole point of quitting is to put all of your effort into something else, says Godin. "If your competition is working hard to be well-rounded and balanced but you're obsessed with being the best in the world at just one thing, who's going to win?"
If you try to master a lot of things, says Godin, all of them will either fail or become lukewarm successes. "On the other hand, once you learn how to master something, you get good at mastery, and that skill will help you master the next one."
Being No. 1 in a field isn't an absolute, though. According to Godin, the customer, not the company, defines what the best in the world is.
"The 'world' means the universe from which
the customer is going to pick," he says. "For some people, the Denny's near the airport in Toronto is the best in the world because they want a boring, safe meal within three minutes of the rent-a-car place. That doesn't mean it's for everyone."
The good news is it's getting easier to be the best in the world because "the world just got a whole lot bigger, and the number of choices is approaching infinity," Godin points out. "The challenge of the marketer/business is to pick a universe that's big enough to make you happy once you get to the other side of the dip."
The primary misconception small businesses make, says Godin, is that their hard work deserves a profit or a sympathetic ear. He welcomes us warmly to the selfish world.
"People don't care about you; they care about themselves," he says. "When a small business creates relevance and urgency, when they have an authentic story that makes it clear that they are the best choice, then they win."
As examples, Godin offers his own Squidoo.com, with a relentless focus on one thing, and Kiva.org, which grabbed an untaken spot in lending money to small businesses in the developing world.
"I've grappled with dozens of dips, just like everybody else," Godin says. "Most of them have wiped me out because I wasn't prepared for them and didn't have enough resources to get through them. But the few times I've focused on the dip ahead and been ready for it, the ride has been more than worth the journey."
So what are you waiting for? Quit!