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Philosophical Meanderings

The Dip by Seth Godin, Part 2

First, thank you to everyone who posted a comment on my post last week about The Dip by Seth Godin.   Your comments, and the rest of the book, are forcing me to take another look not only at how I use my time (and money) but also at what I see as my “long-term goal/strategy” and the “tactics” I’m using to get there.  What do I want to accomplish?  What “moves” will help me get there?

I agree with Carole Mikoda who commented here that an important step in managing the Dip is to de-clutter our lives in order to open up space for more important things.  Sometimes that “clutter” costs money as in all the “educational products” that are constantly vying for our attention at every turn:  new subscription sites, professional memberships, and other similar (some worthy and some not so worthy) products.  So, I’m starting to ask myself: do I really need this right now?  Is this helping me get to where I want to go?  But, of course, the most important question is, what do I want?  What will my “best” look like?  And, is the Dip worth getting through?  Do I believe I can do it?  Is the time this takes up worth it in the long run?

By asking these questions I can start to eliminate those tactics that simply take up room.  I know this is a simple idea.  Godin himself repeats it several times in his book.  The issue is that in its simplicity we often miss its true power and dismiss it as we fumble along the same path, not getting very far but avoiding doing something about it.  It’s easier to deal with the known, as unproductive as it is, than with the unknown precisely because it is uncertain and unfamiliar.

Godin’s advice is to quit before you start.  In fact, the best way to quit something, he says, is to plan to quit rather than to quit because you’re upset or frustrated about how things are going. In other words, don’t quit on a whim.  According to Godin that is the worst time to quit.  He says, “the decision to quit or not is a simple evaluation: Is the pain of the Dip worth the benefit of the light at the end of the tunnel?” (p. 55)

Right now I’m at an impasse with my proposal for my doctoral studies.  I have a block and I’m having a hard time getting through it.  Is this “the Dip”?  I think so.  Is going through the Dip worth it for me?  I think so.  Is it going to be painful?  Probably.  Am I willing to quit now?  No. I’ve invested too much of my time, money, and energy at this point to quit and, because I’m stuck right now, it’s not a good time to quit.  Godin would back me up on that, I’m sure.  So, I have to push myself through the Dip because I think my proposal and the ensuing research I will engage in is important.  It will move me further in the work I want to do with teachers and to improve education for students in my corner of the world, now or wherever that corner ends up being in the near and distant future.  So, am I willing to quit?  No.  What do I need to do to get through the Dip?  Lean into it, as Godin says.  Get through it.  Push my way through the storm. Brace myself for the hard knocks.  Stick out my neck.  Keep on truckin’.

Any thoughts?

About Elisa Waingort

I am currently a grade 5 teacher in the Spanish bilingual program in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I have been teaching for more than 30 years in South and North America. I love working with kids and adults. I am a teacher who reads voraciously. I love adult, YA, MG and picture books equally. I am a proud teacher writer. Every day I look forward to the challenge of learning to be a better teacher and a better human. Join me.


5 thoughts on “The Dip by Seth Godin, Part 2

  1. Elisa, your post reminds me of the O’Reilly video Kirtsen (right?) recommended on the Google group – the one in which O’Reilly debates the head of the Sudbury Valley School.

    For me, the test of how or when to quit comes from determining whether or not what I’m doing is passion-based or expectation-based. I don’t think that Bill O’Reilly has a TV show because of his teachers’ expectations that he do well in biology and finish his homework. I think he has a show because he’s passionate about commenting on the news of the world with his distinctive je ne se quoi.

    This process of evaluating my motives has become a test for my teaching, as well. Am I designing a lesson to fulfill an expectation, or to tap into students’ shared passion for learning and individual interests? Sometimes the frank answer is that I’m designing a lesson to fulfill an expectation, but I’m trying to balance lessons like those with lessons tailored to my students’ creativity, curiosity, and inquiry.

    Your post also reminds me of the great conversation on Joe’s blog right now about what we’re willing to be fired for and about what we’re willing to walk away from as teachers.

    Thanks for sharing your story and the insights you’re drawing from it.


    Posted by Chad Sansing | January 26, 2011, 4:12 pm
    • Hey Chad,
      I so agree with using “passion” as a litmus test of sorts. In fact, I’ve started to use that word with my grade 2 students as we discuss which of their questions about hot and cold temperatures they’re passionate about pursuing further. Although it feels odd to do this with such young children I’m hoping if I use it enough in all of our discussions they’ll begin to adopt/adapt it as their own. We’ll see.
      Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

      Posted by Elisa Waingort | January 28, 2011, 9:09 am
  2. Hi Elisa,

    My woman, ALL OF GRADUATE SCHOOL is a dip! One of the most infantalizing experiences of my life was, after being a professional, a grown up, someone with four kids and a real commute and a whole lot of stuff in my life–beginning a masters and doctoral program in a city 160 miles away and being suddenly, constantly, treated like a tiny little infant! So revealing! So not in my area of strength! I was so bad at kissing the asses of professors who were not at the top of their game! I was so wretchedly unfit to assume the guise of passivity and helplessness that the surroundings seemed to demand of students. Why oh why was I doing this to myself, I wondered? Why oh why must the institution construct relationships with students in this way, I wondered?

    I got through it. Really I did. I just decided I would find a way to make it work because I loved what I was learning about so so much. So that’s what I’d say to you. Do you really love what you’re learning about? Does it feed your passion? Your fire? Would you do it even if you didn’t have to, didn’t get paid for it, didn’t accrue to any professional outcome? If not, why not? And what can you do about it? Getting through graduate school is a little participating in a running with bulls–of course you’re scared, of course you’re not trained for this, of course it’s foolish and often doesn’t really make any sense. But if you don’t get gored, it can be thrilling. And you’ll be so glad you did it when it’s over.

    If you want to discuss this offline, I’m up for it.

    The bull probably doesn’t like it very much either.


    Posted by Kirsten | January 26, 2011, 4:33 pm
    • Hi Kirsten,
      I chuckled as I read your comment. Yes, all of graduate school is a dip. And, yes I would keep doing it even if there was no tangible reward at the end; I already do that in other areas of my personal and professional life. I will contact you offline about this later. Thanks for offering!
      Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry

      Posted by Elisa Waingort | January 28, 2011, 9:09 am


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