Lessons from Seth Godin's talk about "The Dip" in Phoenix today

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In April, I mentioned that a local business owner, Matt LaPrarie, was trying to organize enough people here in Phoenix for a stop on Seth Godin’s tour to promote his new book, The Dip.  The goal was to get a few hundred people interested enough to drop $50, in exchange for 2 hours of presentation and 5 copies of the book (one to keep and four to give away).

Due to Matt’s hard work and support from a local company called Sitewire, there were enough people signed up to warrant a stop in Phoenix.  So I drove over to our local comedy club this morning and joined a packed room of people to hear the talk.

I really enjoyed it.

In my prior post, a few commentors had said that they were not terribly impressed with Seth’s work nor his presentations.  I had always enjoyed his writing, so wanted to see for myself.

I found him to be a very engaging speaker with rapid-fire and funny comments, interesting visuals and a good rapport with the audience.

The topic is one that struck close to my heart, since I so often talk to people about the importance of focusing on a particular thing that they will be exceptionally good at, rather than trying to put twelve pots on the stove and hope that one makes something good enough to eat.

The Dip (illustration below) is explained on the jacket cover like this:

“Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out exciting and fun.  Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point:  really hard, and not much fun at all.

And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle.

Maybe you’re in a Dip – a temporary setback that you will overcome if you keep pushing.  But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try.”


I have not read the book yet, so here are the nuggets I gleaned from the presentation.  Seth’s words are in bold, and my interpretation follows:

  • In his introduction, Seth said that what he does is “notice things and give them names.”  I found this a really effective way to explain what makes him unique.  Some of his critics say that he doesn’t really say anything new.  But I don’t think his aim is to make a bunch of new stuff up … it is to look for patterns and challenges and opportunities in the world and explain them in a way that a lot of people “get” so that they change their behavior and take action.  This is a unique gift, and I appreciate it.
  • Be worth pointing to.  When you choose something that you can be the best at, you naturally do great work. You will be noticed not because you scream “Please notice me!” but because people are drawn to excellence. You don’t determine that you are the best, the market does.  This is terribly relevant to the gaggle of bloggers who spend their valuable time emailing other bloggers and saying “please link to me!”  Why not instead just focus on creating kick-ass content?  And if you find that you can’t think of any, or never seem to strike a chord with a single reader, you may have a Cul-de-Sac blog and you should quit.  Focus on something where your brilliance shines.
  • When you are the best in the world, the world comes to you.  The example Seth gave was the waste of time used to create an “average” resume that lumps you in the middle of a pack of mediocre candidates.  If you are great at what you do, your phone will ring and people will ask if you want a job.  Sure people have to know you in order to call you, so it makes sense to develop a healthy network of people that would be interesting to work with.  But the important thing is to be the best at what you do.  People will take notice.
  • The way to tell the difference between a dead end (cul-de-sac) and a dip is to look at three things(1) Panic.  If you are in a dip and feel a sense of panic, most likely this is an indication that you should continue persevering.  As Marianne Williamson said, “it is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.”  Many people feel panic because they know that they will be great at something and that scares the hell out of them. (2) Influence. Who are you trying to influence?  If it is one person (please hire me!  please link to me!  please buy my product!) you may find that after twelve times begging, you are viewed as a  pest.  Influencing markets is more difficult, but will leverage the fact that people talk to, and are influenced by each other. (3)  Progress.  Are you moving any closer to your goal?  You must put some measurements in place to track your progress.  Has anyone bought a product?  Signed up for your newsletter?  Listened to your podcast? If not, and if your gut tells you that this endeavor might not be worth the hassle, it is better to quit and run.
  • Quitting gets you to mastery.  Dropping things that you are mediocre at and focusing on the things that you can be truly great at is the only path to mastery.  I italicized and underlined that because it is a recurring theme that keeps smacking me in the forehead. We have a bizarre preoccupation with thinking that if we only do more things, at a more frantic pace, that somehow we will be successful.  Hogwash, says Seth, Andrea Lee and Tim Ferriss.  Don’t confuse this with thinking that you can only be great at one thing in the course of your lifetime.  The key is to focus on one thing at a time, and give yourself enough space, resources and energy to grow it to fruition.

In the Q&A section, I asked Seth about those folks who have multiple interests and feel confined by doing just one thing.  He said that as someone who fits that profile himself, you could choose to have one strong focus (like starting one business, instead of the ten you have formulated) and use different tactics of implementation to meet your need for variety, spice and action.

Perhaps the best part of the whole experience was when two  people walked up to me after the presentation and introduced themselves as avid readers of this blog.  I am totally embarrassed to admit that I forgot both their names, since my pregnant mind is like a sieve, and I never remember names on the first go-around without a visual reminder like a business card.  The second gentleman said he had escaped his cube two months ago and was now working as a freelancer.  There is nothing that makes me feel better than hearing from REAL people who have made REAL changes in their lives for the better due to their bravery and faith that things will get better if they make it through the Dip of panicking about leaving a corporate job and starting their own business.  If I had a small part to play due to my cheer leading from the sidelines on this blog, my life’s work means something.  And that feels pretty damn good.

Thanks again Matt for organizing the event.

Update:  Here are some other pespectives on the event:  Sean Tierney and Francine Hardaway.

15 Responses to “Lessons from Seth Godin's talk about "The Dip" in Phoenix today”

  1. […] Godin explains this very well in his book The Dip.  I summarized some ideas from the book in a blog post after hearing Seth live here in Phoenix.  He says: “What really sets superstars apart from […]

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  6. April says:

    Found your blog from Jay Thompson’s blog following the Seth Godin rabbit trail. I was going to wait and test my luck that A – Jay would give away another book and B – I would be the one to win it. After reading this post, I am opting for C – going today and getting it for myself. Great content and I am glad I found you!

    Great to meet you April!

    You will enjoy the book.


  7. Jay Thompson says:

    Pam –

    This question is going to make me sound like some sort of cyber-stalker, which I assure you I am not….

    Were you the one I was talking to in the book signing line? I’m the real estate agent laid off from corporate life several years ago.

  8. I thought the event was great too! I posted my perspective on my own blog as well!


  9. We just hosted Seth in Salt Lake City and it was outstanding! Actually, he flew straight from Arizona to SLC and then hurried out to his hometown! It was an awesome experience and definitely worth them money. Instead of recapping what i learned, here is the most amazing post of one of the audience members – very introspective: http://voxpopdesign.com/bloomburst/wordpress/?p=211

    Jason Alba
    CEO – http://www.JibberJobber.com

  10. Seth Godin’s books and blog are great. He has a lot of useful information for internet marketers and small business owners.

  11. Ian Griffin says:

    I was impressed by Seth’s presentation and public speaking skills at the Silicon Valley event on May 23rd. His communication skills are as impressive as his ideas.

    Here’s a 5 minute podcast extract from his talk:


  12. Sean Tierney says:


    great summary. Between you, Francine and I, I think we covered all the highpoints.

    > “makes me feel better than hearing from REAL people who have made REAL changes in their lives”

    YES. My thing is as inspirational as a talk like yesterday’s was, it’s all about how it changes your behavior going forward.

    congrats on your pregnancy.


  13. The Dip sounds a lot like the need to persevere through failure/tough times outlined in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. But isn’t it rue. We always want to quit when it’s darkest before dawn…

  14. Greg Peters says:

    Hi Pam,

    My wife and I caught Seth at his presentation in Ann Arbor on Tuesday. As you said, his prepared piece was good — memorable and funny. Sure, a lot of his ideas aren’t revolutionary, but the way he puts them makes them easier to understand and talk about.

    During the Q&A session, one of the audience members asked why he (the audience member) was having such a hard time convincing people to try his service. After all, everyone should want it. Seth was nice about it but basically told the guy, “If your idea isn’t spreading, you either need a better idea or a better story.” That’s one I think I’ll need to mull over myself.

  15. Bob Walsh says:

    Saw Seth last night in Silicon Valley – thanks for the great write up, you covered it well.

    One point Seth made in Q&A last night – it’s easier to see other people’s dips than your own – a strong argument for spreading the dip meme to family, friends and colleagues who can help you see what you need to see.