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.