Probably my favourite marketing writer is Seth Godin and he ranks among my top business authors (with the likes of Jim Collins and Kjell Nordström). And now he has published a book very much on the spirit of embracing failure: “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When To Quit (And When To Stick)”. As an extra bonus, the book is illustrated in a punchy way by Gapvoid Void blogger Hugh Macleod.

Instead of advocating an embrace of ‘failure’ per se, Godin refers to it as ‘the Dip’:

“Most of the time, we deal with the obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get discouraged and turn to inspirational writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: ‘Quitters never win and winners never quit.’ Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

(Undertones of leadership/management ‘doing the right thing and doing them right’)

He refers to the this concept of positive adversity as ‘the dip’ and not ‘failure’. In fact, he reserves the word ‘failure’ for a higher level breakdown sort of akin to ‘lose the battle’ (quit) versus ‘losing the war’ (failure).

“Not giving up and abandoning your long-term strategy (wherever you might be using that strategy – a career, an income, a relationship, a sale) but quitting the tactics that aren’t working’”

The Dip
So there are semantic differences in his word use from how I’ve used the term in this blog. But the spirit and concepts are completely in sync as my intent behind the word ‘failure’ is very much along the lines of his tactical definition.

“Believe is or not, quitting is often a great strategy, a smart way to manage your life and your career. Sometimes, though, quitting is exactly the wrong thing to do. It turns out that there’s a pretty simple way to tell the difference.”

Essentially, Godin says that one should embrace ‘quitting’ when your ‘direction’ (ie. the trade-off of ‘Effort’ and ‘Results’) looks to be heading towards one of two trajectories:

1. The Cliff: “situation where you can’t quit until you fall off, and the whole thing falls apart” (he uses the example of smoking where the falling off is adverse health impacts later in life).

2. The Cul-de-Sac: “situation where you work and you work and you work and nothing much changes.”

‘Embracing’ the Dip means two things to Godin…

1. Intensify during the Dip: “Successful people don’t just ride out The Dip. They don’t just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the Dip. The push harder, changing the rules as they go.”

2. Appreciate the growth the Dip provides: “The next time you’re tempted to vilify a particularly obnoxious customer or agency or search engine, realise that this failed interaction is the best thing that’s happened to you all day long. Without it, you’d be easily replaceable. The Dip is your very best friend.”

In short, “It’s not enough to survive you way through the Dip. You get what you deserve when you embrace the Dip and treat it like the opportunity that it really is.”

In fact, Gobin’s embraces the adversity of ‘the dip’ so completely that he is not just calling for a reactive resignation, he but instead he promotes premeditated quitting: “If quitting is going to be a strategic decision that enables you to start making smart choices in the marketplace, then you should outline your quitting strategy before the discomfort sets in.”

Microsoft abides by a similar principle in our planning. Not only do we set out the new initiatives and innovative plans, we also ask ‘what are we going to stop doing’ each year.

I close the entry with Godin’s own closing words from The Dip:

“All our successes are the same. All our failures too.
We succeed when we do something remarkable.
We fail when we give up too soon.
We succeed when we are the best in the world at what we do.
We fail when we get distracted by tasks we don’t have the guts to quit.”