‘It was kind of ridiculous to carry it up to a certain point and then drop the ball or the bomb, like quitting the band right after we had signed to Virgin.’ Elliott Smith
Over the past week, we have been talking in-depth about dealing with the Dip and the cul-de-sac. One of the key messages of these blog posts is that quitting should be a strategic decision, based on long-term considerations, rather than a rushed one based on short-term pain. For this reason, I have decided to call the series of blog posts related to the Dip and the cul-de-sac ‘the quitting game’.
I hope this series of blog posts has been useful to those of you who have been following it. In this blog post, I will provide a quick summary of each of the blog posts in this series, for easy reference and so you can point others to it. Here is what was included in the quitting game:
In this blog post, I introduced Seth Godin’s concept of the Dip, and explained the way it relates to the legacy project cycle. In particular, the Dip is the part part of the legacy project cycle that is made up of the back-to-reality phase, questioning the legacy project, the motivation slump, and the last 100 metres. Anything that comes after the honeymoon phase is part of the Dip. As I indicated, one key point is that getting through the Dip is what separates success from failure in working on a legacy project.
I subsequently outlined three benefits of getting through the Dip: 1) insulating yourself against the competition; 2) ensuring your legacy project will be a success; and 3) making your story inspirational. The Dip, therefore, is your friend. If you want to create legacy, you have to get accustomed to the hardships following the honeymoon phase, and take advantage of the gifts that the Dip has to offer.
I next turned to two powerful reasons for keeping going while in a Dip: 1) to protect your investment; 2) to demonstrate to potential followers, customers, fans etc. that you are safe.
It’s easy to say ‘don’t quit in the Dip’, but how do you do that? This blog post outlined four strategies: 1) decide in advance when you are going to quit; 2) write down the reasons for starting your legacy project; 3) focus on the long-term benefits of not quitting; 4) ask yourself: am I panicking? whom am I trying to influence? what measurable progress am I making?
By now, you may think the message is: do not quit, under any circumstances. Not so. Seth Godin’s message in his book The Dip is in fact quite the opposite: quit often and quit fast, until you find the right Dip. The trick is to know when to quit and when to stick. To illustrate this, he compares the Dip to its opposite – the cul-de-sac. In this blog post, I explain that the cul-de-sac feels very much like the Dip, but will not lead to success. This is because when you are in a cul-de-sac, you are stuck; nothing you do makes any real difference in bringing your project forward. It is therefore not a matter of sticking it out until things get better; it’s a case of getting out of there as quickly as possible, so you invest your remaining resources into a worthwhile Dip instead.
How do you know whether you are in a Dip or a cul-de-sac? Here’s a rule of thumb, courtesy of Seth Godin. If your efforts depend on getting through a market, you are in a Dip. People in a market talk to one another, so every step you make gets amplified and eventually your legacy project will become a success story. If your efforts depend on the good will of one person or organisation, and you are not making measurable progress, you are in a cul-de-sac. If someone has already said ‘no’ 20 times they are unlikely to say ‘yes’ at your 21st attempt. So it’s time to admit that you are in a cul-de-sac and quit.
In this blog post I explore the concept of the cul-de-sac further by outlining three reasons why quitting a cul-de-sac is smart: 1) the cul-de-sac leads nowhere; 2) staying in a cul-de-sac is a bad strategic decision; 3) staying in a cul-de-sac drains resources that would make considerable difference in a Dip. You should therefore not see quitting in a cul-de-sac as a moral failing, or let pride prevent you from quitting. It is better to get out as soon as you recognise you are in a cul-de-sac, and refocus all your resources on finding a nice juicy Dip.
In this blog posts I considered the lessons I had learned from engaging with Seth Godin’s book The Dip, and the way in which they relate to working on a legacy project. In particular, I outline five key messages: 1) anticipate the Dip; 2) make a realistic plan; 3) commit to your market; 4) quit the tactic, but stick to the market; 5) decide on your quitting strategy at the beginning.
In this blog post, I outline three specific circumstances where you should consider quitting: 1) if the reward sucks; 2) if you’ve reached a cul-de-sac; 3) if you’ve reached the quitting time. Particularly in relation to the third point – it is important that you stick to your decision before the project began in relation to when it is time to quit; otherwise, you are running the risk of wasting valuable resources that could be better spent on a Dip you can get through.
While working on legacy projects, people often quit because they have no guiding principles to let them see the bigger picture. These seven questions will hopefully help you when considering wheter or not to quit: 1) is this a Dip or a cul-de-sac?; 2) if it’s a cul-de-sac, how can I change it into a Dip?; 3) is my persistence going to pay off in the long run?; 4) am I engaged with just one person (or organisation) or do my actions in this situation spill over into the entire marketplace?; 5) when should I quit?; 6) if I’m going to quit anyway, is there something dramatic I can do instead that might change the game?; 7) am I avoiding the remarkable as a way of quitting without quitting?
I hope this overview has been useful to you. I’d love to hear your own experiences of the Dip and the cul-de-sac, and don’t forget: if you’re in a Dip, keep going.
The time is now.
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