If you've ever been faced with a decision as to whether you should quit a course of action or persevere, then you'll find the following six questions from New York Times bestselling author and business guru Seth Godin a big relief.
I met with Godin several weeks back to talk about this very question, which was the subject of his 2007 classic, The Dip. In Godin's classic pithy style, the book laid out how to determine if you were in a "dip" and should persevere through it, or if you were in a "dead end" and should cut your losses and move on to another path, strategy or tactic. As Godin shares in his book, if you're in a dip and can persevere, the rewards on the other side are immense, with the larger the dip the greater the commensurate rewards. If, on the other hand, you're actually in a dead end with no real chance of succeeding, then the faster you quit and reinvest your resources of time, attention, and money into more productive pathways, the better.
Here are six questions to ask when you are faced with deciding if you're facing a temporary dip that you should fight your way through, or if you are facing a dead end that you should cut bait and move on from.
- Does the pathway you've chosen somehow meaningfully involve your best abilities and strengths? If not, your odds of succeeding are greatly reduced. The best strategies call on your strengths, not on your ability to overcome a weakness.
- If you do persevere through the dip, are the rewards on the other side worth the effort? If the payoff isn't enough, then quit and focus on a better pathway.
- Do you actually understand what it will take for you to get through the dip? If you don't understand the obstacles and issues that you must overcome to win past the dip, then your chances of reaching the other side are greatly diminished.
- Do you have a game plan that is likely to get you to the other side of the dip? If your strategy isn't solid, then you'll have a hard time winning this particular game. Of course, with many dips people have found a way through, they had to iterate and learn the winning strategy over time, but you at least need to ask this important question.
- Do you have the staying power to get to the other side? If the path to the other side is clear, but you don't have the resources (e.g. time, money, etc.) to stay the course long enough to reach the reward on the other side of the dip, then the sooner you quit the sooner you can reinvest your efforts in more fruitful pursuits.
- Finally, has anyone else ever done this before? If so, you have a much more concrete model of how this might be done. At the very least you know it is possible. If not, you have to at least take this daunting fact into consideration.
"Quitting is a lot like dying," says Godin. "We stick out things too long because it feels unsafe to walk away from them. We lionize people who through persistence make it to the other side, but what we don't talk about or write about is how before they did this they used to do something else, something that they had to quit before they did this big thing."
Nintendo quit the playing card business to focus on making video games and consoles.
Slack started off as an internal tool for a game design company.
And once upon a time, young Yo-Yo Ma did other things instead of playing the cello.
So the question is what are you going to quit so that you can focus your energies and efforts on doing something extraordinary? Where are you wasting your energy on that if you would redirect and focus your best time, talent, and attention on something better would yield a massive payoff?