Many businesses profit from quitters. In fact, some businesses count on it. For example, Amazon sells products at a loss because they know that eventually, it will drive all their competition to quit.
Zipf’s Law is statistical evidence that the universe and society favor winners. Watch the first 4 minutes of this video to get a feel of how insane the Zipf’s Law is:
To become relevant you have to be the best in the world. Nothing less. Unfortunately, most people and companies quit before creating something that makes it to the top of their industries Zipf’s chart.
Anyone who is going to hire you, buy from you, recommend you, vote for you, or do what you want them to do is going to wonder if you’re the best choice. Best as in best for them, right now, based on what they believe and what they know. And they’re looking for the best in the world as in their world, the world they have access to.
Luckily, “Best” is subjective. So, becoming the best in the world isn’t as unattainable as you think. There are macromarkets (online education, dentist, fast food, etc.) and there are micromarkets (online art education for kids, dentist in Atlanta, Thai food in Snellville). There are over a million micromarkets, and each micromarket still has a best. There’s your target.
The problem is that only a tiny portion of the audience is looking for the brand-new thing. Most people are waiting for the tested, the authenticated, and the proven.
Do not settle for anything less than your best. My mother would always tell me, “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Until your good is better. And your better is best.” People and businesses continue to settle for good enough instead of best in the world. What things are you currently settling for?
The people who are the best in the world specialize at getting really good at the questions they don’t know.
The Dip is the period of time before massive success that is tough to power through. While reading the rest of this article, think about your business, job, relationships, and goals.
A lot of my colleagues at KSU took organic chemistry and experienced the Dip. Colleges don’t want too many unmotivated people to attempt medical school, so they set up a screen. Organic chemistry is the killer class, the screen that separates the doctors from everyone else. And if you can’t handle organic chemistry, well, then, you can’t go to med school. I know so many students who switched their major during that class.
At trade shows, you see dozens of companies trying to break into an industry. They’ve invested time and money to build a product, to create a marketing organization and rent booth space — all in an attempt to break into a lucrative market. A year later, most of them don’t return. They’re gone, unable to get through the Dip.
Weight training is a fascinating science. Basically, you do a minute or two of work for no reason other than to tire out your muscle so that the last few seconds of work will cause that muscle to grow.
Successful people don’t just ride out the Dip. No, they push harder, changing the rules as they go. Just because you know you’re in the Dip doesn’t mean you have to live happily with it. Dips don’t last quite as long if you choose to fight them.
The Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value. Those who quit during the Dip were never worthy to make it to the other side. Those who power through the Dip reap the rewards of being the best in the world.
Usually, when people or businesses get into a Dip their solution is to diversify because diversification feels like the right thing to do. Enter a new market, apply for a job in a new area, start a new sport. Instead, real success goes to those who obsess. The focus that leads you through the Dip to the other side is rewarded by a marketplace in search of the best in the world. A woodpecker can tap twenty times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, but stay busy. Or he can tap twenty-thousand times on one tree and get dinner.
Strategic quitting is the secret to success.
The Dip often hits when it’s time to go learn something new, to reinvent or rebuild your skills. Simple: If you know you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start.
Quitting is difficult. Quitting requires you to acknowledge that you’re never going to be #1 in the world. At least not at this. So it’s easier just to put it off, not admit it, settle for mediocre.
A lot of people waste time and money trying to get through a Dip that they should have realized was too big and too deep to get through with the resources they had available.
Quit in the Dip often enough and you’ll find yourself becoming a serial quitter, starting many things but accomplishing little. This is something I feel like I have to work on personally.
The next time you catch yourself being average when you feel like quitting, realize that you have only two good choices: Quit or be exceptional. Average is for losers.
Yes, in business you have to quit a product, feature, or design — you need to do it regularly if you’re going to grow and have the resources to invest in the things benefiting your company. But no, you should not quit a market, strategy, or niche. The businesses we think of as overnight successes weren’t. We just didn’t notice them until they were tested, authenticated, and proven.
Some people try to just live in the Dip and cope with the pain. All coping does is waste your time and misdirect your energy. If the best you can do is cope, you’re better off quitting.
Here’s an assignment for you: Write down under what circumstances you’re willing to quit. And when. And then stick with it.
Bootstrappers learn the hard way that at some point they can’t pay for it all themselves, especially out of current income. It takes a risk to rent a bigger space or invest in new techniques. Successful entrepreneurs understand the difference between investing to get through the Dip (a smart move) or investing in something that’s actually a dangerous risk.
The opposite of quitting is rededication. The opposite of quitting is executing an exciting new strategy designed to break the problem apart. When the pain gets so bad that you’re ready to quit, you’ve set yourself up as someone with nothing to lose. And someone with nothing to lose has quite a bit of power. You can go for broke. Challenge authority. Attempt unattempted alternatives. Lean into a problem; lean so far that you might just lean right through it.
When people quit, they are often focused on short-term benefits. They just want the pain to end. Short-term pain has more impact on most people than long-term benefits do, which is why it’s so important for you to amplify the long-term benefits of not quitting. You need to remind yourself of life at the other end of the Dip. Never quit something with great long-term potential just because you can’t deal with the stress of the moment. My best friend gave me the advice, “Don’t get bogged down. Focus on the bigger picture.”
Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when others can’t see it. At the same time, the smartest people are realistic about not imagining light when there isn’t any. The decision to quit or not is a simple evaluation: Is the pain of the Dip worth the benefit of the light at the end of the tunnel?
“We knew that Google was going to get better every single day as we worked on it, and we knew that sooner or later, everyone was going to try it. So our feeling was that the later you tried it, the better it was for us because we’d make a better impression with better technology. So we were never in a big hurry to get you to use it today. Tomorrow would be better.” — Google founder Sergey Brin
Your commitment to the market needs to be unquestioned — it’s much cheaper and easier to build your foundation in one market than to dance from one to another trying to find quick success.
Our parents and grandparents believed you should stay at a job for five years, ten years, or even your whole life. But in a world where companies come and go — where they grow from nothing to the Fortune 500 and then disappear, all in a few years — that’s just not possible. The time to look for a new job is when you don’t need one. The time to switch jobs is before it feels comfortable. Go. Switch. Challenge yourself; get yourself a raise and a promotion. You owe it to your career and your skills.
Quitting a job is not quitting your quest to make a living or a difference or an impact. Quitting a job doesn’t have to mean giving up. A job is just a tactic, a way to get to what you really want. As soon as your job hits a dead end, it makes sense to quit and take your quest to a bigger marketplace — because every day you wait puts your goal further away.
If you’re trying to succeed in a job or a relationship or at a task, you’re either moving forward, falling behind, or standing still. Too often, we get stuck in a situation where quitting seems too painful, so we just stay with it, choosing not to quit because it’s easier than quitting.
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.
Thoughts inspired by my notes from “The Dip”