Escaping the Dip

Julie Fleming and I hit it off the moment we met at a business-building conference.  She and I are both what I call ‘recovered’ attorneys who found ways to put our talents to good use outside of the traditional legal system.

Part of the fun of writing this blog is finding great posts to share with you.  That’s why I’m especially happy to share the insights Julie extracts from The Dip, a book authored by Seth Godin.   I love what Julie shares about the cul de sac.

Saying what’s true for you

The cul de sac is where people go round and round.  Reminds me of those folks who become conscious collaborators- they see the value of working together and fall in love.    With listening.  Asking questions. But they forget to say what they want. Or what’s true for them.

What happens is that everyone loves you but you begin to feel like you’re giving, giving, giving without any return. Yeah, that’s the cul de sac.   Frustrations get dumped on the talking style instead where they belong: faulty expectations.

You can use a more collaborative style, but you can’t expect it to solve every problem.   It won’t do that.  It will allow you to find more options and be calmer as you work thru towards resolution.  If you misspeak, that’s ok.  Say you made a mistake and correct the false impression.  You’re human and learning.  And, frankly, not everyone will ‘get it’ so don’t get hung up if you don’t get the warm fuzzies in return.

Peacemakers aren’t made in a day.  Instead, focus on trying to be skillful, i.e ask, listen, tell your story regardless of outcome.  When you miss an opportunity to listen well or ask a particularly blaming question, don’t dwell.  Correct and go again.  My recommendation is to take a ‘know better and do better’ approach to paraphrase a quote of Maya Angelou.

Read Julie’s article below and let me know what you think.


The Dip by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a brilliant thinker who packs a lot in just a few words. Read his blog posts, and I almost guarantee he’ll reveal something fresh as a return on just a couple minutes of your time. The Dip is no different: in 76 pages — small pages, at that — he delivers insight that can change how you approach your goals.

The idea behind The Dip is that there’s an initial reward for most anything you start. You could call it excitement, beginner’s luck, or just the early, steep part of the learning curve. But then there’s a long slog between beginning and mastery. This is the dip, and most people never see the other side of it. The few who persevere through the dip reach mastery, and our world rewards mastery because mastery is scarce.

Godin also describes the Cul-de-Sac, which represents the dead end projects, jobs, relationships, and so on. You may make sideways moves or small advances, but no breakthrough is possible. Instead of a blow-out success, the pinnacle of a cul-de-sac is mediocrity. Things won’t get much better or much worse. If you’re in a cul-de-sac, you’re stuck. No matter how diligently you work at it, there’s no significant upside. Hello, status quo.

Godin argues that you must quit when you’re in a cul-de-sac so that you have sufficient resources to power through the dip. While we often regard diversification as a sensible approach, we become mediocre in a number of areas and excellent in none. But mediocrity will never deliver the results you want.

So, how do you distinguish the cul-de-sac from the dip, and how do you know when to quit? When you consider quitting, ask yourself these three questions:

Are you panicking? If so, wait. Don’t allow your panic to prompt you to quit. If you quit, you must decide to quit.
Who are you trying to influence? If you’re trying to influence a single person, you have only a few opportunities to succeed. If you’re trying to influence a market, Godin argues, you can build your success slowly, since every success gets more traction.
What sort of measurable progress are you making? Look for milestones that show forward progress. If you see none, or if you see that you’re actually backsliding, then it may be time to quit.
What’s in The Dip for entrepreneurs? If you’ve ever heard me talk about business development tactics, you may have heard me urge you to identify your strengths and to improve those. If you’re a natural speaker, speak. If you’re a natural at building one-on-one relationships, do that. That’s because you can put in energy in areas of natural skill (get through the dip, in other words) and become excellent at that skill, whereas putting in the same energy to shore up a weak skill will get you only to mediocrity. That’s only one application, but it’s a critical one.

Since reading The Dip, I’ve taken a hard look at where I’m spending my time. Quitting isn’t easy (especially for those of us who’ve always been encouraged to persist no matter what) but the payoff in energy to invest elsewhere makes that discomfort worthwhile.

Pick up a copy of The Dip. It’ll take about an hour to read, but the hour can save you many hours that you would otherwise invest in activity that lacks the payoff. It’s great investment.

Julie A. Fleming, J.D., A.C.C. is known as the business development expert for client-based businesses.  Julie consults with client service professionals on all aspects of creating a successful, satisfying and sustainable practice, with a special emphasis on business development and executive coaching. Julie is the author of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide For Lawyers Who Hate Selling. Visit this page to download a free sample chapter immediately. Julie is the creator of the Client Service Business Development Blueprint and the Client Service Business Development Bootcamp and has spoken nationwide to thousands of lawyers, bar associations and other groups on topics such as Strategies for Business Development Success, Five Foundations of Time Mastery for Client Service Professionals, and Rethinking Work / Life Balance. Additional information and resources are available at Contact Julie by email to or by telephone to 800.758.6214.

What cul de sac did you escape from?

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