Whenever we are facing a difficult situation, whether it be in our personal or professional lives, we always plan on pushing through it; this is generally what we are taught to do, like when a coach tells his team to never give up. However, Godin is convinced that true winners know both when to quit, and the best way to do it. Sure enough, sooner or later, everyone will find themselves in a position in which they have to quit, but the majority of people do it the wrong way. To become a winner, you need to be able to recognise the typical situations in which most people would choose to withdraw. Godin wants to help his readers see how saying enough is enough and giving up on something can often prove to be an effective strategy and help you to be more successful overall, by using your skills for other projects. Sometimes you have to quit: when you’re involved in projects that are taking you away from areas where you could really become the best in the world (and to be the best, you can’t do everything and spread your resources across multiple fronts). However, in other instances, giving up is the wrong choice, and so you must be able to tell the two apart.
It is therefore important to be able to recognise the typical structure that difficult situations assume, so as to understand what you are facing and if you should quit, or not. Godin identifies three types of difficult situations.
One is the Cliff - a situation in which you continue to persevere until you reach a point of no return at which quitting is impossible, and so you plummet and fall. This specific situation is not greatly discussed as it is very dangerous and also very rare in commercial businesses. So, there are two remaining types of difficult situations that you need to know how to recognise: the Dip and the Cul-de-sac.
Almost everything in life that is worth doing is governed by the Dip theory. Every time you start a new activity – whether it be a sport, a job, forming a new habit, a project, a relationship, a study programme… - the initial phase is the easiest: it’s exciting and you’re motivated, and you see results straight away. The growth curve continues to go up for a certain period of time but will inevitably start to dip sooner or later: that “zone” where you have to start working harder, pushing yourself, and where you find yourself facing obstacles – is the zone in which you pass from a beginner to an expert and a master of your craft. For example, it is the long period of study that you must go through to become an accomplished doctor, or everything that goes into working your way up to opening your own company. It is usually a long and difficult process, but it is the only way to rise up and reach the top.
Lastly, the other type of difficult situation we may find ourselves facing is the Cul-de-sac (or dead-end). When you are working hard at something, investing a lot of energy into it and are seriously struggling to make headway, but to no avail, and the situation doesn’t get better (nor does it get worse) - it means that you have hit a dead-end; you must get out of it straight away and give up what you are doing, since in the long-term, it will only result in you wasting resources on a project that will ultimately lead to nothing.
So, the secret to success lies in being able to recognise the Dips and the Cul-de-sacs; you need to push through the dips, as they can take you to the top, and quit when faced with a dead-end, as this is nothing but a brick wall that you will never get through.