Episode 47 - The Dip


Jen: Hello there, listeners. As you know, Pete and I like to practice good finding. And guess what we found? You. All of you, who have been such loyal listeners, and who have sent us questions, shared episodes, and brought other listeners into The Long and The Short Of It community. We are so grateful to you, and we hope that you will continue to share your favorite episodes with the people you care about.

Pete: Yes, and we also wanted to take a quick moment to remind you about the Box O' Goodies, which is a weekly email where Jen and I put in our favorite resources relevant to that week's episode. It might be podcast, it might be blog posts, it might be books, it might be videos, might be quotes, might be Ted talks. You name it, it will potentially be in the Box O' Goodies. You can sign up at our website thelongandtheshortpodcast.com and that will land in your inbox every Tuesday, along with a link to this week's episode.

Pete: Hey, Jen.

Jen: Hey, Pete.

Pete: I've been in The Dip in the last few weeks, and was prompted to re-read Seth Godin's book called The Dip. And I've had a few "a-ha" moments in relation to it that I think might be worth unpacking.

Jen: I very much want to hear what you have to say about The Dip. So let's get on down there into The Dip and dance, shall we? This is The Long and The Short Of It.

Pete: So for context, for those that don't know, Jen and I read and listen to quite a bit of Seth Godin.

Jen: If you haven't caught onto that yet...

Pete: He's just a really, really brilliant thinker, and such a beautiful communicator. Anyway, one of his books is called The Dip. It's one of my favorite books of all time, and it's this tiny, you know, like sixty-page, short little book that you can read in an afternoon. But that packs a punch, to use a "Jen Waldman-ism". And the book is described as being, "The book that helps you know when to quit and went to stick". Which I love. And so, essentially the book describes that in any project worth doing, in any change worth making, in any endeavor that you are pursuing that is meaningful and interesting and worthy of your time, anything that involves emotional labor, will include what Seth calls, The Dip- which is that moment where you start off, you make great momentum, you're enthusiastic, you're fired up, you're loving it, and then you hit that, like, trough, or that dip of despair, of fear, of doubt, of insecurity, of questioning what you're doing, whether it's working, why am I doing this? Should I quit? This is too hard. I don't want to do it. All of those, like, moments of swirly thoughts. That is The Dip. So, I want to pause right there, in The Dip, Jen, and get your thoughts on how you feel about that description.

Jen: I think it's pretty accurate. I think it's pretty accurate. It's something that we can anticipate, like once we know it's there and it's coming, we can anticipate it. But, the thing that I love about the way Seth looks at The Dip is, he says, remember when you were told winners never quit? And then he goes on to say, yes they do. That's how they win, is, they quit the things that aren't working and they stick with the things that are. So, the wonderful thing about The Dip is that while you're down there, you've got choices to make.

Pete: Yeah. And actually, I would even, I would even challenge that, like, if you're really good at identifying what work is worth doing, you actually quit before you get to The Dip. That quitting in The Dip is actually the wrong place to quit, because you've already done so much emotional labor. So, the challenge becomes, can I look at my projects and foresee that, like, one guarantee is there'll be a Dip, and so, am I committed enough from the start to get through what will be a Dip? What will be a moment of doubt, and insecurity, and fear? Because, I see on the other side of that Dip that there is a change worth working towards. There's an outcome worth striving towards. And that the saying no part, if you're honest with yourself, you should be able to predict that before you even start, before you even get to The Dip. Like, social media is a great example, and I'll use The Long and The Short Of It Instagram account experiment, which we did once upon a time, that, if I was honest and I taken the moment to think about when The Dip comes, is it going to be worth pursuing on Instagram? Is there an, is there an outcome that's worth getting to on Instagram? Probably not. I mean, if we had gotten 20,000 followers on Instagram, would that have meant anything? Probably not.

Jen: Oh, that is such a good point. How did we miss that?

Pete: We did. We did indeed. So anyway, I just think the thing about the book and the thing about the idea is, there are two choices. You either pick things that are worth pursuing where you know there'll be a Dip, or you quit before you even get to The Dip, so that you have more energy to get through The Dip on the things that are worth getting through. So there's that.

Jen: Can you talk about the shape of The Dip?

Pete: Yes, I can. I can't, I can't annotate it for everyone else, but I'll annotate it for [Jen], and I'll describe it. So, the shape of The Dip is if you imagine, like, a graph with an x- and y-axis. You shoot up, which is your level of enthusiasm and energy. On the y-axis you shoot up, you have energy, you're inspired, you feel great. So it's like, straight up, I'm amazing. This is the best project ever. What a great idea. Then, you like hit a trough, so you go down this Dip. So it looks a bit like a a camel's hump, if you like. So, I'm heading down The Dip. I'm deeply in the pit of despair. I never want to do this again. This is a stupid idea. (I mean, this is essentially creative process.) And then, if you pursue for long enough, if you lean into The Dip, if you are able to continue, you will start to come back out the other side. And, if you continue for long enough, you'll actually end up in a higher spot than when you started. I think this is a really important point of The Dip, is on the other side of The Dip is the change that you're working on, or the project that you're seeking to bring to life. There is something on the other side of The Dip that you don't yet have, which is why it's worth going through The Dip. So that's what I have to say about the shape. Does that make sense?

Jen: Yes. That's great. So, I would love to hear you talk about something I heard you say recently about the difference between The Dip and fatigue, because I had never heard anyone explain this this way before, and my mind exploded. So can you talk about that a little bit?

Pete: Yeah, I'll try and remember what I said. So, I was riffing with two of my friends, Dean and Marie, on The Dip, and what it looks like. And what we realized is that, in this particular community we work in, sometimes we mistake fatigue for The Dip, and that they are actually very, very different things. Like, if you don't get enough sleep, if you don't have enough self care, if you don't look after yourself, of course you're going to feel tired. Of course you're going to feel like you're in an emotional and physical Dip, because you're not looking after yourself. But labeling that, in air quotes, "The Dip", is actually incorrect. That The Dip we're talking about, The Dip that Seth writes about, is the hard part of a creative project, essentially. And you might have as much sleep as you could possibly imagine, but you still wake up and you're struggling on that project. So, I think there's a very clear difference that I think we often forget, myself included, which is, "Huh, I'm in The Dip". Where it's actually like, well, did you sleep enough? Have you had dinner? Have you had breakfast? You know, have you eaten? Have you taken care of yourself? So I think that there's an important distinction there to be made.

Jen: A couple of weeks ago you pointed out to me that I sort of missed it, but now I see it in hindsight, that we had gone through The Dip with The Long and The Short Of It. How did you, how did you identify that? 'Cause I was totally blind to it.

Pete: I think it was around the time of the Instagram experiment. I know we joked about it, but I think it was around that time where it was like, for whatever reason I, and we, were sort of thrashing to come up with an idea on how else can we serve The Long and The Short Of It community. And what we came up with was this idea for Instagram, and what we are now laughing about in hindsight is like, what were we thinking? What a silly idea. And that what I recognize is, we were, we were at the bottom of The Dip, thrashing. Like, we had great inspiration and motivation to start. We got great feedback to start. People were saying they liked the podcast. And then, as over time, like, the people that reach out to you, they don't reach out to you every single week. And so you start to get less feedback. And so then we start to think, oh, what if we came out with an experiment to reach out to our community? Which was what we were trying to do. And so what I realized was, yeah, we were, I think we were thrashing in The Dip. And the beauty is we worked through it, and we were able to see, like, the light at the end of the tunnel, which is the Box O' Goodies. And now, we're getting some great feedback on that. So I think it's, like, it's taken us to a better spot. But yeah, I think we went through The Dip.

Jen: Yeah. I mean, in hindsight, I see it now, because you and I have recently had just this creative burst happen between us, where we're like, we have a million ideas for all the things that we're gonna build, or we're gonna make it, or we're gonna do it. And what I would love for us to consider is that out of this creative burst, we're going to identify the projects we want to work on, and each one of them is going to have a depth.

Pete: Yes. And so then I guess the question becomes...oh, I'll pose it to [Jen], is that, knowing a Dip is coming, how might one prepare?

Jen: Oh, that's so great. Well, it's interesting because I've never really, similar to your "a-ha" moment about The Arena, I've never really thought about going into The Dip with another person. It's always seemed like a solo venture to me. So now I'm thinking about The Duet Dip. So, one of the things I would want to do differently in the next Dip versus the previous Dip is that, I think in our last Dip we resorted to the least creative option we could come up with as the solution, just to- one of my new favorite words- satisfice our need for something new. (We'll do a whole episode on satisficing.) And what I would like to see us do in The Dip is draw on our creativity sooner. And, in the words of Peter Shepherd, be audacious instead of playing small. Like, it was so easy to play small in The Dip, and be like, "Well, what does everybody else do? They get an Instagram account!". I mean like that is just, looking back on it, that was so ridiculous. And to your point, we had done... Okay, so this is the other thing I'd want to do differently in The Dip. Trust the work. Trust the work. You and I had done so much work on who's it for? Who's it not for? What's it for? Instagram is not what it's for. If we were looking to sell things on Instagram, we would need lots of followers.

Pete: Yeah.

Jen: But like, what were we doing there? That that wasn't serving our who's it for, what's it for. That was all about our who's it not for.

Pete: Wow.

Jen: We happened to get some of our who's it for, like, accidentally follow us on Instagram, but that wasn't the point. And we didn't trust the work that we had done enough to not fall victim to conforming.

Pete: I like this. So, trusting the work. And I mean, yeah, this goes to why it's important to have a clear "what's it for". So Seth, in the book, he talks about, like, there are cul-de-sacs- they're the things that are worth quitting, which is like, there's, there's no through-road, there's a dead end, there's no way through. So, they're the things that you should quit before you get into The Dip. Whereas the podcast never felt like a cul-de-sac. So, I think there's, there's merit in being clear in what it's for, and having that vision of what it looks like on the other side of The Dip. And this is a Jen Waldman-ism, in terms of like beginning with the end in mind. It's almost like painting what it looks like on the other side of The Dip, so that when you're at the bottom of The Dip, you can look up there and go, "Oh, that's right. That's what I'm working towards.". Like, I can trust that if I keep showing up, I will get through to there.

Jen: And it seems to me, tell me if you think I'm wrong about this...It seems to me that if you think of The Dip as, like, an "S" on its side, it's just multiple connected "S's" over and over and over and over and over again. It's like, it's an infinite cycle. It's not like you get past The Dip and you're like, "Well now I'm here and I'll just coast right here 'till the end of time.". It's like, well now I've raised the bar on my work.

Pete: Yes.

Jen: Which means new things need to come in. Which means, guess what folks? Another Dip coming. And it's a cycle. It's a cycle. And I guess when you, you could also think about it as a roller coaster ride, which would make it a lot more fun.

Pete: Yeah, I love that. So it's like a never-ending "S" on the side, for those wondering at home, after my terrible description. I also think...something I love to think about is the idea of how you can differentiate in The Dip. That, the easy thing to do in The Dip is to quit. Like, that is the easy thing to do. Is, things are hard, I quit. And, let's be real, so many of us do that on, or have done that in the past. A lot of people quit when things get hard. And so to me, one thing I like is knowing that if I continue to show up, that's the way we differentiate ourselves. Because 90% of people want to just quit when things get hard. And that the way that I can distance myself from, and you know, be thought of as having a world-class podcast, for example, is that you persist and keep going. And, I cannot remember the statistic, but this just reminded me that there was an article I read recently where there was X number of podcasts that exist in the Apple Podcast library. It was a lot, I can't remember, but that only something like 20% of them had gone beyond eight episodes, or something crazy like that. It was this statistic that just summarized The Dip. Everyone's got an idea for a podcast. What do you do when it gets hard? So many people quit. So, you differentiate yourself by continuing to show up. That's also what I like to think about when I'm at the bottom of The Dip.

Jen: I don't know why this just came to me, but it got me thinking about winning streaks, and how's attractive they are. And how they can really be like a fun-house mirror, and distort the way you see the world. So you know, I like baseball. Sometimes these batters will have a hitting streak, and it's like suddenly there's a lot of attention on the hitting streak as if it, like, has the potential to defy logic, and like, the person will never strike out again. And it's like, at some point the streak is going to end. And I'm also thinking about this in terms of- like this is maybe less healthy than swinging a bat- gambling, like, at a slot machine and you're, you like hit a couple of streaks. And the assumption is that, "Well, now that I've done that, like, that's going to be the thing.". So it can be really disappointing when that ends, because the streak was so seductive. And I think there is something to accepting, to [Pete's] earlier point, accepting ahead of time that everything has an ebb and flow.

Pete: Yeah. I think, I think this conversation is about normalizing The Dip. Is, to anyone listening, if you're doing work worth doing, if you're doing creative work, if you're trying to create change that maybe hasn't been done before and you're feeling The Dip, know that it's normal. Know that it's to be expected. Know that it's a necessary part of the process. And I think, in The Dip lies imposter syndrome, in The Dip lies fear, in The Dip lies insecurity, in The Dip lies that voice in your head that tells you that you're stupid and you shouldn't be doing the thing you're doing, and that every single person that's doing creative work goes through a version of that. So like, normalizing that and being okay with that being part of the process, I think is so important. And something that, I mentioned my friends Dean and Marie, is something that we do is we talk about it, is when you're in The Dip, call it out. Like, put a voice to it. What, what does it look like for you to be in The Dip? What is that voice in your head saying to you in The Dip? Actually talk about it.

Jen: Are you in any Dips right now?

Pete: I was last week. I was last week. But I am now outside of the, I've come through the other side of The Dip. So there was a project I'm working on that...I do work with Seth Godin's altMBA, as many of the listeners know. And the first week of the, of the four week sprint is often a heavy lift. It's like you get, you know, hundreds of people from around the world, and you try and put them in lanes and get them to sprint. And that is a big emotional, like, that is a lot of emotional labor, that is a lot of time, that is a lot of energy. And it's amazing and it's delightful and I love it. And off the back of it, I realized, like, I fell into The Dip. And so for me, over the weekend, it was about switching off. It was about recognizing that the work that we're doing, the change we seek to make, that the altMBA helps so many people, and has helped so many people, that it's work worth doing, so I can continue to show up, and pursue, and persist through The Dip. So yeah, I've been in The Dip last week. What about you?

Jen: I, I think I'm on the upswing from it, but I definitely hit The Dip with my writing this summer. Because I had a sort of gigantic "a-ha" moment about what I was writing, and then it was going to change so much of what I was doing. And then I was like, should I just throw up my hands and quit and walk away from this? It's too hard to make this change. And then, of course, I was like, Jen, cut it out, cut it out. Are you really willing to walk away from putting your ideas down and sharing them with people? No. You're not really willing to walk away from that. So what are you going to do? Well I had, because my summer schedule had been a little wonky, I had taken out my writing time from my calendar, and was just sort of doing it when I found pockets of time. So I put it back in my calendar, and then in my to-do app (which is amazing, called Things). Every day when I wake up, there's a reminder- "Write 2,000 words today". So, showing up. Trusting the work that I have accumulated over the many, many years and putting it down on paper. I'm just doing it.

Pete: Yes. So I think this is the final point I was, I was really keen to make, which is, when you're in The Dip, this is why it's so important to have a practice of showing up. Like, what does showing up look like for you in this project? Is it that you commit to writing 2,000 words a day? Is it that you commit to recording three podcasts a week? Is it that you write a blog a day, if you're Seth Godin? That what we need is a really, really tangible practice, and a process that we can anchor ourselves in, that we can show up and do that every single day. And that that is what gets you through The Dip.

Jen: And that is The Long and The Short Of It.