What helped me rise out of my downward spiral in 2012 was reading the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It felt like it was written just for me, and it gave me specific tools for how to move forward. Another book found its way to me this year, and is acting as my guide for the next stage of my entrepreneurial journey. Well not really a book so much as an author: Seth Godin.
I heard an excerpt of one of his TED talks on TED Radio Hour “How Things Spread”, about marketing, and things catching on, and it seemed so right on the money. He mentioned his book Purple Cow in it, but when I went to download it, I saw another of his books, called The Dip, about when to keep going and when to give up.
I hesitantly downloaded The Dip, half scared that it would tell me to quit when I had recently committed to soldiering on. Fortunately, after reading it, I came out on the side of feeling good about what I’m doing. But I also got some insight of why I may have floundered.
The Dip is what happens after the easy part of starting a business wears off. Not that starting a business is easy, but in the beginning it is constantly growing and changing and big milestones are hit one after another (logo – done! Website – up! Product – launched! New customer – found! Big media hit – made it!). Eventually you sort of plateau, the milestones don’t come as fast, and often times you feel like you’re moving backwards instead of forwards. This is the dip. So, do you keep going, and push through? Or do you jump off the train and start over somewhere else?
My takeaway from the book was that to make it through the Dip, you have to commit to being the best at something. This will mean quitting a lot of things that aren’t contributing to the thing that you want to be best at. It means that you can’t settle for mediocrity at this one thing, despite how tempting that is.
Yes, I just said mediocrity is tempting. Obviously nobody aspires to be mediocre, but what’s comforting about mediocrity is that you’re neither here nor there. Sure, you’re not blowing everyone minds by how amazing you are, but nor are you crashing and burning, blowing all your money and good will. It can feel like a safe middle ground.
As a somewhat risk adverse person, who doesn’t like a lot of attention, who’s already borrowed and spent way more money that I ever thought I would, who’s already been repeatedly burned from taking chances on new ideas and new products many times over, I can wholeheartedly say that I have opted for the safe middle ground for a lot Po Campo related things. It felt like I was hedging my bets. I never thought of it as settling for mediocrity.
But reading The Dip made me realize that that was in fact what I was doing. I was scared to stick a flag in the ground and say, “This is me, this is what I’m making, and it’s the best [fill in the blank] ever”. I found that scary. It seemed like it would open me up to a lot of judgement and ridicule. But the truth is, hanging out in the Dip is a soul-sucking place to be. You can wallow there for a long time and all your time, money, blood, sweat, and tears, doesn’t really make anything go anywhere.
So I’m thankful to the book for making me see things from this different perspective. It’s a short book; I read it on a 2-hour plane ride, which is really the max length any business book should be in my opinion.
When I was done with the Dip, I was hungry for more of Seth’s wisdom, so I downloaded his “Start-Up School” podcast for the hour-long subway ride home from the airport. It’s an audio recording from a bootcamp he did a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been pretty addicted to it. I’m redoing my whole five-year vision incorporating a lot of his lessons – not even exaggerating. And I’m looking forward to listening to it all again as soon as I finish.
Isn’t it amazing how these things find their way to you when you need them most?
And here’s my proclamation: “I’m going to make the best bike bags for people who love using their bike for transportation”. There. I said it.