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I can’t remember how I first heard about Seth Godin.  I added his blog to my Google Reader and have been a fan ever since.  He creates new blog posts daily.  They’re usually short and direct, which is ideal for me.  I recently read The Dip, and here’s what I thought about it and how I relate to it.

What exactly is the Dip?

I interpret the Dip as ‘the point of no return’.  It’s when you are excited to try something new but don’t know a lot about it yet.  So you dive right in.  It’s fun at first, but then you get to a point where a little more skill is required.  Do you stick it out, or do you quit?  That’s where the dip lies.  Sure, you’ll learn a new language.  You buy Rosetta Stone or books on tape.  You do the first couple of lessons and never use them again.  That’s the dip.  You want to learn how to create flash animations.  You buy a book on Flash, read the first chapter, and it collects dust on your bookshelf.  That’s the dip.  You want to lose 15 pounds.  You tell yourself you are going to go to the gym 5 days a week and start eating right.  On day two you have a headache and decide to skip the gym and pick up McDonald’s.  You tell yourself you’ll start tomorrow instead.  That’s the dip.

At first whatever it is you are doing is new and exciting.  But then there’s the dip.  The dip is when it gets hard.  You have to make a choice.  Do you realize it’s not for you and quit, or do you tough it out and reach the other side?  It’s okay to quit if you know it’s not for you.  But quit when you reach the beginning of the dip, don’t do it when your at the bottom.  If you do it when you’re at the bottom of the dip you’ve wasted a lot of your time.  If you can get through the dip, and WANT to get through the dip, then you’ll be one of the best at what you chose to do. Benefits come to the smart people who push through the dip because only a tiny number of people can manage to do this.  Benefits also come to the smart people that quit early and are able to focus their efforts on something that is a better fit for them.

The toughest part is deciding what dips we should quit early on and what dips we should push through.  Whichever ones we decide to stick with, we should be aim to be the best there is for that market.

Last House on the Left – The Cul-De-Sac

Another term mentioned often throughout the book is the ‘cul-de-sac’.  The author describes it as a situation where you work and nothing changes.  It doesn’t get better or worse, things remain the same.  It’s a dead-end job.  If you want to grow as a person, you need to get off it fast once you realize you are in one.  Being in a cul-de-sac prevents you from doing other things.  The types of people I picture in cul-de-sacs are those semi-retired middle aged women working in the local bookstore to pass the time during the day.  They are there for the job, but don’t see a need to move on up.  They really don’t care to satisfy the customer or make their day special.  If your goal is to make it to the top, you don’t want to be in a dead-end job. You should always look to be growing.  Give yourself and your employees something to work towards.  It will motivate them each day to work hard.

An Example

A good example the author uses to explain the dip is with snowboarding.  It sounds new and exciting, so you think about taking it up.  Learning even the basic skills is where the dip lies.  It takes a few days to learn the simple skills during which you will catch a few bruises.  It’s easier to quit than to keep going.  Therefore, the brave thing is to tough it out and get all the benefits that come from scarcity.  However the mature thing is not to start if you know you likely won’t make it through the dip.  The stupid thing to do is to start, waste a lot of time and money, and quit right in the middle of the dip.

Diversification Doesn’t Always Work

Record companies hire thousands of artists hoping one makes it big.  A job-seeker takes a shotgun approach and sends his resume to 100 different companies hoping one will respond.  These people are relying on luck.

Real success is rewarded to those who focus their efforts.  An example Godin uses is a woodpecker can tap 20 times on a thousand trees and get nowhere, or the woodpecker can tap 20,000 times on one tree and get dinner.  The bird focused his efforts, and he was successfully rewarded.

Why Get Through the Dip?

Getting through the dip makes you scarce, perhaps irreplaceable.  Seth Godin recommends cancelling the space shuttle program because it is a cul-de-sac.  No one has the guts to cancel it.  However, if it did get cancelled, it would force us to invent a better alternative. People stick with it because it’s easier to stick with something that we’re used to. I feel the same way about the auto industry; I would not have minded seeing companies the government supported not get help, since it would have led to newer, better, more efficient companies.  I have thoughts about the airline industry as well, not in terms of getting rid of them, but I feel there has to be a more efficient process to board and un-board passengers, taxi planes, etc.  It takes more time to board and take off than it does to fly.

Average is for Losers

The author says that the next time we realize we’re being average and feel like quitting we have only two choices.  Quit, or be exceptional.  Average is for losers.  This is a wake up call to people at the crossroads in their career.

When To Quit

When it’s a dead-end.  When you have a mountain to climb and the reward at the top isn’t worth the effort to get there.  We don’t have the time to be the best at the projects that excite us and at the ones that don’t.  When you’re wasting your time coping.  Our time is better spent doing something else.

My Assignment

Seth recommends to write down the circumstances with which we are willing to quit, and when.  I’ve kept mine private, but they are written down.

Final Thoughts

This book opens up your eyes when you’re stuck.  Don’t settle for mediocrity.  Just because you are breathing does that mean you are alive?  Don’t stick around because it’s easy.  Don’t stick around because you are comfortable.  Don’t stick around out of fear of the unknown.  Stick around if you think you can make a difference.  Stick around if you think you can be the best.  Stick around when you can conquer the beast that is the dip.

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I went to the “Get Motivated” business seminar today in Hartford, CT.  Below is my recap of my experience.

Prior to Going

A few weeks ago we received an email from the CEO and VP of Client Services about the upcoming “Get Motivated” seminar.  I had heard about them in the past, but didn’t know too much about them.  I talked to a few co-workers and did a Google search.  I found mixed reviews.  The worst things I found was that it could be a huge sales pitch, some people view it as very right-wing, and some of the speakers can get a little religious.  On the other hand, it could be motivational, anything is better than nothing, and I’m not easily convinced with things I do not believe in.  With work giving us the day to go, I figured I had nothing to lose.

The Event and the Speakers

There was a lot of debate between my friends on who we would actually get to see, and who might speak ‘live’ via satellite.  I was pleased to say that all speakers were live and in person.  It was open seating and we had a pretty good section.

Joe Montana – Joe Montana was the first speaker to come out.  His key points focused on preparation and fundamentals.  One thing he talked about I found beneficial was to aim for perfection.  If you miss, you will still probably end up doing very good.  If you aim for mediocrity and you miss, you’re not going to do so well.  Paying attention to details is what helps you reach the goal.

Laura Bush – The second speaker was Laura Bush.  She mentioned how George Bush Sr. just went skydiving on his 85th birthday.  I’m shocked but happy to hear it.  When I got home I did a quick search on a video of it, and that motivated me.  He did it for two reasons.  One, it was exciting, and two, he wants to stay active so he doesn’t get old and senile.  I actually wrote about this on an essay in college where I said if people find purpose in their life it helps them live longer.  I worry when people stop looking forward to things, mysterious events occur and they deteriorate physically and mentally.  Anywho, back to Laura Bush.  The main themes I got out of her speech revolved around democracy, freedom, and individualism.  Two books she mentioned during her speech are on my reading wish list, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Krish Dhanam – I never heard of this guy before the seminar, but I was very impressed.  His eloquence captivated the audience.  He quoted many famous people and books.  He has an Indian background, and I believe he migrated to the US later in his life.  His belief is that political correctness will be the death of this nation.  One thing he said that stood out was to make an impact on your new hires.  Do this by telling them “Of all the companies you could have chosen, I sure am glad you chose this one.”  Some other takeaways are, “Give more than you have; leave more than you take.”  “Offer praise to the inner circle.”  This next quote I may have recorded inaccurately, but it was something along the lines of “Look inward and upward before you can act forward and outward.”  In summary, I really liked what he had to say and he was definitely in my top 3 for the day.

Phil Town – Next was Phil Town.  Here is where I thought it got very sales-pitchy. Very quickly (can’t really hold it against him given the time frame of about 60 minutes) he went through his method of successful investing in only 15 minutes a week.  He claimed it was very easy and anyone could do it.  Then he showed us his product on the big screen, and ‘if you sign up now, we’ll throw in this special offer’.  Don’t get me wrong, it sounded very interesting, but it just sounds too good to be true.  His method had to do with covered calls, buying companies on sale using statistical software, looking at legal insider trading, and selling when the software predicts they’ve reached their high.  The software seems like it could work, but it’s $600 a year.  For now, I think I’ll stick with a basic approach of various index funds across a diversified asset allocation.

Tamara Lowe – The last speaker before the lunch break was Tamara Lowe.  She was kind of bouncy which rubs me the wrong way but I think works well with others.  She is the co-founder of the Get Motivated seminars along with her husband.  She briefly talked about how she was born in Hartford but grew up in New Orleans.  She’s a former drug addict/dealer, but has since cleaned up her life.  Her belief is that people fall under 6 types of categories, which makes up their ‘motivational DNA’.  The 6 categories can be broken down by 3 main headers:  “Drive, Needs, and Awards”.  Under drives people are either “Producers” or “Connectors”.  Producers like competition, and connectors like cooperation.  Under needs people either like “Stability” or “Variety”.  And under Awards people either want “Internal Awards” or “External Awards”.  Tamara believes that people can be classified under each of these categories, but I personally don’t think it is that cut and dry.  I think I can be competitive, but I’m also cooperative.  Ultimately I want what is best for the team, but I’m also trying to be the best.  There are certain things in life that I like to remain the same, yet in other areas I get bored and like change.  I had a hard time applying her principles to myself.  However, she did touch upon how to apply these techniques as a sales person, and I did think they could be effective in certain situations.  She was selling a book where 100% of the proceeds go to charities, but then discounted the book to everyone at the convention.  I thought this sent the wrong message…if your money is going to charity, wouldn’t you want to give them more money, not less?  I enjoyed her rap at the end though, it was good.

Steve Forbes – Steve Forbes was the first to speak after lunch.  He had a lot of talking points, but his two main topics were that we should make the dollar king again, and we need to fix the tax code.  But first he mentioned that we need to look at the examples of others to see what has worked in the past.  He discussed the success of McDonald’s and how they became the giant company they are today.  He also mentioned that in order to succeed we don’t have to invent anything new, we just have to use a product better than anyone else.  The example he used here was how Wal-Mart uses computers to help them do business.  He used a car’s gas tank in relation to symbolize pouring money into the economy.  If we pour too much, commodity prices will go up, and in the car we flood the tank.  Don’t pour enough, the car can’t go, and commodity prices drop.  He went on a while about taxes, and how we need to fix it, get rid of all the IRS code, etc.  I thought this was fine, and I was hoping he would follow up with what he plans to replace it with, which he eventually got to.  He is in favor of a flat tax, and had other ideas that could simplify the tax code that I didn’t have enough time to take notes on.  However I thought they were reasonable points.  I thought he was enjoyable listening to, and I would put him in my top 4 for the day.

Zig Ziglar – Prior to today, I had heard the name but not much else.  I knew he was a motivational speaker, but I didn’t know who he really was, how long he had been around, or what his style of motivational speaking was like.  Zig suffered a bad fall within the past few years, and has since developed vertigo and short term memory loss.  He came on stage with his daughter who guided the conversation.  Zig seems like he was a great speaker in his prime, but I genuinely felt sorry for him today.  When he started talking, about 5 minutes in he started to repeat something he said at the beginning (about courting his wife and making her happy everyday), and his daughter reminded him how he already mentioned it.  Zig has some quick wit, and responded he thought that a couple people in the front row weren’t paying attention which is why he was repeating himself.  After doing it a second time, the daughter decided to show a video.  The video contained some highlights of Zig throughout his career, and that’s where I saw that he really good speak well.  When the video was over, he was trying to wrap up but started repeating himself and his daughter had to cut him off again.  As she finished and was trying to get him off stage, you could see they turned his mic off as he was still trying to explain himself.  I felt really sorry for him at that point, and hope his memory comes back.  I think in future seminars, they should try and do it a little differently; use the video as a tribute and try and limit his time on stage; instead of asking him questions that he has to answer, tell them they are happy he is here and he can smile and wave and maybe say a few words.

James Smith – The 8th speaker of the day was a man named James Smith.  I felt another sales pitch coming on.  He started of mentioning how we should position ourself to win the game of life.  We can do this through property investing.  He mentioned tax-liens in relation to real-estate investing as well as other areas. I thought he contradicted himself in the current state of the economy and foreclosures.  At first he mentioned he hopes no one forecloses on their house, and we should help people out if we can.  Later on, he shows us a picture of a foreclosure he bought, and then another picture of the house re-modeled and how it’s gone up in equity.  I will say he was enjoyable to listen to.  I started a “watch this” counter 5 minutes in.  I counted him say ” watch this” 43 times by the end of the seminar.  A friend had seen him speak the prior year, and apparently his recent “Denny’s” story was a repeat of the last time he saw him.  One quote he said that I liked a lot was “I’m not better than anybody else, but there’s nobody else better than me.”

Rudy Giuliani – Rudy was the second to last speaker of the day.  He was a joy to listen to, I’d list him in my top 3 for the day.  He had 6 main principles of leadership.  The first was to have strong beliefs.  Believe in what you do, what you sell, how you live.  Second, we have to be optimistic.  You get more done thinking positive than you do thinking negative.  Third, we have to have courage.  Courage is overcoming fear.  Fourth we have to have relentless preparation.  We can overcome fear and reduce our risk through preparation.  Fifth, teamwork is essential.  What are our weaknesses?  Build a team around our weaknesses so that their strengths complement our weaknesses.  Teams need balance.  Sixth, communicate.  Get your ideas into the hearts of others.  Give people realistic goals to reach.  A leader has to love people.  Statistics are important, but people are more important.  I really like that last sentence.  Companies focus too much on metrics and forget it’s people and quality behind those numbers that count.  Sometimes you can’t always measure that.

Colin Powell – Last to speak (for me at least, I believe there was one last speaker after him, but everyone was leaving) was Colin Powell.  He is also in my top 3.  He was very enjoyable, humorous at times, and kept my attention.  One key point I took from him is “It’s not where you start, it’s where you end up.  Always look forward, you can’t change the past.”  Our job as leaders is to put followers in the best possible path for the organization.  Give the followers a sense of purpose.  Successful leaders communicate a sense of passion.  We need to inspire, make people believe there is a purpose to their mission.  We need to let people know they are important.  People will follow you when they trust you.

Final Thoughts

I read an article in the Courant this morning and it really shows how reporters angle a story.  They completely blasted the religious angle but only lightly touched upon the sales-pitch angle.  Yes it had religious moments, and it was preachy and uncomfortable at times.  But do your homework, I knew that going into it.  I am more worried about people getting excited about the sales pitches and jumping in too fast without doing more research. Do your research, look before you leap.

The cast of speakers was fantastic.   Other people I wouldn’t mind seeing speak at the event are Seth Godin, John Wooden, Joe Torre, or Clark Howard.  I wasn’t able to hand in the survey at the end because I didn’t see where to drop it off, so hopefully they read this instead.  🙂

Get Motivated exceeded my expectations.  I had a mediocre feeling going in, and was worried they were going to sell us a lot of stuff and I wasn’t going to learn anything.  There were only two sales-pitch speakers and it wasn’t as one-sided (politically) as I had read.  It was definitely a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone looking to get motivated.

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