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When to quit "the wrong stuff" at "the right time"
on 25 May 2007
It is impossible to ignore what Seth Godin has to say and how he says it. That's remarkable. In this small volume (only 80 pages and about the size of a greeting card), Godin shares some LARGE ideas, one of which is indicated in the title of my review. Here is a cluster of Godinesque observations:
All our successes are the same. All our failures, too.
We succeed when we do something remarkable.
We fail when we give up too soon.
We succeed when we are the best in the world at what we do.
We fail when we get distracted by tasks we don't have the guts to quick.
Quit the wrong stuff.
Stick with the right stuff.
Have the guts to do one or the other.
In 1963, Peter Drucker made an assertion with which Seth Godin presumably agrees: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."
Both Drucker and Grodin are diehard pragmatists. My guess (only a guess) is that each learned lessons of greatest value to them from their failures rather than from their successes, that both of them (at least occasionally) felt like giving up and sometimes did, making a bad decision by quitting "the right stuff" or sticking with "the wrong stuff."
I presume to offer an example of what Godin seems to have in mind. All of us begin each day with the best of intentions. Let's say our objective is to produce more and better results in less time. OK, that's a worthy objective. Then let's say, that doesn't happen. Perhaps how we pursue the objective isn't working but we don't quit our method. (Albert Einstein once suggested that insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.") Or let's say that our method is the right one but we are impatient with the immediate results, quit on that method, and try another.
Here's the challenge: When encountering what Godin characterizes as "the Dip" (i.e. a temporary setback which creates a "moment of truth"), know the difference(s) between "the right stuff" and "the wrong stuff" and proceed accordingly.
So many decisions in life are gambles (i.e. "knowing when to hold and when to fold") in that they must be made without complete information and thus require a combination of knowledge, judgment, instinct, and faith.
A careful reading of Godin's book will increase the reader's knowledge and improve her or his judgment. He helps his reader to answer questions such as these:
"Is this a Dip, a Cliff, or a Cul-de-Sac?
"If it's a Cul-de-Sac, how can I manage it into a Dip?"
"Is my persistence going to pay off in the long run?"
"When should I quit? I need to know now, not when I'm in the middle of it, and not when part of me is begging to quit."
"If I'm going to quit anyway, will it increase my ability to get through the Dip on something more important?"
Finding correct answers to questions such as these may not sharpen one's instincts (although I suspect they could) but the answers will at least strengthen one's faith in the correctness of the decision, whatever that decision may be, when the next Dip occurs.