The Dip is a very short book with a few key ideas. I picked it up after reading an interview between Brian Armstrong and Ben Thompson. I can't say it was revolutionary, but the ideas hit home and it's a good reminder of how powerful the tandem of focus and determination really is.
Being 'the best in the world' is worthwhile. You choose the world.
Godin opens with the idea that most things in life follow a power law. Being the best in the world will give you outsized returns, whether that's startups, movies, or being a successful surgeon. In today's day and age, everyone is always searching for the best new restaurant, or the best medical advice. Everybody wants the best in the world!
The key thing here is that you define what your "world" looks like. If you need an urgent surgery, you are looking for a surgeon who fits your price range, is in-network, can see you tomorrow, and is an expert at that surgery. It's probably a little different from someone else who might those requirements differently.
Essentially it's the same thing as having a target audience, and speaking to that audience in a way that describes why you are best for their needs. The key though is you should be able to label what becoming "best in the world" means.
For anything worth doing, there will be a Dip
Godin then argues that for anything that you start, there will be some sort of "Dip". There will be a point where it feels like you put in extra effort, but you just aren't getting any more results. In effect: when things become hard.
I've noticed this in a lot of different startup founders that I've known throughout my career. Startups rarely "just work". There's always some hard part, that usually is about 10x harder than you anticipated going in.
You should pre-commit to either quitting or getting over the Dip.
Since you can't do everything, you need to focus and figure out which things you do actually want to accomplish in life.
There's where the idea of 'pre-committing' comes in. You should go into a new endeavor with eyes wide open about whether you want to get past the dip to achieve the reward at the end. If you don't want to do it... Godin argues that you shouldn't even start! Quit right now. Cut out the things in your life where you don't really want to be the best in the world.
For everything else, try hard to be better at it. If you do recognize there's a dip, you have a much better shot at getting over it.
The Dip is actually a useful thing
Godin argues that The Dip is actually useful, because getting over it is what makes great products great. It's roughly the same as a moat... in order to build Apple-level products, you need to nail so many little details that it becomes impossible for anyone else to come close.
To get past The Dip, remind yourself of the light at the end of the tunnel
A final useful tidbit, if you want to get through the dip, you need to remind yourself of what things look like on the other side. Whatever you're working towards, find ways to continually tie today's work to that result.
I often ask myself the inverse question while running ultramarathons: "Is this the hardest thing you've ever done?" The answer is usually "no"... so I keep going.