This is the second of a three part post on Seth Godin’s short book “The Dip”. Last time we looked at the Cul-de-sac, which has people driving around in circles, getting nowhere. This time I want to talk about The Cliff. You probably see where this is going already. The cliff comes after a slow incline. You get focused on the climb without thinking about where it ends. Then suddenly you are like the coyote in a Road Runner cartoon, in free fall.
The thing about the cliff is that before you reach the end, it feels like you are making progress, a little bit each day. There comes a point where you have invested “too much to quit” so you keep on going. Then the bottom falls out. Why do so many small business people wait to they are bankrupt and in financial ruin to quit? After all we have all heard stories of people who persevered and won. The key is in knowing the difference between a dip and a cliff. (We’ll clear that up in Part 3.)
For now, look ahead! What possible outcomes are there if you stay on your current path? Sometimes it takes an outsider pointed out the obvious to us. We get so wrapped up in climbing this slope; we don’t stop and look up to the end. Or we feel that we have invested too much to turn around now.
Godin’s advice is: Quit! Quit now! Put your energy and resources into something that has a chance of succeeding. We have always heard that quitters never win. That simply isn’t true. A lot of people quit one thing only to succeed in something else.
If you have read these two posts, you are probably thinking, “So Seth Godin wants us all to quit what we are doing.” No! There is a time when we need to do just the opposite of quitting. Stay tuned.
I recently reread Seth Godin’s short book called “The Dip” http://www.amazon.com/The-Dip-Little-Teaches-Stick/dp/1591841666. This is a great book for people facing big decisions about business or ministry direction in the future. He basically describes three different situations that individuals and organizations find themselves in: a cul-de-sac, a cliff and a dip. In my next three posts I will look at each of these situations separately.
So, first let’s look at the cul-de-sac. This term is actually French for “bottom of the bag.” In common usage Merriam Webster defines it as “a street or passage closed at one end”. It’s like a dead end, but with a circle at the end. These became popular with the development of suburbs.
The picture Godin is portraying is of someone driving around that circle over and over, never making progress. For an individual, a church, or a business, it is not always easy to identify when you are in a cul-de-sac, because after all – there is movement. You appear to be making forward progress, even if that progress gets you nowhere. You can speed up, but you still end up in the same place.
Seth’s advice when you find yourself in this situation is to quit. Quit spending time and resources on something that is never going to get you where you want to go. His premise is that we don’t quit soon enough and often enough in life because we have always been told to do just the opposite. We are told to persevere, to keep pushing, and never give up. But, when you are going around in circles, this is bad advice! All of that energy can be used for actually getting somewhere.
Next time: The Cliff
Yesterday I sat and watched the movie Groundhog Day again. I’ve seen it several times. In the story Bill Murray plays Phil, a local weatherman sent to report on the famous Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day. Something strange happens and Phil the weatherman finds himself in an endless loop of living he same day over and over again.
I got thinking about Jim Collins’ “Hedgehog Concept” which has some similarities to this, and some important differences. Collins suggests in his book “Good to Great” that great leaders pursue their goals like hedgehogs. They persistently and relentlessly push toward the goal. They never give up until they reach the goal.
As I observe churches, I find that there are groundhog churches and hedgehog churches. Groundhog churches just keep repeating the same thing over and over and never get anywhere. Just like in the movie, they wake up every morning to the same day. In many of those churches, that day is in 1955. The music is the same, the order of worship is the same, and even the calendar is the same. It is as if every Sunday is a repeat of the Sunday before.
Hedgehog churches are different. Though they are represented by an animal no more glamorous than the groundhog, they are moving forward. They may not do a lot of flashy stuff, but they relentlessly pursue their goals. They aren’t moving in a loop but in a steady, straight line.
So, given the choice, will you be a groundhog or a hedgehog? Is your organization stuck in a loop, or are you moving towards your goals? If you are stuck in a loop, what will it take to break the cycle? (Phil eventually broke out of his cycle in the end.)