I know I’m not supposed to wax nostalgic on this blog (I have my own, neglected blog for that), but after reading pages 22 and 23 of Seth Godin’s The Dip, I found my mind wandering back to a conference message I heard about 5 or so years ago called “The Main Thing”.
C.J. Mahaney got up in front of the gathered crowd of college students at the 2001 New Attitude conference and boldly proclaim, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
I wasn’t there to hear that message.
But proving the three-cord, unbreakable power of ideas, passion and technology, a friend would burn a copy of the message and it would end up changing my life. (Historical note: that message would go on to become the now-famous book, “The Cross-Centered Life”)
In that message, C.J. argued that we have to acknowledge the obvious. Quoting George Orwell, he. said, “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the highest duty of intelligent men.”
My whole life seems to be about learning how deep that well goes –finally conceding that there isn’t anything new under the sun and that being profound means insisting all profound people tie themselves to reality.
Along that vein of common profundity, comes pages 22 and 23 where Godin finally gets around to saying what we were all thinking, namely that what he’s written is really, well, obvious.
It’s easy to complain that the advice in this little book is brain-dead obvious. I mean, who doesn’t already know that the secret to success is to be successful, that providing a great product or service is the right thing to do, and that you shouldn’t quite in the face of adversity?
That’s a fair question. And, honestly, one that came at exactly the right moment for me as I read the book.
If you’ve read the book, you know this question comes right after three very satisfying charts illustrating the three curves that form the thesis of the book (I won’t spoil it for you, suffice it to say they provide a fantastic set of paradigms you’ll be using for quite some time).
After hearing his argument, I found myself simultaneously thrilled to have my intuition take on literary flesh and disappointed that the big reveal was something I knew all along.
But, again, Godin answers his question (who doesn’t already know this?) with equal parts profound and obvious,
You don’t. That’s the bad news.
That’s it. The real nub of the issue.
It’s not that we don’t know what the right thing is; it’s that we just don’t do it. This leads Godin to ask,
When it comes right down to it, right down to the hard decisions, are you quitting any project that isn’t a Dip? Or is it just easier not to rock the boat, to hang in there, to avoid the short-term hassle of changing paths?…Are you over-investing (really significantly overinvesting time and money so that you have a much greater chance of dominating a market? And if you don’t have enough time and money, do you have the guts to pick a different, smaller market to conquer?
Once you’re doing those things, then you get it.
The point being: no matter what you know, you have to do something with it.
So the question is: what knowledge should you be acting on?
Do you know you need to quit that project? Do you know you need to do your taxes? Do you know you need to schedule that meeting? Do you know you need to register for this year’s conference (you knew that was coming)? Do you know you need to have that tough conversation? Do you know you need to find a better work flow? Do you know you need to get some accountability for your Netflix addiction?
Whatever it it is that you know, the challenge is (and always has been) to teach that knowledge how to walk.
I’m convinced that, perhaps more than understanding The Dip (although, that really is important), we need to first understand The Gap: The Gap that sits between our head and our hands and converts useful instruction into useless concepts.
So, for today, pick one thing –just one thing that you know you need to do– and do it.
If you’re looking for today’s “one thing”, might I humbly suggest that registration is still open (click here)!
And for you first timers, we’re giving away copies of Seth Godin’s The Dip when you register (details here).
Alumni, if you haven’t received your free copy, just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put it in the mail for you.