The Dip

Three years ago, I felt like giving up. Mark Twain said, “Write without pay until somebody offers pay; if nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.” I was approaching the end of my third year of writing and my savings had run out. The business was only generating $40,000 in revenues, so we were living month on month.

My wife had no idea and we were expecting our second child. I had made a decision not to let her in on the financial realities from the very beginning so as not to worry her. She had married a more prosperous Jawad and it was important for me that her lifestyle not change one bit. The business was a risk I was taking so I internalized all the emotional volatility.

What got me thinking of quitting was when I could not attend the wedding of one of my closest friends in Beirut because I could not afford the air fare. I felt so embarrassed. To this day, I haven’t told her the truth. The situation was more dire since I had no idea where money would come from to cover hospital expenses for the delivery of our baby a few months out.

There was nothing more pleasurable I could imagine doing with my time than writing Stray Reflections, but my commitment was wavering because my circumstances were changing. I updated my CV, started applying for jobs, and even went to a few interviews. I felt like I was cheating on myself, but still I went through the motions. I had to be responsible.

I didn’t have the maturity to know at the time, but that period was, what Seth Godin calls, the Dip, that critical turning point in life or business when the joys of starting have faded and yet the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel” is out of reach. The Dip is the set of artificial screens set up to keep people from going to the next level and realizing their true potential.

You get what you deserve when you embrace the Dip and treat it like the opportunity that it really is. If you can keep going when the system is expecting you to stop, you will achieve extraor­dinary results. The people who make it through the Dip are scarce, so they generate more value. For whatever reason, they refuse to abandon the quest and they push through the Dip to the other side. The focus is rewarded by a marketplace in search of the best in the world. The Dip is the secret to your success.

I felt like I was beaten, but I still believed in what I was doing. “The whole course of things goes to teach us faith,” as my friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson advised. “There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. We need only obey.”

What I heard was that it’s not all for nothing. That surviving is, in fact, succeeding. I was making progress and only had two choices: quit or be exceptional. I chose the latter. As Godin writes, “In a competitive world, adversity is your ally. The harder it gets, the better chance you have of insulating yourself from the competition.”

I gave up the search and invested all of my time, energy, and effort in the business. I used the Dip as an opportunity to get better every single day.

I started writing more, traveling more, and building a community and an experience so extraordinary that people can’t help but talk about it and recommend it. Most people are waiting for the tested, the authenticated, and the proven. So, I knew, sooner or later, the audience will come, and, yes, subscribe to us from an infinite number of choices.

This way, I focused on branding while everyone else was busy selling. I’m in no rush to go places, and happier playing the long game. It’s sensationally more powerful.

After persevering through the Dip, I told my wife everything. Her reaction was priceless. “So, wait, we didn’t have any money?” Her eyes showing fear, guilt, and then as she realized all this was in the past, she breathed a sigh of relief and a smile broke across her face. We laughed together.


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