The Dip by Seth Godin

A few months into this self employment gig, I read ‘The Dip’ by Seth Godin.  Ok, I read a few weeks ago; maybe I should have read it a few months ago.  The premise of the book is simple.  Its a short reflection on the fact that, like it or not, we can only excel at a few things (or one) and how this is indeed better than being a jack of all trades.

Godin postulates that, by attempting to be competent at many things, we end up being mediocre at all of them.  He describes briefly how we’re encouraged all through our school years to do well on everything we’re taught instead of being rewarded for excelling at one thing.  Later in life thou, we are most rewarded if we are the best at whatever we do.  While this may be true enough in the context of this book, a book from a fantastic marketing guy, most of my successful peers seem to excel at multiple things.  Godin spends some time explaining how not even second best is good enough in a connected society such as ours.  Instead, he encourages us to focus our time and energy doing those things where we can be better than anyone else for our particular situation.  This is not to say ‘be the best on one skill’ but more along the lines of be the best for the situation you’re in.  With this, I agree 100%.

These past few months, we’ve done coldfusion apps, rails apps, custom wordpress (php) sites and pondered or quoted flex, seo work and everything in between.  This is typical for an IT shop… think of that ‘generalist specialist’ angle to what we do.  I can’t say its been a waste of time, we have to pay bills and being self employed is lot of fun but, reading ‘The Dip’, I can’t help but wonder if choosing only one of these (application types) would’ve been better, worse or the same as trying to cast a wide net for profit.  The usual mode of operation here is to entertain most things if they guarantee fair compensation, prompt execution and payment.  Maybe I’m missing the point of book a bit since Godin talks about multiple careers paths, etc.  Guess this is nothing more than an interpretation but the fact is that the book is a nice quick and insightful read.

Godin, unlike me, makes a very eloquent argument in a short, concise and entertaining book worth the couple of hours reading time.  I could not do the book justice but reading it did have a profound effect on my take on work and definitely on how I spend my time.

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