The Dip, and How to Figure Out What to Do With Your Life

On the second day that I was visiting her in Toronto, Annie brought back a pile of books from the library. On the top was a tiny book with a cover so simple that it looked like it might be a children’s book about potty training.

dipcoverThen I read the subheader.

“A little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick)”

It seemed like a fluffy bit of entertainment. Something like “The Tipping Point” which is fun to read but not exactly a life changer. I was wrong, though. Dead wrong.

It was only seventy three pages, so I read it aloud so that both of us could read it at the same time. Halfway through I knew that it would change my life. It is DEFINITELY worth reading in its tiny little entirety, but here are the big things I got out of it:

  • There is no point in doing something which will define you that you can’t be the best at in the world at. This doesn’t apply to a non defining hobby like yoga, but it DOES apply to your career.
  • “The world” can be shrunk down by choosing a niche. Best doctor in the world is nearly impossible, best thyroid surgeon in Texas isn’t so bad.
  • It’s important to be the best in the world because they get paid WAY more than the second best. No one is looking for the second best of anything. EVERYONE is looking for the best of everything.
  • To become the best of anything you will have to go through a dip. A dip, as shown on the cover, is the period of time where the work put in doesn’t yield the benefits you want. It’s the hard part. The part where people quit.
  • The dip is a good thing. It’s the “moat” that filters people out and makes it so valuable to be the best. If there was no dip everyone would be good and you couldn’t stand out. It’s an opportunity.
  • The dip is hard to cross, but not as hard as you think it is. You’re probably farther along than you think.
  • You MUST quit everything and focus on one remarkable project in which you can a) be the best in the world and b) WANT to be the best in the world.

The book had a monumental impact on me. And it should,who is worse about doing a million and one projects than me? And seriously, how many of them have I pushed through the dip in?

Umm… none?

So Annie and devised a process to figure out what to quit and which one thing to stick with. It made a muddy and difficult decision crystal clear for both of us, and I hope it will for you too. Here’s the process:

Step One: Write down everything

Write down every possible career path or project you are considering. Add in hobbies that take up tons of time. Here is what I wrote down:

  • BTYB Blog
  • Life Nomadic
  • Make Her Chase You
  • Conversion Doubler
  • Rapping
  • Best In The Land
  • Daily 15
  • Poker

Annie had fewer career sort of things and way more hobbies that took up a lot of time like Ballet, Yoga, Cooking, Running, etc.

Step Two: Evaluate Each

Next write down whether you COULD be the best at each item and whether you’d WANT to be.

In some cases I found that I didn’t even really have a goal. Like Daily 15. How can I be the best at that? Even this site, Better Than Your Boyfriend, has no real goal.

Here’s my list after evaluating. The first Y/N is to indicate if I CAN be the best, the second is do I WANT to.

  • BTYB Blog: Not in its current state / Don’t know
  • Life Nomadic: Yes / Yes
  • Make Her Chase You: Maybe / No
  • Conversion Doubler: Yes / No
  • Rapping: Yes / Yes
  • Best In The Land Yes / Kind of
  • Daily 15: ? / Not really
  • Poker Yes but hard / Not really

Here is my thought process for each:

BTYB Blog: The main reason I write this blog is to have a way to catalog my adventures and thoughts. I guess I’m the best at writing about my life, but that’s not something that really has a dip. The best strategy is to use BTYB as a personal outlet and to use it so that my slowly growing readership of similarly thinking people can keep up to date with my projects.

Life Nomadic: Todd and I probably ARE the best modern day nomads out there, at least the ones documenting it. I think that this is a huge growing trend, and we’re the ones who are on the cutting edge of adventure, lifestyle, gear, and technology. That’s not to say that we’re perfect or that our way of sharing it with the world is particularly great, but that we definitely have the potential.

And I DO want to be the best at that. I love the lifestyle and it’s the lifestyle I’m going to have no matter which one I pick.

Make Her Chase You: I don’t want to be the best pickup artist in the world. I think I COULD become that with a ton of work, but I just don’t love it like some people do. Mystery, Tyler, and Style have set the bar very high and created a huge dip. I think my book is the best book written about it, but to really make money from that I would have to become much better at marketing, and I’m not interested in that.

Conversion Doubler: Conversion Doubler has some bugs that need to be resolved so that it can work on ANY host, but once installed it IS the best. The problem here again lies in marketing. I would need to become a much better marketer and I am just not interested in that dip.

Rapping: I could become one of the best rappers. I’ve been practicing nearly daily since 1999 and have gotten to be pretty good. I have TONS of areas I need to work on, but I know I could do it. I also think that now is a great time for it since most new rap is terrrible.

Best in The Land: I think that I’m one of the best people at knowing which products to buy. I’m really interested in it and am really good at figuring that kind of thing out. But I don’t really love writing reviews.

Daily 15: I seriously have too many projects. I started this because I thought it was a good idea, not because I had a grand long term plan for it. I got bored of it.

Poker: Getting to be the best at poker would be a monumental task. It may not even be possible. And I just don’t love it enough to push through that dip. Even being the best poker player wouldn’t be as exciting to me as some other things.

Step Three: Pick One and Only One

This is the important part. Choose one, quit the rest, and become 100% dedicated to it.

I’m not arrogant enough (anymore) to think that I can beat my competition without dedicating 100% to anything. As a kid I was always told how smart I was, which gave me the idea that I somehow didn’t have to work as hard as other people.

Not true. At all.

The fact of  the matter is that there WILL be people you’re competing against who are giving it 100%. Your 50% is never going to be as good as a serious competitor’s 100%.

And yes, saying no to good options sucks. It’s hard. So are a lot of things worth doing.

I decided to keep BTYB around as a hobby. Two posts a week, no strategy or effort to make it into something huge. I’ve been doing it for three years and I like the practice of it, having a record, and the readers and friends it’s brought.

Make Her Chase You is almost gone. I have just finished making it into an actual paperback book so I’ll do a one time announcement to sell copies of that and then just leave it on my site for readers to buy.

Conversion Doubler is done. I’ll probably stop selling it and let existing subscriptions keep running until they quit.

I’ll keep rapping for fun.

Best in the Land is dead in the water.

Daily 15 hasn’t been updated in a while. I had a system to queue posts up for a year but I guess it broke.

Poker is out.

And that leaves the big winner. Life Nomadic.

It never occurred to me that LN would be my choice. I had no real intention of making it my focus, but this process made it crystal clear that it was really my only choice.

Todd and I have some huge plans for it next year and will be working at full tilt to make it amazing. Stay tuned for that…

If you aren’t totally sure what to do with your life, do the process yourself! Post in the comments what you came up with.

You can buy the book at Amazon.

edit: added poker

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