Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Dip

I'm a big fan of Seth Godin.

I've known him since the earlier days of Fast Company magazine; I've read his books, columns, and blog; and I worked with him for the first year of Squidoo. He's a wonderful example of the self-made man in the knowledge economy. And he's a bright bulb.

So when I learned that his new book The Dip, was coming out, I knew I had to check it out. It's the first book he published since I left Squidoo, and the initial coverage -- particularly in Ad Age -- left a little to be desired.

When I was in Boston last Friday for a business meeting, I picked up a copy at a local bookstore. And I'm glad I did. Seth is a little like Bill Gross of Idealab in that he occasionally practices the art of spaghetti idea generation: You throw noodles against the wall and see what sticks. And while, at about 80 pages, The Dip is a one-trick, if not -idea, pony, Seth does what he's trying to do very well.

Here's my take. I could be totally wrong.

1. The Dip could be Seth's Who Moved My Cheese?. It's that short a book. It's that tight a package. And the book is designed to be shared. Every copy of the book includes a blow-in card entitled "Stick or Quit?" that encourages people to buy books in bulk for their team and company. You can do so at Get the Dip. The book also features a page in which you can write a list of people who need to get the book next. Consider it your routing list for group reading.

2. Multiple media matter. In the store display, accompanying the stacks of slim books were stacks of CD's. Each CD cost $5 and was an abridged audiobook of the book itself. Wait a minute: an abridged audiobook of an 80-page book? For $5? Brilliant. Add to that the book's mentions of Seth's Web site, blog, and company Squidoo, and you get multiple touchpoints in one tidy package. Sweet.

3. Seth involves and thanks his friends. One of the hallmarks of a good team member is that they recognize the people who help them succeed. Seth does this in spades. The illustrations in The Dip are all provided by Hugh Macleod, who's worth following in his own right. Cross promoting talent -- and projects -- can go far, and the book does that. In the text, Seth gives props to his copy editor, and in the Best in the World? end notes, he name drops the Squidoo team, as well as his editorial team at Portfolio. By doing so, Seth shares some love, sheds some light, and helps ensure that the people who help him help people might continue doing so.

4. Seth gives you tools you can use. You need to read the entire book -- not difficult -- to find them all, but if you're not already aware of Zipf's law, The Magic of Thinking Big (a book that changed the way Seth thought about success -- and a book I've already ordered), Zelma Watson George and Jacqueline Novogratz, you will be soon. All are worth some attention.

5. Simple ideas matter. In some ways, The Dip is a one-sentence book: If you aren't willing to go all out to succeed, don't even try. While that's easier said than done -- it could be misinterpreted as "If you won't jump the shark, don't jump." -- the idea is still worth some thought. In the meantime, the brief text is chock full of other pearls of wisdom. Among them:

  • "Every time you switch lines, you're starting over."
  • "Don't fall in love with a tactic and defend it forever."
  • "The time to look for a new job is when you don't need one."
  • "Quitting when you're panicked is dangerous and expensive."

This last point -- the beauty or ugliness of the simple idea -- is what some reviewers have latched onto, and that fact indicates that they've missed the point. Seth wraps his lessons up in other lessons you can learn from. Pay attention to the entire package.

Am I glad I read the book? I think so. Am I glad I gave thought to the book? Damn straight. When you throw noodles against the wall, maybe it's less important that you threw noodles -- and more important that you made noodles.

Throw away.