The Dip – Seth Godin

I just finished reading “The Dip” by Seth Godin.

It’s about deciding what to work on and what to skip. Godin’s litmus test for whether to bother doing something is “Are you willing and able to do the work to be the best in the world?”.

I get it. Organizations should get out of markets where they cannot be world class in order to reallocate resources to areas where they can. In business, and maybe in a career, it works.


When you apply it to your personal life; to dreams, ambitions, and possibilities, it becomes terrible advice. The “best in the world or don’t even try” attitude is a dangerously false dichotomy when applied to living and loving your life.

Imagine if you will…

I’d like speak French, but since I’ll never speak as well as a native born diplomat I’ll just watch TV instead.
I’d like to snowboard, but Shawn White seems to have cornered the market so I’ll just hang at the lodge and drink.
I think it would be fun to play bassoon in my local orchestra, but since I’ll never make it to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra I won’t even try.

…or things that can’t be quantified…

Who is the “best” traveler?
Who appreciates art the most?
Who is healthiest?

If a thing is worth doing it’s worth doing terribly.

I wonder if Mr. Godin has hobbies?
Where is he in the dip?

Does it really matter?




Falling While Sitting Down – Joshua Fields Millburn

In 1958 Orson Welles used a (very) long take at the opening of “Touch of Evil” to pull viewers into his story. Joshua Millburn creates a moment of absolute delight with a similar technique at the start of his second story “A Radically Attenuated History of Generation X”. He writes the longest sentences I’ve ever read and pulls me right into the scene. I was so surprised by the narrative when I first read it that I laughed out loud…and read it again. Did I miss a period? I must have, that could never be one sentence.

And yet it was.

Far too long to send as a text message, yet one coherent thought from start to finish.

The moment was unexpected and satisfying, like that time you found a crumpled and forgotten $20 in your coat pocket.

In some ways the whole book is like that. I never knew what was coming but by the end of each story I wanted to know the next step in the plot and I wanted to meet the next character.

How fun is that?

The additional material by contributing authors Colin Wright, Chase Night, and Mark Robertson is different in style but very good nonetheless. Colin Wright’s “The Beam” stands out in particular, like a crisp one act play.

I rarely buy books (I’m a library guy), but here I make an exception. You can’t borrow it, so buy this book.

Seriously, where else can you spend this little and feel like you found a twenty?

The No Complaining Rule – Jon Gordon

I’ve never been a fan of what I call the “read it during your flight” genre. “The One Minute Manager” and it’s ilk have always left me unsatisfied. Had I realized that “The No Complaining Rule” was one of these I would have passed on it.

I tend to have two arguments with the style. The first is that the allegory is usually patronizingly shallow; the second, that if the subject is worthwhile it merits being addressed in greater depth than the format allows. The fact is that I didn’t know, and I found myself complaining a lot, so I picked it up.

Unfortunately, for me, this book fails on both counts. There is good information on the business costs of negativity and some tactics for implementing the no complaining rule in a workplace. However, I felt the presentation made the data appear trite and left me most aware of the impracticality of broaching the subject at my office.

I was able to read the book across two lunchtime walks. Ultimately I would have preferred a more thorough treatment in a longer book or a brief presentation of the facts in a blog post.

If you’re a fan of the genre there are certainly redeeming qualities that would make it a good read for you. I’ve already mentioned the quality information on the costs of negativity and I think that really has value. There is also an assessment at the end of the book that could easily be made into an online survey for your user group. The steps for implementation provide a map for trying the program at your workplace and perhaps someone in a position of more power (or less cynicism) than me could try it out.

All in all it seemed far-fetched and I never bought into it. This doesn’t make it a bad book, but certainly not for me.


Please note that the purchase image above is an affiliate link. I’m not recommending the book, but this link is the easiest way to let people see what I’m talking about (I also need to learn what I’m doing with these links).

The Art of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau

I subscribed to Chris’ blog with the initial idea of saving some money on airfare. Chris’ book “The Art of Non-Conformity” always intrigued me but it wasn’t my primary reason for reading his work. Since I am trying to reduce my stuff I made up my mind not to buy his book (or anyone’s for that matter, the first step in reducing your stuff is to stop buying more of it). It was a pleasant surprise, then, to see it at my local library and I picked it up right away.

I try to live an engaged and purposeful life. However, I don’t want to drop everything and be a digital nomad so I wondered if the book would would speak to someone with less extreme tastes. I needn’t have worried. While Chris unapologetically counsels self-employment he freely states that he advises only from his own experience. I get the feeling that he wouldn’t quibble with someone like me whose definitions of success and freedom differ from his own as long as they were making progress towards their dreams.

The biggest eye openers for me were centered on the business and financial content. My favorite idea in the entire book was financial security from sustainable income streams rather than through drawing interest off a substantial nest egg. I’ve been saving for the nest egg a long time, but if it turns out I don’t need it there are a couple of causes I’d love to endow. My second favorite idea consisted of practical guidelines for creating businesses that could facilitate those income streams. Nuts and bolts characteristics like “good businesses create assets that sell on their own while bad businesses trade time for money” is just one axiom presented in quick list of points for screening new ideas.

Overall this quick read is worth more than the time it asks of you. If it’s not on the shelf at your local library I’d recommend you pick up a copy.