If you have read Seth Godin’s The Dip, you probably see similarities between the two concepts of the dip and the curve.

Both ideas involve difficult seasons of growth. Both require addressing the urge to quit. Both demand persistence to see success.

I would call them cousins, not twins. Or, better yet, the curve is a very specific application of the general truth of the dip.

The dip is the difficult season which we must survive in order to become the best — at anything. In fact, surviving the dip is what qualifies us to be the best. Knowing when to quit the dip is what make us wise. Because it has to do with breakthrough success that separates us from everyone else, the dip most often comes at the far end of the growth curve. It looks something like this:

Photo via http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog/2007/05/embracing_the_dip.html

The curve is different. The curve is the natural initial challenge that greets anyone who starts anything. It has to do with going from 0 to 30 while the dip focuses more on upping your game from driving on the autobahn to speeding around the ovals at NASCAR. It comes before we encounter much of any initial success at all.

It has more to do with launching then finishing.

It also deals with when to quit. But the truth is that most people in the curve don’t yet know enough to make that decision. And most choose not to find out. Even if they stay in the curve, many choose to survive rather than thrive — only to fade out afterwards when no one’s looking.

The best example I have seen lately of someone encountering the challenge of the dip is LeBron James.

When he first started learning to dribble, shoot, and pass the basketball, he encountered the curve. Most of us don’t last through that phase. He did. He had a natural talent for it. As he advanced his game, he met very little resistance. I recall watching his high school career from afar as an Ohio high school athletic director at the time. His school had a hard time finding team that could prove sufficient competition. As a result, he never really had to encounter the dip.

Until he came to Cleveland. Somehow the dip seems to follow Cleveland sports. I should know having had to endure the fumble, the shot, the drive — the list is endless.

Even when he entered the NBA, LeBron seemed to transition effortlessly to success at that level. ‘Like a man among boys” is how many commentators put it.

Until the dip.

When the playoffs arrived, LeBron encountered the dip for what seemed to be the first time. Suddenly, his personal best efforts weren’t enough. He needed to become not just a phenomenal basketball player, but a transformative leader.

He didn’t. Most commentators — certainly most Clevelanders — would agree that Lebron chose to quit. He pulled back. He let up. It was evident to all.

When it came time to renew his contract in Cleveland, Lebron chose to get out of the dip — or so he thought. He moved to another team that he thought would have the missing pieces to get him through the dip without having to learn all that leadership stuff. Now his team is finally once again in the NBA Finals. But even with some of the best support in the world, the dip is still staring him in the face. And he still doesn’t seem interested in learning how to lead. If the Heat wins, it will be because others — Dwayne Wade, perhaps — made it through the dip and dragged him with them.

But the curve greets us all every day. We are always engaging something new. It may be gardening, writing, parenting, cooking, learning a new position, pursuing some new skill — just about anything.

No matter what it is, we will always encounter some level of resistance because growth always is difficult for a season.

When we meet that resistance in the curve, we must choose to lean into it. It’s our time to shine. Or at least to find out if we ever could.

The greatest potential for the most explosive growth is found only in the curve.   

Have you faced the dip yet in your life? What examples have you seen of those who encountered the dip and quit? Leave a comment below to share the growth.


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