The most famous people in the world only go by one name. Jesus, Prince, Ghandi, Madonna, etc, so when somebody starts to become a single name person, I start to pay attention. Which is why I follow Seth's Blog. I used to think of him as a marketing guru (one of hundreds), but I've recently realized that he has become such a differentiated source of business insight and wisdom that he's actually worth listening to.
Along with Drucker, and Harvard Business Review Case Studies, Seth has made my list of personal MBA reading which is a category of books that I read to help me with career development and Entrepreneurship. This is a pretty high honor because I almost never finish books unless they fit one of the three categories (faith, fiction, and my personal MBA).
One of Seth's books, The Dip, has been one of the most influential books that I've ready recently. And as doubly high praise, my mother in law (a nearly retired family practitioner) found it incredibly helpful too.
What is the dip?
In his book, Seth describes "The Dip" as a pursuit (goal) that starts with a growing effort to reward ratio (ie you make huge gains against your goal when you first begin), and then at a certain time the effort to reward ratio drops. At this point the effort is disproportionately high to the reward (that's the dip), you might even feel like you're moving backwards. Once you emerge from the dip, the rewards are disproportionately high to the effort required to get there, and the rewards continue on indefinitely.
Nearly any end goal worth pursuing will have an associated dip, and any story worth telling is a story of the dip. Humans love to hear how others make it through the dip, but we hate living through the dip ourselves. This is why we fail at so many goals (personal finance related or otherwise).
The Dip has helped me to frame my goals by asking this question: Am I willing to go through the dip to achieve this goal? If I'm not, then I don't work towards that goal, as I know I will quit in the dip. My current personal finance goals are the following: Make it possible for me to quit my job within the next two years to stay home with my kid (hopefully kids). Launch a high level career (either entrepreneurship or executive level) after children are grown.
I'm going to frame the advice on making it through the dip as advice to myself as I approach the first goal (which would mean living off a student's stipend and passive income for at least one year).
Be Coachable not Gullible
The personal finance world is rife with bad advice from people who market themselves as experts. I'm no exception. I published our Agile Personal Finance Manifesto as if it had been tested and tried. We developed it as our incomes have been rising, I don't know if it will perform well under falling income conditions. Done by 40, published a post about the Dunning-Kruger theorem that states that most people overestimate their own abilities.
That said, I'm not going to ignore all advice. Sound coaching is the best tool for achieving goals. Good coaches push you to try harder and persevere longer, but they also help to identify problem areas and advise how you can fix them.
Now that I don't play sports, coaches don't just pop into my life, I have to seek them out. I have a few friends who managed to make it through seminary without debt and with a family; I seek their advice often.
Real Estate will play a big part in achieving my 2 year goal, so I've been seeking advice from my Grandpa, The No Nonsense Landlord (via his blog ), and the Bigger Pockets Forums. I'm not following infomercials on late night TV or the HGTV real estate investing platforms because I think those are selling snake oil. I am learning to mitigate risk by better screening tenants, and how to optimize cash flow. I'm not a great landlord right now- I didn't even realize this was a skill until a few months ago, but I'm learning. I hope to be in a spot where our rental property are considered a low risk form of income.
Should I visualize or brainstorm?
A person's mind is their absolute most powerful tool in achieving a goal (unless you are Vincent "Bo" Jackson- watch "30 by 30 You Don't Know Bo" on Netflix if you haven't), but we often under utilize it. Why? Because we think about the wrong things, or we think about the right things in the wrong order.
Visualization of success is an incredibly powerful tool, and it should be a regular part of a person's attempt to make it through the dip. Visualization assumes a clarity of a goal , and allows you to refocus your energy towards the most important work in achieving the goal.
However, visualization alone is not enough. If you try to mind power your way through to a goal while using the same boorish methods that you used when you began, then you will fail. This is where brainstorming comes in.
My goal is to stay at home with my son. I reject debt, and I have committed to supporting my husband in pursuit of his PhD. Success for me looks like investing 15% of our monthly cashflow, giving 10% of our monthly gross, and having the freedom to fly home should any medical emergencies strike our family members. It means having more time to invest in my kids, and creating more opportunities to strengthen my marriage and encourage my husband. The relational dividends should continue to grow.
Brainstorming is what helps me see the specific cost reducing steps that should be in place before I quit my job, but it is also helping me to see market opportunities for high wage side work should I need to pursue it. It helps me to see that the most difficult part of this plan isn't the money side; it's the parenting side.
When we are in the dip, we aren't experiencing just bad emotions, we are facing real complex problems that require ingenuity and stamina to defeat.
If you're struggling in the dip, you will need to use your mind. Visualization will help you out with the emotional side whereas brainstorming will help you with the practical side. What do you need right now? Do that. I think a great example of this is L. Bee paying off $8K in 90 days. The goal was clear, but she visualized and brainstormed her way to success.
Strive for Audacious not Perfect
Boring goals can be obtained perfectly, but Audacious goals are what allow you to achieve the infinite returns that you see in the picture above. I have begun to evaluate whether or not my goal is too boring, too achievable. Is the dip of stay at home parenting worth the moments of joy with my son? Will investing time in my relationships now pay dividends in the future when I want to really double down on my career? Will I get distracted by trying to make money? Is this not a dip at all but rather a long road in the wrong direction?
I really think that this goal is one worth pursuing, and I think its a bit audacious, but maybe not audacious enough. Should I shorten the time frame? Should I expand my relational scope past family to friends and neighbors too? Should we do something ridiculously frugal like getting rid of the car just to feel it?
These are the things I'm considering (with my husband), and we'll be talking about it more tonight as we celebrate his birthday by preparing our basement to be stained.
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.