What to do when you hit a low…?

On his blog, full of thought provoking, question-inducing posts, Seth Godin talks about The Dip (click here to read more: Seth’s Blog: The Dip, revisited, plus audio bonus).

The Dip is the title of a book that Godin published a few years ago (one that I admittedly haven’t yet read), which is apparently about questions to ask oneself when one hits ‘the dip’… aka a low, a lull… or perhaps even self-defined failure. While many books promise to give you the answers to success, Godin instead asks you some questions. Sounds promising to me. This has immediately gone on my list of books to read.

Here’s a brief description of The Dip, in Godin’s own words:

Every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point-really hard, and not much fun at all.

And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. Maybe you’re in a Dip-a temporary setback that will get better if you keep pushing. But maybe it’s really a Cul-de-Sac, which will never get better, no matter how hard you try.

What really sets superstars apart from everyone else is the ability to escape dead ends quickly, while staying focused and motivated when it really counts.

This definition of the ‘dip’ is something that resonates with me. I moved to America 5 years ago in pursuit of my version of the American Dream. It has been a thrilling, exhilarating and amazing ride. I’ve done things and met people that I could only have dreamed about, and I continue to find America a fascinating and interesting place where I grow daily in a way that I never did at home.

At the same time, moving to a new country, adjusting to a new culture, making new friends, starting a new career, getting to 30 and much more has been a lot more challenging than I could ever have imagined. In fact, the readjustment (as well as some sense of loss) that comes with moving half way across the world is not something that I even thought about before I did it.

I’ve also seen beyond far the gloss and novelty of living in New York, and in America, and some of it really ain’t pretty. It has been a challenge not only to my sense of self, but has required me to rethink pretty much every value and cultural notion that I grew up with.

For a while, I was wondering if this was normal. Now I see that I’d just hit a dip. You see, it was all just simply fabulous fun for the first few years…then it became harder. Reality started to settle in. I met some really truly awful people, had some truly disturbing experiences. I began to ask myself some soul-searching questions – Is this where I want to raise children? Is this relentless hustle what I really want? Do I want to live in a massive country where I really don’t know that many people [relative to the people I grew up with and went to school with] and where things are so different? Do I even really like America? Doesn’t New York have any trees?! Why are there so many roaches and rats in this damn city? Was London really that bad after all? That sneaky devil then started to whisper in my ear… asking me the ultimate question: ‘maybe you should go back to England?’ 

I know for sure, and have actually always been sure, that going back to England is most certainly not an option – not in the foreseeable future anyway and not for as long as I have the legal right to remain in the US. Even if that pops up in my head for a moment, I say NO. That ain’t happening. But I can see why when one is in the middle of that low, the idea of returning to ‘safety’, to the familiar, seems oh so comforting.

In many ways, I see this as some kind of test. It’s the hero’s quest. You start out on your journey and at some point Life asks you whether or not you really have what it takes to keep on. Are you strong enough? Are you hungry enough? Do you want it bad enough? Are you going to be a winner? Or will you just fall over when it seems too hard? And trust me, at times, it has been really, really, really hard.

During my ‘dip’ I have realized a few things about myself. More than anything, it is a huge learning curve. I imagine it’s almost like a baby learning to walk: You keep getting up, you fall down, you get up, you fall down… and then one day, it just happens and you’ve got it.

Yet, I have come to realize that I love the challenge of it all. I like Life’s tests. I enjoy doing things that others say is impossible or that they doubt I can do. I even enjoy doing the things that I myself questioned could be done. The beauty of achieving is in the overcoming. It’s a bit perverse, but it shows me what I’m made of.

What’s the goal? Self-actualization and the fulfillment of my destiny. To be the very best human being that I can be….and to express that in whatever way it requires expression, to its fullest. Unfortunately, that’s not available to me everywhere in the world. It isn’t in England – and that’s why I left. I believe, in fact I know, it is here in America. So, I will keep on pushing, pushing past the Dip and I will achieve what I came here to achieve. I’m not a quitter, and I’m not going to give up now. It ain’t over till it’s over.

So maybe I’ve answered the question that I asked in the title of this blog.. What to do when you hit a low? Stop. Regain your composure. And then… keep on pushing…