The Importance of Being #1
The old saying is wrong—winners do quit, and quitters do win.
I am reading Seth Godin's book The Dip and found it to be a fascinating look at when you should quit a pursuit and when you should steam ahead. Yachting has two significant dips that separate the mice from men (or the boys from the bosuns).
What is The Dip?
In most industries, there is a barrier to entry that stops people from pursuing a career, a task, a goal. The reason there are so few doctors, is because it is costly to go to Med School and difficult not only to get in but also to successfully graduate.
"The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that's actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path," says Seth. In other words, The Dip is the tough bit after you start a new project or career. When you begin something new, it is fun and exciting. There is a steep learning curve, and you get a lot of enjoyment out of extending your brain, honing your skills and challenging yourself.
As the law of diminishing returns kicks in you receive less and less enjoyment from this pursuit after a while, and then it starts not returning the rewards that you had hoped for (whether they be financial or otherwise). Winners know when to bail out and quit or push through The Dip.
The First Dip
When new crew embark on their yachting career they have a bunch of fun(ish) courses to do, they meet a lot of new people, and for some, they travel abroad for the first time in their lives. It is exciting, and the thought of making all that money (tax-free for some) makes them feel giddy (I know, I have been there).
After settling into the crew house, applying for some jobs online and facing the prospect of having to haul their ass out of bed exceptionally early to dockwalk (some of my 2019 clients were clocking over 15 km a day of walking), the reality starts to sink in that it is actually challenging to land your first yacht job. You might get some daywork straight away and feel like you are winning, but then the work dries up, your feet start aching from constantly being on them and walking so far each day, and your funds start dwindling.
Many people don't ever manage to crack the yachting industry and end up returning home with a depleted bank account (and maybe some fond memories). The ones that do land a job make it over the first Dip. I know a lot of veteran crew complain about how regimented yachting has become and with all the new training protocols it means that yachting is more of a career choice than a summer temp job, which I feel is a GOOD thing. Can you imagine how many more people would be flocking to the South of France if this was not the case?
The Second Dip
Once crew have settled into the regimented world of yachting and trained their bodies to function off coffee, anxiety and the snack cupboard (because who has time to eat?), the next big hurdle is making it to head of department. For some, it is an enormous investment of time and money, and so they quit while they are ahead, take their well-earned savings and head back home to try and re-integrate into mainstream society. Most crew never intended to make a career out of yachting anyway.
Crew who stick around and invest in their yachting education reap the rewards down the line when it comes to salaries and time off. Most senior positions these days are moving towards rotation and heads of department all command very decent salaries.
Many crew fail to re-integrate into life ashore and get caught in the trap of the 'golden handcuffs' of yachting because you live in a complete bubble when you work onboard. You have zero living expenses except for entertainment, everything is done for you onboard (meals cooked, clothes washed, flights booked) and you can save up to 90% of your income if you are frugal. Many crew return to yachting for a second time because they realise that even with the investment in their career, they can still squeeze a few more bucks out of the yachting world.
Crew who do go back for a second stint often benefit immensely from the short break because it creates a shift in mindset. They are more focused on doing well and realise that while yachting is a callous industry to work in, there are huge rewards too. It is because yachting is not easy that there are these dips. The dips are good. They weed out all the people who were not serious enough to succeed in the first place.
How To Get Over The Dips
I have already written about creating a Quitting Contract relating to when to quit a bad job. You can read it here. However, it would be useful to develop a Quitting Contract with yourself at the beginning of your yachting career to know when to stick yachting out or if you should take a crack at being a landlubber again.
As Seth points out: "To be a superstar, you must do something exceptional. Not just survive the Dip, but use the Dip as an opportunity to create something so extraordinary that people can't help but talk about it, recommend it, and, yes, choose it." This means that if you are going to continue in yachting, you need to be the best. The best could be the best deckhand on a charter motor yacht over 90m or the best chief stew on a private 40m in the Med. It could also mean being a better captain this year than you were last year.
As Seth points out, "The Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value," and "extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most."
The biggest takeaways from the book are:
Winners quit the right stuff at the right time.
People wrongly settle for good enough instead of best in the world.
Being well rounded is not the secret to success.
If you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start.
If you’re not able to get through the Dip in an exceptional way, you must quit. And quit right now.
It’s human nature to quit when it hurts. But it’s that reflex that creates scarcity.
Quitting is better than coping because quitting frees you up to excel at something else.”
Here is a great summary of the highlights of The Dip on YouTube.