“The Dip is the long slow 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.”
You might remember a line that reoccurs throughout Batman Begins, which Bruce Wayne first hears from his dad in his childhood. Bruce falls down a dry well and encounters his worst fear — a swarm of bats.
His father eventually comes down to rescue him. He tells Bruce, “Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
We all know what happens soon after that. Bruce’s parents are gunned down, and he treads down a path of vengeance. Yet, in this pit of darkness he learns that his suffering could be leveraged into something much more selfless and meaningful.
He embraces his childhood fear of bats, and uses it to strike terror in the hearts of Gotham’s criminals. With that begins his journey as a vigilante named Batman.
Life is a long journey of falling, slowly picking ourselves up and learning from our mistakes and tragedies. As exhausted as we might get, we’d find ourselves starting over in this journey again and again, because that’s just the way life is.
As difficult as it may be, focus not on how hard you fall, but on how much you can gain from it.
Author Seth Godin has written that in doing anything worthwhile, we would inevitably experience what he calls “the Dip” after the initial excitement wears off. It’s that long period of time where everything seems unbearably challenging.
But if you truly believe in the unique value that you’re able to offer, and you push through the challenges anyway, this is how you become indispensable.
As Godin writes, “The Dip creates scarcity; scarcity creates value”.
In a larger context, life is somewhat of a big Dip. It’s only after going through hell and embracing your demons (very much like Batman did), are you able to create something of unique value.
To build your “Dip muscles”, consider trying or learning something you know little or nothing about. Learn to drive if you haven’t. Take up a new language or martial art. Learn coding or anything that’s interesting and out of your familiar zone.
Teach yourself that falling is really just a part of learning, and there’s nothing wrong with being the stupid one in the room.
Whenever I struggle through the Dip, I often remind myself of one of my favorite musicians, Jimi Hendrix. It’s ridiculously easy to assume that he’s a freak of nature, that he’s simply gifted, and that’s why musicians like him are especially rare. He played the guitar as though it was one with his being, as he gave voice to his most visceral emotions in his playing.
But as he revealed in his diary, he was just as vulnerable as any of us are.
He wrote, “I remember my first gig was at an armoury, a National Guard place, and we earned 35 cents apiece and three hamburgers. It was so hard for me at first. I knew about three songs, and when it was time for us to play onstage I was all shaky, so I had to play behind the curtains. I just couldn’t get up in front. And then you get so very discouraged. You hear different bands playing around you, and the guitar player always seems like he’s so much better than you are.
“Most people give up at this point, but it’s best not to. Just keep on, just keep on. Sometimes you are going to be so frustrated you’ll hate the guitar, but all of this is just a part of learning. If you stick with it you’re going to be rewarded.”
He ended his entry, saying, “If you’re very stubborn you can make it.”