The Cul-de-sac

Life isn’t linear. Time is, but life isn’t. We have the opportunity to start, stop, begin, end, learn, stagnate, achieve, dream, fail, and grow. We’re constantly reinventing ourselves.

Stats tracked by the BLS (US Bureau of Labor Statistics) indicate that the AVERAGE number of jobs young baby boomers held from ages 18-46 was 11.3. And that was from a generation where people were loyal to their company and, in general, companies were loyal to their people. But those times have changed, and many (most? all?) of those jobs have changed. Just imagine how many jobs a Generation X or Millennial will have over the course of his or her career.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to learn/experience/work toward next for several months now. One of my favorite books on the subject of decision-making is “The Dip” by Seth Godin. It is short, easy to read, to the point, and under $10 on Kindle. The philosophy is pretty simple: figure out if you are in a dip, cliff or in a Cul-de-sac and respond accordingly (stick it out or get out).

You can work through a dip. It just takes persistence, staying power, and a lot of effort, and it’s worth it if you can achieve the ROI you desire (whatever that means for you). Realistically, however, not all dips will necessarily work out.

You can’t work through a cliff. You’re going to fall off it. It’s advisable to identify a cliff as quickly as possible and get off that train before you hit it.

You can’t work through a cul-de-sac (translation: dead end). It looks good, feels good but it’s not going to take you anywhere you want to go. The Cul-de-sac is the worst. Because you think with a little more effort, more time, you can get to your goal. You’ve got to identify and quit these, too (helpful hint: the quitting is painful but totally worth it after the fact).

The whole philosophy is based on the theory of opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is defined as “the cost of a missed opportunity. It is the opposite of the benefit that would have been gained had an action, not taken, been taken—the missed opportunity” (

Are you missing out on things you can/should/want/could be/dream of doing because you’re stuck in a cul-de-sac?

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Becca Lingley

Hi, I’m Becca. I am a huge fan of doing things that make the world a better place. Generally that’s through helping one person at a time but I also like helping nonprofits and ideas be successful. I enjoy working in education because personal and professional development is so fulfilling and helping others achieve that experience and develop their abilities is personally rewarding.I love buying local and being local, baking my own bread, supporting my community, reading resumes, living a healthy lifestyle, getting excited about and championing new ideas (coworking!). I love economic development, though I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with it. I’m an idealist and a believer, with a personal life goal of doing my part to make the world a better place.

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  • Shenoa Lawrence

    One of my favorite podcasts has a piece on cul-de-sacs, I think you’ll appreciate it. (and yes, I pluralized it wrong on purpose).

  • Interesting. I love thinking about things like this. Sometimes I feel like I think about it too often. I haven’t read Godin’s book, but oddly, none of these three descriptions seem to describe where I’m at. I wonder if there are additional options or if I was to read the book I’d find longer descriptions of each one that would help me to understand better which one actually fits. Cliffs are bad, cul-de-sacs are bad, and dips seem to indicate some sense of struggle that can be worked through. What about when things are cruising and going well? I feel like I could make it a dip by challenging myself more, but don’t necessarily feel it by default. Hmm.

  • Becca Lingley

    It’s a book about getting essentially unstuck, not really a book about how to deal with things when they are going well (isn’t that the ideal, after all)? It’s a short quick read, and if you have a Kindle you can borrow mine… I appear to have (as usual) lent out my paper copy and not yet gotten it back (or know who I lent it out to, for that matter, haha).