The Dip–A Crucible for Character

The Dip can feel like a BLACK HOLE
The Dip can feel like a BLACK HOLE

So we’ve talked about how hard it is to begin. We are in the company of our fears and insecurities. Maybe we even get pushback from friends. But, a new level, a new devil.


You pushed all those negative thoughts back and STARTED. GO YOU! Maybe you started a new eating plan, a new novel, a new BJJ class. Odds are there was some pain involved, but the changes you saw were enough to keep pressing. Sure, you might have been bummed to be eating veggies and chicken instead of drive-thru burgers, but the clothes started getting looser and your skin began to glow. That new novel seemed to write itself. Yes, BJJ was hard, but MAN what a workout and you were learning SO MUCH.


*brakes screech*

Sometime, somewhere you ran into a wall.

Now? No matter how many veggies you eat, the scale isn’t budging. You pound on the keyboard, play with spitballs and try to be inspired, but? NOTHING. You can’t seem to finish that novel. If you are like me in BJJ, you feel like you’ve been at this FOREVER and you just aren’t getting any better. X number of months in and you wonder if maybe the dojo would be better off spraying your gi with Endust so at least the mats will be clean when your opponents finish wiping the floor with you.

The Dip is that pan of suck right before the breakthrough (thank you Seth Godin). No one knows how long The Dip will last until they are standing on the other side. Problem is, this is the place most people give up.

It is easy to keep pressing when we have some kind of outside validation that what we are doing will eventually pay off.

It’s easy to keep eating super healthy so long as the scale is going down. It’s easy to keep writing so long as the chapters are flowing. It’s easy to keep blogging so long as people comment and the stats at least improve.

But can we keep doing it even with NO SIGN what we are doing is “working”?

I’m a mom. I have a great kid, but he IS a five-year-old boy, which means he is like an Etch-A-Sketch someone shakes every night erasing all I imparted on him throughout the day. Even though we HAVE a routine and we HAVE structure, I still have to remind him over and over and… *cries* over.

“Is that how we ask for things? Please may I have…?”

“Is that where your shoes go?”

“It is not my job to keep up with your XBox controller. No, YOU need to look for it.”

Many times it would just be a LOT easier to give him what he wants without insisting on manners and respect. It would be easier to put away his shoes and find the controller because short-term? It is easier.

Did I mention that it is EASIER?

Meet The Spawn
Meet The Spawn

But what would happen fifteen, twenty or twenty-five years from now? What kind of person would he be? Granted, I can’t control all of his choices, but as his mother it is my responsibility to at least TRY to rear a good citizen who is respectful and has self-control.

But I can’t always SEE that. That is why it is important to…

Keep Our Eyes Beyond The Dip

Lately I have felt stuck in BJJ. I didn’t feel like I was improving all that much. But, I kept thinking of why I began. I wanted a black belt in SOMETHING. Apparently sarcasm doesn’t count 😛 .

So, I just kept showing up. And, today I was at the gym doing my own training and found that, suddenly, a certain drill that was really cumbersome and awkward clicked. It is a small step, but it IS a step.

With my son, day-to-day I can’t SEE who he will become and parenting can feel like a GINORMOUS Dip. We seem to never make it forward. Every day is new, but still sticky, coated in cat fur or lost in the basket of socks we STILL need to fold.

Then one day, he says or does something that I stop and go, “OMG! He IS listening! It’s working!”

The Trick To Busting The Dip

Keep pressing. We need to remember the WHY behind what we are doing. We should keep our eyes OFF The Dip (namely because that sucker is HUGE and intimidating) and instead keep our eyes on putting one foot in front of the other.

Never underestimate the value of simply showing up.

I did this as a writer. I blogged when no one cared what I had to say. I blogged for a YEAR AND A HALF to the spam bots. Now, eight years later that my name is in Writer’s Digest Magazine? Sure, WAY easier to show up. But what if I’d focused on The Dip instead of the work?

Right now? I have all kinds of other Dips (organizing my house, getting a blue belt in BJJ, finishing my next book). That’s the thing about Dips. We get past one and soon? There will be ANOTHER Dip and likely a tougher one. This is why we must learn the PSYCHOLOGY of The Dip.

Dips serve some great purposes:

Dips weed out the uncommitted.

If every person who started writing a novel could be GUARANTEED to be a New York Times Best-Selling Author? They’d likely finish the novel. But it is simply because there ARE NO guarantees that few people ever get published at all. Most give up because they really didn’t LOVE writing.

Dips make us value what we’ve achieved.

Trust me. When I get that black okay, blue belt? I AM WEARING IT EVERYWHERE. I will VACUUM the house in that thing because I worked my tail off for it.

Dips harden us and fire out our character impurities.

I used to make more excuses than I do now. These days? Because of some Dips? I am much more self-disciplined.

Dips train our minds to be formidable. Success in anything is mostly mental.

Some see obstacles and others see opportunities. Dips TRAIN THAT.

Once we learn to recognize The Dips, we know they aren’t permanent. When we realize they aren’t permanent, we can shift our locus of focus to those things we CAN control and CHOOSE to focus on those instead. We learn to be OUTLASTERS. Eventually? We eat Dips for breakfast 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Have you ever been through a DIP? Was it hard not to give up? Are you happy you didn’t? What was on the other side? Are you in a Dip now? I SO am. Which is partly why I am WRITING about Dips.

13 Responses to The Dip–A Crucible for Character

  1. Thanks for the encouragement. The DIP really sucks in all areas of life (too many areas thank you). I had to laugh at your idea to wear your blue belt at all times. My “adopted” grandson is in Taekwondo and sleeps in his new belt every time.

  2. Oh, yes. In a dip. I’ve been at this writing thing for four years now and the blog still doesn’t have all that many followers, and the books still aren’t really selling.

    But I keep blogging, and writing and …. well, you get the picture. Just sent out my short story to another publication. Crossing my fingers and am continuing to write.

    Hugs on your dip. May you come out the other side soon.

  3. I needed this today-thanks for the kick in the pants! I’ve spent a few weeks, nay-months, feeling like I’m failing at everything. I hope reframing that perception will keep me moving forward. I commented on your Warrior Writers blog about this, also, but:
    I’m making a concerted effort to let my daughters see my failures. It’s important to me to raise kids who aren’t scared to TRY. Part of success is the many, many stumbles on your way there. I want them to know that failing is just part of learning. I also shared a brief summary and link to your post on my blog today:
    Thanks for sharing so much about your life and work with us. It’s wonderful to hear the real life experiences of another writer and mother.

  4. OMG, someone else who feels the Dip with their kids! I so know what you mean – I never even set foot into my boys’ room unless I really, really have to, because it’s a land of all dangers (and often smells like a boys’ locker room underneath the choking clouds of Ax spray that my son and stepson think will make everything peachy, ahem, as opposed to showering 2-3 times a day… Son is 12, btw; stepson is 16). And yes, more often than not, I’m worried about my harping to fold their clothes, clean their rooms, show decent manners that will put them one step up from cavemen… And then one day, bam! You see something happen like them going over to help a little old lady at the store, or holding the door open for a woman with a stroller, or sacrificing their pocket money saved to get that next PlayStation game in order to help victims of an earthquake. Yep, these are the moments we live for, the ones that totally push the Dip out of the way.
    And let’s not even talk about writing, or blogging, or even the day job. It’s always one thing or the other… And yes, the diet and exercise. I was a chubby butterball all through my childhood and teens, but thanks to the wakeup call of cancer, I am now an exercise freak and fitter than I’ve ever been all my life while I’m now on the wrong side of 30 (and I can finally get into MNG skinny jeans!). But still, there’s that spare tyre belly that just refuses to go, no matter what I do! But will that make me stop? No way! I’m gonna get flat abs, hon, even if takes me another 20 years of sit-ups 🙂
    Thanks for this post, Kristen. You always know how to inspire and lift us up <3

  5. Yeah, I understand the “dip.” Mine lasted about 10 years, though. Finally, pulled myself up and out. I didn’t give up writing, exactly, I just couldn’t do creative writing. So, I focused on other things like editing, marketing, teaching, etc.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how great it feels to be part of the creative process again. Creating new worlds, new characters, new plots, new motivations…It is just simply awesome and makes each day a creative new beginning.

    The really great thing about my writing, my “dips,” my failures and my successes is that they have provided great examples to my children with one of my daughters even winning the RomCom Readers Crown Award for best new novel.

    Even if I never achieve that kind of recognition, I will know I have succeeded in areas that really matter, i.e. the lives of my children.

  6. I am in a bit of a dip just now with my career. I think it was this blog that has pointed it out to me. I’ve been doing the same job now for a little shy of ten years. For at least the past two of those, I’ve been pushing myself toward promotion. In part, because I want to move back into a field more closely aligned with my interests. No matter what I seem to do or accomplish, I can’t seem to move up to that next level. Giving up? Not an option. I’m just biding my time. I turn up, look for new ways to improve my work. Day to day I keep shoveling from one pile to another, with no apparent movement, but eventually, I expect all that shoveling will pay off and I’ll break though whatever road-block is keeping me in place.

  7. I can’t believe that the dynamic Kristen Lamb is in a DIP, but then again you are only human. Have I ever been in a DIP? Oh yes many times, especially while writing my first book. I bought your book Rise of the Machines and read it over and over again. Then the BIG DIP came. I was about to give up on publishing the book mostly because I felt ignorant and insecure about having to build a platform. A am still struggling with the platform, the e-age is driving me nuts.The last drop was when my publisher informed me I had to get a pen name for the book. Now there you go, I had set up my blog with my real name and was getting the hang of it and now I have to start all over again with my pen name. Must say though, I am still alive and kicking I have no intentions of giving up. I hope you get out of your DIP soon. Great blog by the way.

  8. Yup, I’m pushing past the DIP. Three published novels later with accolades from most readers/reviewers and high page from publishers/editors, yet sales dribble in. Thanks for this reminder to persevere and push past the DIP.

  9. Another great blog, and I took the plunge and wrote down my goal. I have been working on my WIP all year, but now I am dedicated to finishing it this year as painful as it is to sit at a computer to do so.

    Smiles to you, Nancy

  10. Another outstanding post, Kristen. The dips are tough. I need to push past the dip–in several areas. I will push past the sip…

    It IS a shame that sarcasm doesn’t count!

  11. Happy Mother’s Day, Kristen!

    And thank you for =not= taking the easy road with the spawn. It’s tough being a mom and when my kids were spawn’s age, I would sometimes get, “You’re a mean mom!” I always agreed with them and then thanked them for the compliment.

    One of the reasons that being a good parent is difficult is because you have to be the bad guy. The Darth Vader of the family. “Luke, these are your peas. Eat them.”


    As for the dip…well, if it isn’t spring onion or artichoke-spinach, I try to stay away from it.


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