Seth Godin put out a book entitled, “The Dip”. This is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to learn something, or run a business.

In this book Seth talks about the process of how one goes about learning a specific skill. He says in the beginning it’s all new, and exciting. Everything is fun because it is all so different from what we have been doing. Then the newness wears off. All of a sudden it’s not as fun anymore, and the results are not as easy to see. We get caught in a standstill so to speak. This is the Dip.
When things become difficult and not fun, most people then give up.

This is exactly why the skill becomes very popular and regarded as impressive. For without the Dip, everyone would be doing it, and it wouldn’t be as impressive. If you’re not ever experiencing the Dip, then it is likely you are not on the right path to achieving what you set out to.

You can easily apply this to guitar playing and with lessons.

A lot of people want to play guitar, and in the people I teach it is the blues. I know there are a lot of people who go through the lessons, and it is all new and exciting. Everything is clear and it becomes apparent of what you must learn. This is exciting! Then after a couple of weeks, it’s not new anymore, and it becomes an arduous task. You practice the lessons, but now you’re not seeing much improvement at all. This frustrates you and most people will simply give up. This is the Dip.

The person that realizes this, will push forward even though they don’t see any improvement.

The harder the skill, the bigger the Dip. These people that push forward, will realize huge benefits. They will all of a sudden get it, and become a truly remarkable player. This does not happen in 1 month, but could take many months or years, depending on the task at hand.

Is it worth it? Only you can determine that.

So the point here is to realize when the Dip is happening and attack it with a vengeance. If you know it is happening, then you can sure you are headed in the right direction, although it may not feel like it at the time.

More often than not, when the Dip comes along, we get a feeling of desperation, frustration, anger, and disappointment. We must then channel these emotions positively and attack the Dip. If we do this, I can guarantee the outcome will be much better than the feelings we have when the Dip occurs.

Remember if you do this, you are in the minority here. This means you are headed in the right direction.

So the next time you are working on something and it is just too hard for you to do, acknowledge that you are in the Dip, and this exactly the place you want to be.

Are you experiencing the Dip? Leave a comment and let me know what you have done in this situation.

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  1. Part of not experiencing a dip, in my opinion, is getting the proper foundation from a great instructor, someone who can get you set on the right course and supply you with the right tools.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I agree, although at some point, different techniques will require more focus. If you’re a beginner guitarist, learning how to play D, Cadd9, and G, is much easier than learning how to play Barre Chords.

    Also learning some basic slide guitar licks is not that difficult, but to learn a Derek Trucks solo will require much more focus, and the results will not appear with as fast with the same amount of practice.

    Just my opinion. I’d love to hear what others have experienced.

  3. In 1984 I began lessons which lasted for about a year. I developed a basic understanding good enough to join a band in high school and gig a fair amount. I never progressed beyond that basic level of understanding, and then the “dip”. I went to law school, got married, had a kid and my strat pretty much remained in the case until a year ago.

    Fast forward to 2008. My 9 year old son discovered my guitar in the basement and decided he wanted to learn how to play. He now has his own guitar and has been taking lessons for about a year. As for me, I was determined to take my playing to the next level. After about a year of scouring YouTube video lessons, and more recently Johns DVD lessons, I’m really beginning to “get it”. I have a ways to go, but I’m far better guitarist at this point than I ever was during my gigging years.

    Set your goals, persevere and you will be rewarded.


  4. This man is telling the truth. I started playing guitar at 38 and boy, did I dip. Gave up but kept picking up the instrument, gave up again but went back, etc…I now can hold my own against most guitarists and could probably teach if I wanted. Because, when you really struggle to play, and you get consumed with it you will come out on top. This instrument is not that difficult-it is all mental. You have 10 fingers-they can move faster than your brain can keep up with. So, hang in there!

    1. Thanks for the comment John. You’re right it requires sheer determination to get good. But anything worth doing probably does.

      One of my favorite quotes, “If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” – Frank A. Clark

  5. I wish my dip was something like that. I my fretting hand in the thumb joint somehow. Crap I can’t even grasp and turn a doorknob without it being very very painful. That was about six weeks ago and I am way off my practice and playing routine. I get about a 1/2 hour in every 3 rd day, it shows and it hurts like hell when I try to play. No insurance so seeing a DR is just about out.

    However I did experience dips thur the early part of learning guitar. One last about about 15 years. Lately I have been studying theory and learning the fretboard slowly so as not to put too much strain on my thumb joint.

    Crap it hurts just to type this stuff :-(

  6. In the dip right now!!! Anxiety, fear, anger, bummed out, feeling unorganized.

    I practice a lot, I work real hard!! Not sure what is going to happen. I want to be a great player.

    I just read your article and I have to say I appreciate it. It is where I am for sure.

    So I am going to work through this and become a great player.

    I am willing to do what most won’t!! My intention is to be a player people want to learn from. I am passionate and love to explain and coach others the things I know.

    Your article is very timely.

    Thank You!


  7. After two and a half years, I’m definitely experiencing this. It’s especially frustrating, because I’m so used to being good at nearly anything that requires one’s hands, including piano. I just feel like I can’t get any better, no matter what I do, but I suppose what it truly takes is indeed perseverance and determination. As easy as it would be to give up, you’ve made me realize that it would be the worst thing to do.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. I read somewhere that 50% of people that begin to learn guitar, quit within the first year. I think a lot of it has to do with this dip. It becomes difficult to progress and people get lazy as the newness has worn off.

  9. im trying to learn guitar. I practice around 30 mins every day for the past 2 years trying learn how to play 1 simple song perfectly. I can strum the basic chords correctly and clearly (this took aprox 1 week to learn) but shifting from 1 chord to the next with it sounding great i find a challenge. Im seeing very litle improvement with my playing but after reading this article i am determined to stick with learning guitar and some day i will have these few basic chords down

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