The Moment That Real Progress Is Made

The moment that real progress is made

Progress is ALWAYS slow.

Updated: March 21, 2024

Doing the work to build something, pay off debt, save money towards your financial independence, or even parenting children….it is all sloowwww.

At times it feels like you are making no progress at all!

Other times it feels like you are going backward or hitting a brick wall.

No matter what you do, it never seems to be enough.

An unexpected bill pops up, the stock market tanks, you aren’t making any money in your side hustle, or your kids continue to make the same mistakes and have the same tantrums daily.

Progress seems futile.

Life it turns out, is full of ups and downs. Before long it feels like you are on a roller coaster that you can’t control.

Are You Making Any Progress?




When you feel like you are not making any progress, you are in what Seth Godin calls The Dip, and he wrote a whole book about it.

The Dip is where things are both the most challenging, but also the most critical point of your journey towards progress:

The Dip is the phase of your journey where you need to dig deep.

Using grit, determination, and persistence you must power through the drudgery.

The Moment That Real Progress is Made

Do you pick yourself up off the ground and keep at it, or does The Dip force you to give up?

Do you decide to sell when the market tanks, or do you hold on for the ride back up?

Do you remind yourself that Rome wasn’t built in a day (1,229 years actually), or do you get frustrated and hang up your cleats?

Or do you quit whenever there is any dip at all?

It turns out, that life is more about how you handle the downs than the ups.

As you can see in the illustration, the magic happens after The Dip.

Your progress and results happen AFTER the dip.

You HAVE TO wade through all the bad times to get to the good times.

But it’s not just you. It happens to EVERYONE.

Even artists and celebrities have drudgery.

In Defense of Drudgery – Accidental Fire

Progress is very much like pushing a boulder UP a hill:

  • You start pushing your boulder.
  • You need to keep at it.
  • You do a little each day.
  • Little by little you make progress.
  • Then one day your boulder gathers momentum …
  • ….
  • … and the boulder rolls down the hill infinitely faster than it went up.

That right there is how progress works.

It may take months, or even years to get that boulder up that hill.

But eventually, you do get it there.

Progress is made by showing up each and every day with the same energy as the day before.

Even when you are sinking in your own mind’s quicksand, there is always a way out.

Grit. Determination. Persistence. Drudgery.

Pushing ahead even when things seem bleak. That is the way through.

Or as Ryan Holiday and the Stoics put it, “The Obstacle Is the Way“.

Stocks rebound.

Savings grow and compound.

Your side hustle starts to earn money.

Your kids finally “get it” and are well-behaved.

And you do it by pushing through The Dip with one foot forward EVERY day. That is progress.

Life is hard until it’s not.

But Don’t Go Overboard!

Don’t get lost in The Dip!

You can grit through anything for a short, defined period of time. But many of us end up gritting and grinding through our work for long, indeterminate periods. 

You Can Grit Through Anything For A Bit, But You Shouldn’t Do It Forever
– Financial Panther

If you are NOT making progress with something for a prolonged period.

If you are hitting that brick wall day after day, year after year -> you need to have a heart with yourself.

So while I encourage you to power through The Dip to work towards progress every day, you also need to be OK with calling it quits when the time arises.

Don’t get lost in The Dip!

P.S. While I didn’t intend this post to get so focused on Seth Godin’s The Dip, I do highly recommend it if you are looking for a motivational short read!

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  1. I’m definitely in that phase right now and reminding myself (a new metaphor I heard recently) that the pot is boiling. Don’t turn it off/take it off to check, just keep the faith and wait!

  2. All I could think of was the awful middle of the few marathons I ran when I did not train adequately. At mile five you feel pretty good, you are fresh and everyone around you is full of energy. When you get to the twenties its very tough but the end is close enough to power through the pain. But all that in the middle from mile ten to mile twenty when you are so tired and you can’t even fathom the fact that you are barely half done, if that, that was the dip in my running. I always finished but those middle miles were tough tough tough.

  3. That dip is the moment where I feel the most amount of pain and the most amount of willingness to give up. This comes especially true with investing, where dips are an inevitable fact of life.

    I’m so glad I haven’t given up yet but we’ll see if it’ll work out in the long term!

  4. I love incorporating the now mainstream “buy the dip” phrase into anything that isn’t going well at that particular time. It’s a nice reminder, as the diamond handed investors have figured out, that those moments don’t last forever. We don’t always know for sure if they’ll end up better or worse, but more often than not they end up in a better place and there’s reason for optimism. When the going gets tough, buy the dip.

    1. 100% – It is all about zooming out. Even in a long, slow and painful dip (such as housing market after ’08), you will eventually see the end of the dip and momentum compound again. Buy the dip!

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