Mrs YFG: on going deeper not wider

Deeper not wider

One of my favourite articles of all time is by Raptitude (one of my favourite bloggers). It explains the concept of “go deeper, not wider“.

I love this concept and apply it to my life. What it means is to truly engage yourself in what you are doing or have now and deeply involve yourself and try to do that better, rather than try to branch out to make your life “wider”.

It is deciding that instead of trying to do new hobbies, get better at hobbies I already do. Instead of trying to acquire something new, use what you already have. Instead of making new friends, deepen the relationship you already have with your friendship circle.

Perhaps this is a concept you can take into your own life, but here’s what I’ve learned.

Friendships

The inspiration for this post came from an exchange with a person I’ve known for a decade but rarely see. They texted me out of the blue and asked to have drinks and said they missed me. I suggest meeting up and they said they can’t do this month but how about in 10 weeks. I know full well that the day before they will cancel with a lame excuse, which they have done for the last year and so I haven’t seen them for 18 months. This is a prime example of how not to go “wider” with your social circle.

Widening my friendship circle and giving my energy and time to new people instead of focusing on the people I already have does not help. Spending time on people who are part-time friends and contact me when they want something leaves me exhausted and spread too thin.

I am trying (sometimes failing) to deepen the friendships I am already lucky to have. Dig deeper with the people who genuinely love you and would go out of their way to help you and be there. The people that turn up. There are many people who you may be friends with or enjoy spending time with, but it’s important to draw a line and have an inner circle. There is nothing wrong with having people inside that circle or outside it. People inside my circle get my time, effort and love. People outside my circle get my attention but the people within my circle take precedence (and that includes me!).

In the last year, I have tried to let go of unsatisfying relationships and focus on the ones I have. Yes it takes effort, yes you feel guilty and yes it’s worth it.

Career

There’s a lot I’ve already said on my career. As I’ve said before, I have no lofty ambitions for partnership or leadership. It is not my goal in life.

What I do want to be is good at my job, whatever that may be. If I choose to spend the majority of my life every week doing a task I will do it to the best of my ability. I approach my job in that way: be good at what you are doing now, instead of sat there looking upwards to the next promotion.

Hobbies

I am a serial hobby-Jack of all trades. I will try my hand at pretty much anything. Unfortunately, over the years this has meant that I start things, become disillusioned or bored, don’t finish them and then carry around the guilt of not finishing them.

I recently started a patchwork quilt and had a frenzy of activity to get it half finished. Two months later it’s sat in the cupboard still unfinished and I have no will to finish it. Such is the fate of many of my hobbies.

My aim is to go deeper, not wider. Finish the projects I start and don’t start a new one until I’ve finished the last one.

Possessions

The concept can apply to everything, even shopping. Go deeper and dig down into what you already own instead of buying new things. What can be repurposed and what can be adapted to fit what you need?

Use what you have that you were “saving”. Burn the nice candles and enjoy their scent. Drink the nice wine (it has a shelf life!) and relax. Use the fancy crockery, or make all your crockery fancy. Give away things you keep but will not use: someone else is bound to need or want it.

You don’t need a kitchen gadget for everything. You don’t need a beauty product for everything (I’ll do another post on this).

Another way of thinking is being happy with what you have – something being enough.

How do you guys go deeper, not wider?

14 thoughts on “Mrs YFG: on going deeper not wider

  1. Back in 2007 I saw my “career” at risk of disappearing and did a lot of thinking about what next. That was when I decided I was going to go for what I then called Early Retirement (what I now know should have been called Financial Independence, FI, as I defined it as work becoming optional). One of a number of items I decided I had to do was to increase earnings quickly (on top of decreasing spending, learning how to DIY invest, etc). I knew I was going to be at it for a “short” time and so I also was prepared to trade money for ending up doing something that I maybe didn’t enjoy as much as what I was currently doing. To help with increasing earnings interestingly I therefore did exactly the opposite to this with my motto being “know a little bit about a lot not a lot about a little” and “complete 80% of every task then move on”.

    1. Hi RIT I assume it worked then! It’s a philosophy I find difficult – I like to try and do something well enough and know the granular detail. I find it so difficult to do something “enough” or stop at “good enough”. It’s a blessing but also a massive curse especially when it comes to work!! Mrs YFG

      1. Hi Mrs YFG, I too found it quite difficult early on as I’m also naturally a ‘perfectionist’ but my experience of business is that there are two types:
        – those that pay on presence; and
        – those that pay based on the value you bring
        For me I found a company that was the later and in that type of place it was the best way I could find to maximise the value I could bring to the table. Others of course might be different.

        Now in my hobbies and other elements of life where time isn’t £’s I still do it deeper in many instances as it still does come naturally to me as well.

  2. I also saw a friend after a decade corresponding only occasionally by email (in the days before skype) & though we were both easy going in our late teens in Uni before going our far & separate ways through fate, I was nervous that things could be awkward now that we were supposed to be ‘grown up’. Happily, we saw each other at the same time at the airport, saw the exact same worried expression & burst out laughing; it couldn’t have gone better. You need to pay attention to the facts & separate the signal from the noise, try to unemotionally judge people’s true intentions towards you, so think of what the opposing lawyer on the case would say.

    Nearly another decade later my life was clusterfk’ing; I was walking home in the dark after work in winter newly divorced to a crappy rental accommodation after a sh*t day facing redundancy & thought nothing more could go wrong. Wet cold & hungry, my phone rang in my pocket & I ignored it because I couldn’t take any more just then. It was the same guy, he said just get to the nearest airport & I’ll pick you up, you can stay until you feel whole again. (at a beautiful place where he was living) I felt like the world was Ok again, I couldn’t accept because I had to look after a dying relative, but even so it restored my belief in life.

    He was relatively newly married and just had a baby but still reached out; I’ve had a lot of family who wouldn’t do that. Now that is what a friend used to mean, not colleagues, other situational acquaintances or bar-buddies and most people don’t have even a single one, no matter how many people are in the same room at the same time.

    1. Hi Norfolk, that’s a really nice story and it’s so nice to have friends like that! Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of good friends I see once in a blue moon, but I have to pick and choose with people who want to see me because they want something. I’m naturally a people pleaser and so I’ve had to work hard not to over-promise to people who don’t want or appreciate my effort. I am concentrating on those who would do like your friend would and put you up at short notice and drop everything to come to you. Mrs YFG

  3. Very interesting post which made me think.

    I feel I am a generalist as opposed to a specialist. There are many things that interest me, but I am never really good at any one of them. Now, people I know often challenge me and say I am so good at drawing or writing or computer programming. But those are people who can’t draw or write or program. I know better. Compared to the specialists and experts I am an amateur.

    But being a generalist works well in my work as a consultant. I am capable of keeping the necessary overview, something I would not be able to do if I focused all my energy on one thing.

    I realize though that going deeper and not wider for me means being better at being a generalist and not try to go wider by being good at everything.

    So even though I have many interests and love to write and draw and program and a million other things, it does not contradict what you wrote. I actually love the process of creating something. That is where I go deeper.. by creating more. Hope it makes sense 😉

    You are spot on with friendships and people inside and outside the circle. I am definitely not interested in making the circle wider and rather focus on deepening the few existing friendships I have.

    1. Hi earlyretirement thank you for your response! I think this is where your job and mine differ completely. Consultants definitely need the broader picture. I work in a technical legal field so I am required to specialise and “go deep” in a certain field, as that’s what clients pay for. In my line of work it definitely pays off to be a specialist rather than a generalist (that’s what we have other teams for!). I have a tendency to get frustrated or bored with something outside work and move on, whereas if I stayed the course I could create something meaningful. This concept has helped me although it’s by no means overriding. I just love Raptitude’s content! Mrs YFG

      1. I totally follow you. And I often do the same…getting bored and move on instead of staying the course and create something meaningful. For example, I feel like I am the only novelist who has never written a book 😉 I’ve started so many times., because deep down I absolutely love the idea of creating a universe with words. But it is hard and I get stuck and then something else captures my attention. Until I return to writing and try again…. and again…
        /Marc

  4. I think it’s possible to do both. Deep in some areas, wide in others. Also it can vary other time.

    When I’m trying to identify a new passion or hobby, cast the net wide – and then go deep when you find something that grabs me.

    With jobs, I’ve found there is value in having a couple of distinct domains which I go deep in (as they can cross fertilise each other with ideas etc) while maintaining an interest in a wide variety of other areas. I guess I’m a generalist with a couple of specialisms.

    1. Hi greencat I definitely agree that you can vary what you do! It’s more of a preference rather than words to die by, as it’s important to be flexible. Sounds like you’ve got a good balance! Mrs YFG

  5. I too read that Raptitude post, and I must confess it didn’t resonate with me very much. I think that’s because – first and foremost – I define myself as a runner. Not a civil servant, or as one half of a relationship, or a foodie, or music fan, or whatever other facet of my life. A runner, for about the past 18 years. Not a day goes by when I don’t do something to try and improve.

    I don’t think such a single-minded focus – going ‘too deep’ if you will – is particularly healthy either. God knows I’m unpleasant to be around when I’m injured, for example. I need to go shallower…

  6. Hey Mrs YFG

    Somehow I missed this post and the ‘deeper not wider’ was something you mentioned and it was something I felt I’ve done most of my career.

    However, it seems I’ve also been applying it to my friendships too, which I guess I’ve had to do with my family not being in the country, so I’ve had to strengthen my inner circle of friends (they’re the friends who would get a share of that £1m I might win..!). My wider circle of friends I only see occasionally and I’m fine with that.

    Ah hobbies – I have cupboards of things to do with ‘unfulfilled’ hobbies and an aim of mine must be to either get rid of the stuff, or to actually make the effort at these hobbies. When I’ve got more time on my hands and like you say, resist the temptation to go for something brand new!

    1. Hi weenie yes I totally agree re friendships and hobbies. Much as I would like to broaden my range of skills I have limited time and energy right now to do that! I am looking forward to post-FI life when I hope I can fulfil some of these ambitions.

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