I love going narrow and deep on a topic.
It makes me feel good to devote a serious amount of deliberate energy, practice and study to getting really good at one thing. This may be due, at least in part, to the fact that according to the results of my VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire, developed by founding father of Applied Positive Psychology, Professor Martin Seligman, knowledge acquisition was pretty close to the top for me.
Developing a sense of mastery or at least deep knowledge in an area or skill feels good. Really good. And it can develop into a phenomenal business asset, leading to the creation of ideas, solutions, products, works of writing, art, music and expression that blow people away.
But there’s often a problem, when applied to the business of business.
The commitment it takes to go narrow and deep on a level that creates genius pulls you from other activities and people. When you’re working to launch or develop a business and you don’t have a team in place to do all those things that need to be done beyond the realm of your quest for depth, that can mean the very things needed to make the leap from creator of coolness to income generator get lost in the fray. Even with a team, your deep focus can pull you out of the level of leadership needed to drive not just the “interest,” but the business-engine forward.
That’s not all. There’s another challenge in spending all your time in deep and narrow land…
And that’s the potential to develop a condition I call entrepreneurial myopia. You become so hyper-focused on your tiny slice of the world that your depth of field begins to narrow to a point where everything becomes a nail to your hammer. You lose objectivity and start to view what you’re doing as the only way something can be done, solved or expressed.
You become a champion of your idea, your solution, your craft and view it as the ultimate source of delight or the only “reasonable” way to solve a problem. You discount all others because you’ve become wed not to the desire to serve, solve and delight, but to the need to bring this “thing” that’s become everything to you to the world.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, when the object of your deep interest and commitment is, in fact, the best solution or a true source of extraordinary delight. Problem is, when you’re on the inside looking out, you’re in the worst possible place to know which end of the spectrum you’re working on. Delusion or delight.
Narrow and deep is good. Especially in life where the drive is purely the intrinsic joy of going narrow and deep.
But when this quest is bundled with the desire to turn the output of your efforts into service to others in the name of solving a problem or creating a delight and, from that, generating an income, it’s equally important to create mechanisms that allow you to step back, to remove yourself and ask, “is the work that’s being driven by an intrinsic joy aligned with what large numbers of people want or need…and are willing to pay for.”
The moment you bring money into the equation, narrow and deep isn’t enough, you need to apply your efforts in a way that is aligned with the wants and needs of those you’re creating for.
If the person you’re creating for is you, that’s fine. In fact, it’s a gift.
But don’t confuse that gift with a business…
So, what do YOU think?
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