Narrow and Deep?

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Seems, we have a general process that crosses every type of relationship…

We start out wide and shallow, talking superficially about a broad range of topics. Grazing to see if there are any hidden patches of sweetness to be stumbled upon. Searching. Yearning. For a moment, a window of deeper connection. A shared hobby, interest, topic, quest, worldview. Something that’ll allow us to to strap on the conversational lobster bib and dive in.

Because that’s where the luscious lies.

But all to often, when we get there, we just keep grazing. We never go deep. We never suck the marrow from life’s conversational bone. It’s like waiting in the waves for the perfect set, then watching them sweep past us. I’ve done it myself countless times. And, watched so many others fall prey.

And, I wonder why that happens.

Is it fear? Fear of not having deep enough thoughts on the issue, or well enough formed arguments. Fear of being judged for our take? Fear of provoking emotion or revealing disagreement? Fear of being attacked, made fun of or bullied? Fear of having to measure up to expectations about the quality of our thoughts and ability to share them? Fear of revealing who we really are, what we believe in and how emotionally connected we are? Fear of missing out on a potentially, cooler, deeper, more valuable connection elsewhere?

I’m guessing it’s some combination of all of the above.

But, the thing is, narrow and deep is where the juice lies. It’s where the interactions that change not just points of view, but states of consciousness live. It’s where time fugues, awash in the glorious whirlwind of passionate beliefs, revelation and revolution. It’s where transformative connections are birthed, developed and given the power to flourish.

Deep and narrow is where we come alive.

Visiting that place may indeed induce fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Exposure often does. And, that’s a good thing. Hell, its a great thing. Because, exposure is a prerequisite to the moments and relationships that change us.

Embracing exposure breeds opportunity.

Avoiding it breeds banality.

As always, just thinking out loud.

What do YOU think?

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30 responses

30 responses to “Narrow and Deep?”

  1. And the “exposure” is addictive. I remember the very first coach training orientation class I went to. At the end of the weekend the 2 most common reactions of the participants were
    1)I am almost never listened to with such intensity as I experienced here and
    2)it is such a relief to be able to talk about what is real.
    Love the tone of this piece. Sounds like you have slowed down enough to get really contemplative!?

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Pearl – Yup, it can be very addictive, which can be both an incredible addition to your life, but there’s also a dark side, which is that it can also lead to obsessive behavior and not-so-reasoned rejection of those long term relationships that actually mean a lot, but don’t inflame you with passion.

      Like almost everything powerful, the sword has two edges, so it’s good to be conscious of the fact.

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  3. B7 says:

    I think the reason is that we are afraid of a negative reaction from the other person. What if they think we are stupid? What if they ridicule us? There is a natural tendency for most of us to protect our ego just as we protect our body. We are slow to expose ourselves until we feel like we can trust the other person.

    And I agree that the juice is in the depth of the connection. It’s like that in so many things in life. The money is (usually) where the risk is. The thrill is where the danger lies. The rush of success is enjoyed only after the great challenge is overcome!

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  5. David says:

    Love it; couldn’t agree more. I spent much of my life in the general and kept the narrow and deep interests safely to myself. I’m finally starting to put my passions “out there” more, seeing who is happy to join in and not worrying about negative reactions. Being true to myself in public has been a great challenge, and the more I do it, the better I feel.

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  8. Nicky says:

    Narrow and deep is the point in which you truly connect with someone. That’s why it’s so exciting. And once you’ve connected, discussions go from being a simple back and forth to being explorations in and of themselves.

    Great post 🙂


  9. Here’s the problem. We live in a “sound-byte” world. In this world, commercials can be as short as 7 seconds. And in that time, they cram in so much imagery and messaging that we feel like it’s a lot longer than 7 seconds. In fact, it seems to take forever.

    Our fast-paced world breeds ADD. It breeds an inability to focus. An inability to think deeply and concentrate on what is really happening in the moment. We must all work hard to combat this. Unfortunately, the media is skilled at getting us used to the alternative. Just look at a commercial, and count how many times the scene changes in 30 seconds.

    Narrow and deep. I love it! Thanks.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Tom – I’m sorry, what was that? Ooh, look, a bird. Okay, I’m back for real. I wonder if Dancing With the Stars sounds funny in Russian. Ooh, sorry, yeah, back again. Now, where were we? lol!

  10. RJ Weiss says:

    Wow! I like it a lot.

    Thinking back to the times I’ve felt like I really accomplished something it was always because I went narrow and deep. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Dear Jonathan:

    I think people like comfort. People like to be where they are: thinking that they are knowledgeable and wise. Yet, most of us feel that we really know nothing and we are afraid that others will not understand us and that our “inadequacy” will be exposed!

    Ha! Good stuff! I want to learn more! I want people to disagree with me, I want to know how I can improve! – that’s the attitude that we all should take.

    It’s all about putting on a different pair of glasses and look at the same issues through a different lens. Turn your weaknesses into an opportunity to learn and grow. All fear tells you is this: You are about to do something that you have never done before. That’s all.

    I think people just misinterpret their emotions and that’s why they take the wrong actiosn when faced with tough situations.

    Thanks for sharing and asking us to share!


  12. Fear can certainly be a factor, but so can lack of interest. Some people are happy to maintain the deeper relationships that they already have without adding to them. However, there is probably still some fear at the heart of disinterest.

    I also expect ego is a factor (e.g. you’re not worth my time) or lack of ego (“I’m not worthy!”, which comes back to fear).

    Those are my thoughts.

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  14. I’m really beginning to dive into the subject of work happiness and it’s been helping me reach new levels. There is fear to go deeper. I don’t want to invest so much time into something that will fail.

    The problem with this perceived fear is the deeper I go the happier I become. I find out new feelings and ideas.

    I also find new ways to help my tribe. That’s the best part.

    It’s all about noticing the fear, hanging out with it and taking baby steps to go a little deeper.

  15. Narrow and deep is always my preference, especially with relationships. I hate small talk and would much rather discuss something of substance. Of course, this has a lot ot do with the fact that I’m an introvert. Rather than mingle with everyone at the party, we prefer to engage in one or two deep conversations with a few people. Alas, only 25% of the population is introverted.

    Extroverts have an advantage in that when they expose themselves to a wider variety of people, they are more likely to find the “right” ones. But they still need to fight the tendency to move on to the next new person.

    Neither side is right or wrong, but we sure do have a lot we can learn from each other.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Jason – Seriously, 75% of the population is extroverted? That really surprises me, I’d have the number would’ve been reversed. Okay time to do some research.

      Also, extroverts are not necessarily at an advantage, because the same jones to meet everyone in the room can keep them from going deeper into a killer conversation out of fear of missing out on a different connection with someone they haven’t yet met.

  16. Lisa Gates says:

    Back in the day when I was an actor, I watched the pheonomenon of “general” take its course. People, friends, who couldn’t drop in and settle into their lives, their roles, the moment. Instead they moved from yes to yes, event to event, part to part, never really digging in to experience the feeling of not knowing, wonder, even incompetence, and committing to what’s necessary to move through it.

    It’s not only that our culture delivers this generality to us, it’s believing in the generality we’re delivered.

    We’re responsible.

  17. Kelly says:

    I think this is all well and good and, since I just finished Colleen’s newsletter on “getting a handle” I’m feeling compelled to respond. Some of us really are generalists. We know a little about a lot, we are curious about much. It doesn’t have to mean we are fearful. We are skimmers, jugglers, scanners who like to do and learn a lot of different things.

    It makes it incredibly hard to market ourselves (I for one have too many blogs bc I feel like I can’t be “general” on any of them…thus I have to write multiple posts for and maintain a set). My brain moves in 100 different directions all at once which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, Jonathan, and everyone else’s as well.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Kelly – Great question about extending this concept beyond conversations and into life, and one I’ve been working with for some time since I’ve been what a lot of people have called an expert generalist for a whole lotta years. But, the more I contemplate what I want to accomplish in life, the more I am compelled to harness my monkey brain and, yes, even jettison things I seem to have a love for in the name of going deeper into into things I have a bigger love for.

      I wrote a lot more on this very topic a few weeks ago in my “A Bigger Game” post at I was talking about areas of life there, but it applies equally to multiple passions. 🙂

      • Kelly says:

        The Bigger Game post was excellent. I understand. I’m committed to having a life outside of business, though I love what I do now more than ever.

        I know for me, a stumbling block, is the feeling that I’m running out of time (I’m only 46…) and my decisions and choices have to be perfect RIGHT NOW which causes a monkey brain freeze.

        I’m anxious to see how your decisions play out. I hope you will write about them in detail.


  18. Wow, I have been putting off a project for all of these very reasons! A project that is big, bold and puts me out there (again). Fear, anxiety, exposure — all layers we have to peel back before we can get to the good stuff. this is just what I needed to get going on the project with ever-moving deadline. Thanks!

  19. Hi Jonathan – I do agree. I notice that tendency within myself, and I’m quite the comfy relationist (if there is such a thing). I over-fear others’ opinions of me turning towards the negative, so have often hid behind a deep interest in them, which is authentic, but disallows my progression into brave revelations about me.
    Thanks for seeing it so clearly. All that is good is not beautiful, harmonious and hunky-dory. (:

  20. Johathan,
    Very true. “Deep and narrow is where we come alive.” Thank you,

  21. I love this!

    Deep and narrow is where I live with my clients in remodeling. We have to make a lot of decisions in a short time period, so getting really deep with clients’ preferences, dreams, influences, wishes happens pretty fast on my job sites.

    Thanks for a great reminder of why it’s so juicy there!

  22. This article really is great. I am right now am part of starting an online store, something that is a wee bit scary. 🙂 But it is my one focus, my only focus. I am trying to remove a lot of the superfluous and learn about this one area. Just this one thing. I feel that I am out on a ledge but the singularity of succeeding is making a lot of irrelevant noise (television, going out, buying thins) leave my life. And I am finding this deep and narrow approach to be the best way to live right now.

  23. Victoria says:

    Hmmm… I am most definitely an extrovert but couldn’t be less interested in surface conversations and will happily ignore the rest of the party if I’m having a conversation that goes beyond the banal into the “narrow and deep,” as Jonathan labeled it. I find that people hold back because they worry that they’re going to be seen as “too nosy” if they ask the probing, far-more-interesting questions that get at who someone really IS, rather than what they do or what kind of music they like, etc. However, I think that most all of us yearn to really be known and be seen, and the only way we get there is by getting really curious about the person in front of us.

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