Focus October 2018

I’m resolving to focus on depth. I’ve spent the first half of my 20s expanding the scope of my life: starting my career, starting a business, starting a family, starting a marriage, starting new skills. At this point, my day is full of things I find to be meaningful, so much so that sometimes I work (in the abstract sense) on those things from when I wake up, until I go to bed. That’s a fortunate position to be in, but the drawback is that things start to suffer when more is added. I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns when it comes to meaningful pursuits. It’s time to go deep.

At the same time, I have the intellectual capacity and novelty seeking drive to continue to add new things to my life. I think it’s a habit you get into when you are young, adding and experimenting with things. I could add new hobbies, or projects, or people. But I find as my life goes on that I get more from going deep on things, than I do from going wide. Life is so short: according to the research, I’ve already lived half my perception adjusted life. To make the most of the second perception-adjusted half, and to live at the pace I prefer, I have to favor depth.

What that means is working to create a better business, a strong relationship, a more engaging and resilient family, deeper and more specialized skills – but with the existing business, family and skills. The time of addition is over. The time to focus on the depth and quality of the existing obligations (in a good way) is beginning. You can’t build a great business or marriage in two years. It takes decades.

So in 2019, I’m going to do a Depth Year. A Depth Year is, literally, a made up concept that someone floated on a blog. I got the idea from Zen Habits, who got the idea from David Cain. David wrote about how he felt similar to the way I do now, in a prior stage of life, and decided to go deep instead of wide. I feel very similarly now, and stumbled upon the idea at the right time. To the extent that I can, I’ll read books I have, with people already in my life, in the place I already live, make a living the way I already do and focus on improving myself and my existing skills.

It’s exciting to think about the impact getting off the hedonic treadmill of newness will have on my ability to improve my life. I suspect the impact will be positive, especially when I look at the accomplishments of many of the people I admire and realize it takes decades of sustained effort to get there. As someone with a habit of moving on from things quickly, I resolve to use the drive that I have to seek novelty and newness and direct it towards depth and impact. This to me is a more relatable version of focus: shedding the unnecessary so that I can focus on the essential.