We choose one thing over another all the time.
Sleep over work or work over sleep
Junk over wholesome
Pleasure over happiness
Instant over longterm
The list goes on.
One of the most important choices we make is choosing what to work on.
There are two ways to go about it.
You can do a series of tasks or we can do projects.
Projects take more planning than tasks.
There are two ways to go about doing projects.
You can do random projects deciding on the fly or you can plan and be thoughtful about the projects you choose.
Random Approach Does Not Help Much
Because when you do random projects chances are they are not aligned with each other. In this scenario what you learn in one project you can’t apply in another.
Imagine investing one month each on 12 different things in one year. Like art for one month, business for another, sport for another and so on. This will keep you away from getting good at one thing.
As an alternative, take a long term of mid-term view of what you want to do and aim for mastery in one thing. When you achieve mastery you are more satisfied and it is also economically rewarding.
How Does It Work In Life?
In real life, we are curious about more than one thing and we want to be good at all these things all at once.
It is not bad.
If you are good at two unrelated things you can combine them to stand out. That’s what Scott Adams did. He combined his understanding of the business world with his cartoon drawing skills. His upside for doing this was hundreds of millions of dollars.
But he didn’t start there.
He started as an office worker. First at a bank between 1979 and 1986. He started drawing cartoons there. Between 1986 and 1995 he worked at Pacific Bell. In 1989, Adams first published Dilbert while still working there and won a royalty check of $368.62.
Does it inspire you to do something similar?
You may be interested in both art and cooking and now you want to create a cookbook with your unique drawings. For this, you want to excel at both.
A common approach will be to try and be good at both.
It won’t serve you well because going after both interests at once is not efficient.
In life, going deep matters more than going wide except when you are preparing for a test that needs a diverse understanding of themes.
But we are not sitting for a test all our lives so once you are past that stage go for depth over width. So, invest 12 months on one thing that you want to be good at.
How To Choose Your Projects?
Choose your projects based on what you want to excel at.
Choose projects that allow you to leverage you what you learned in the last project.
Start with one.
For example, if you are the person who wants to be good at art and cooking as I shared above.
Then create all your projects around art or cooking for one year. See how far you go with it.
If you choose art for one year you can still cook to break the monotony. But keep art as your main thing for that year. Get better at art and create a definite place for it in your life. Then add cooking next year.
You can set a goal to become a good enough artist to put your work for sale on Etsy.
You can break this into 3 quarterly projects.
- First one to learn foundational skills and getting good at art. You can aim to create art like your favorite artist.
- Next, you can create your body of work. Putting out work on a regular basis.
- In the final project, you can work on creating partnerships and putting your work for sale.
It will be worthwhile to spend a week or two before you start, to look around and gather details about what you need to learn and where you want to reach.
You can apply this approach to any project that you plan to work on.
So, what is it that you want to excel at during next 9-12 months?