"You Don't Have to" Series

You Don’t Have to: Focus on One Thing

A couple weeks ago in Fort McMurray, Alberta, an enormous wildfire tore through the northern Alberta town of 80,000, leaving burnt rubble that once was houses, vehicles and parks in its wake. The entire town had to evacuate, and for many people that meant only precious minutes to grab what was dear and hop in their car. It spurred several interesting stories of heroic escapes and created an interesting question in the back of everyone’s mind: what would I grab if I only had a few minutes?

A particular article really struck a cord with me: a story about a guy known as the “Wayne Gretzky of Wayne Gretzky Collectors.” His name is Shawn Chaulk and he had it all: rookie jerseys, signed sticks, trophies- and all of it in a beautiful polished custom room in his home in Fort McMurray.

Well, until it sadly burned down.

Gretzky_jerseyHe managed to grab some of his favorite items but the dedication and hours he pored into his hobby burned away within seconds. What I found most amazing in this story was his response: he said he doesn’t think he’ll pursue collecting going forward, and that “every hour I spend collecting is one less hour I have with my kids and family.”

This story popped up in my head while I was out for a 4 hour run training for a long distance trail race I have coming up. A 4 hour run?? That is an enormous amount of time, and it made me think, is it worth diving this far in to one activity or is it better just to dabble? Shorter runs do give me more time with friends, family, my dog and other pursuits.

Now this sounds like an incredibly huge contradiction to an article I posted a few weeks ago about the importance of focus. An honestly, I don’t know what is the right answer, but here are some benefits of un-focusing.

“Dabbling is cross-training for the brain,” says Lisa Evans from Entrepreneur.com. Doing a multitude of activities in your week keeps the brain sharp and builds creativity, and also allows the opportunity just to hang out with your friends when the chance comes up.

The 80/20 Rule: where 20% of the effort yields 80% of the results. Practicing guitar for 1 hour a day is hugely beneficial, but practicing 3-4 hours a day starts to have diminishing results. It’s about finding that sweet spot.

It’s All Relative. Millionaires want to be billionaires, Olympians are disappointed by a silver medal, and Michael Jordan had to try his hand at baseball despite being the best basketball player of all time. It’s a human condition that we are rarely satisfied with our successes and completed goals, and reaching a milestone just opens up a new distant target. So maybe there are some parts of our lives that are simply good enough as is.

For example, this run training has made me realize that running 15-20 kilometers is plenty for me. I get a great workout, I get a big gulp of outdoor air and I’m home in time to pursue other activities or spend time with those important people in my life. What do you think? Would the world be a boring place if everyone just dabbled? Is it important to push yourself to your limits? Is the constant pursuit of goals inhibiting our ability to be satisfied with the present? I have no idea!

Well, some blog post this is. 


    I feel like dabbling is a good way to discover a new focus and to reassess if your current focus is worthwhile. Without exposing yourself to different experiences or new information, it would be extremely hard to grow as a person.

      Thanks for the comments Clearwing! Very well said, how will you know what you want to focus on in life without exploring the diverse world out there?

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