Fortune Cookie Friday: Reduce Distraction and Use One Basket
You may have heard of the old proverb, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” It’s sound advice if you’re investing money. Many financial gurus will suggest it in the form of diversification. The danger of keeping your eggs in one basket is that if the basket falls, or experiences some other unfortunate fate, the eggs will follow suit. Generally, if you put all of your time, energy, attention or money into a single endeavor, you might set yourself up for disappointment if bad luck should befall you.
Today’s fortune was a spin on this notion. Originally quoted by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) in his book Pudd’nhead Wilson and Other Tales (1894), the saying may have more truth than folly. We live in a hustle-bustle world, where we try to fit in as much as we can into our daily lives, school, clubs, family, friends, and the ever-important sleep. You can find people reading books while peddling stationary bikes, women applying make-up while driving, and teens texting while eating dinner with their family. You may think multitasking is great, but are we really doing any good.
Now there’s nothing wrong with listening to some music while exercising or doing your homework. You might work better with a beat playing in the background. It’s when we try to do too much, or take on too many projects, at once that we falter in our tasks. If you decide to be involved in six different after school clubs, you need to make sure that they don’t conflict. If you’re talking on the phone, trying to write a research paper, and eating all at once, you may find yourself misspeak, misspell, or miss your mouth with your pizza—hot cheese and pepperoni in your lap is never fun.
Sometimes we just need to consolidate our tasks and focus on one, making it the best work we can do. You need to watch your basket—closely. Twain wasn’t the only one who used this saying. Self-made steel tycoon and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, also used the phrase. He believed that the true road to preeminent success in any railroad line was to be the master in that line. He watched others succeed in similar endeavors and he concluded that scattering ones resources was not a good policy.
This is especially true with writing. You want to put most if not all of your resources into one project at a time. This will give you the ability to give it your all and make it your best work. Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak (1999) and Chains (2008), spoke at a 2016 writer’s conference. She warned writers to beware of the flirtatious idea of switching projects because you hit a rough patch in your writing. Instead jot down your ideas, but stay the course on your current project. You already have plenty of eggs in there. There’s no sense in wasting them—some of them are really good eggs.
So go ahead and collect those eggs. Sort through them and find the best ones. Decorate them if you must, but make sure you are giving it your best work. Make sure you watch that basket closely. You will be surprised how well you will perform when eight other baskets aren’t distracting you. Instead, you can cherish that one basket, and it will be fruitful. Now get crackin’!