How to Be Well-Rounded: Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Someday Is Today" by Matthew Dicks. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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If you embrace the idea that it’s okay to change your mind, what might you say “yes” to now? Could you be missing out on golden opportunities because you’re too focused on one thing?

Matthew Dicks wants you to reach your full potential so you can become as successful as possible, as soon as possible. In Someday Is Today: 22 Simple Actionable Ways to Propel Your Creative Life, he warns that you might be closing yourself off from your potential if you’re not living a well-rounded life.

Read more to learn how to be well-rounded and maximize life’s opportunities.

How to Be Well-Rounded

Dicks recommends that you avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and aim to be a well-rounded person. He explains that people who dedicate themselves solely to one goal, discipline, or area of interest won’t reach their full potential and achieve extraordinary things. They’re blind to additional areas in which they might thrive because they’ve never considered pursuing them.

To overcome this self-limiting behavior, Dicks offers two pieces of advice on how to be well-rounded.

Tip #1: Take Every Opportunity

Dicks argues that you should take every opportunity you’re presented with, even if it doesn’t necessarily contribute to your current goal. Saying yes is always better than saying no because the benefits outweigh the costs. If you say yes, you might discover a new passion or avenue for success that you were blind to before. However, if you say no, you might miss out, and you’ll likely never receive the same opportunity again. If you decide an opportunity isn’t for you after trying it, just say no next time—it’s OK to change your mind.

(Shortform note: While Dicks promotes taking every opportunity and exploring different paths, Robert Greene disagrees. In The 48 Laws of Power, Greene’s 23rd Law is to concentrate your energy and resources (like time and effort) on the areas where you’ll gain the most. Not only will you make faster progress, but you’ll also build connections with powerful people in your areas of interest who can help you progress faster. On the other hand, accepting every opportunity and exploring different paths disperses your energy in too many directions, meaning you’ll progress slowly in all areas.)

Tip #2: Branch Out

Second, pursue multiple goals, disciplines, or areas of interest at the same time, Dicks notes. This is important for two main reasons:

1. You’ll solve problems and remain productive in the meantime. If you get stuck on one project, you can continue being productive by working on something else rather than sitting idly until a solution comes to you. When you think of a solution, you can return to the original project having made progress toward another goal in the meantime.

(Shortform note: While Dicks recommends switching to another project to remain productive while brainstorming solutions, Barbara Oakley suggests that giving yourself a break instead might be more effective. This is because your brain will naturally switch between two modes of thinking—from focused mode (high concentration) to diffuse mode (letting your brain wander). When you encounter a problem, switching to diffuse mode helps you take a  broader view of the issue and come up with creative solutions you might not have thought of while in focused mode. If you neglect to give your brain the diffuse time it needs, you may become too hyper-focused to see solutions that might otherwise become obvious.)

2. You’ll increase your creativity. Dicks explains that gaining experience in different areas will help you expand your knowledge and draw connections between seemingly different ideas or disciplines. This improves your ability to come up with unique insights.

(Shortform note: Some education experts agree that engaging in numerous disciplines or areas of interest increases creativity. This concept has led to the rise of “interdisciplinary study” at universities: Students choose numerous disciplines to focus on, and they apply knowledge learned in one discipline to others to deepen their learning. In addition to boosting creativity (unique ideas and connections), interdisciplinary study also increases motivation, depth of learning, critical thinking skills, and the desire for life-long learning.)

How to Be Well-Rounded: Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

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  • Why most people delay taking action toward their dreams and goals
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  • How to maximize your time, efficiency, productivity, and creative potential

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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