Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces
“Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another — intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.”
The Goose and the Horse — A Fable About Maximizing Your Strengths
A Goose who was plucking grass thought herself affronted by a horse who fed near her; and, in hissing accents thus addressed him:
“I am certainly a more noble and perfect animal than you,” the goose hissed, “For the whole range and extent of your faculties is confined to one element. However, I can walk upon the ground, just as you do, as well as take to the air with my wings and when it pleases me, I can land on a pond or lake, refreshing myself in the cool waters. I enjoy the different powers of a bird, a fish and a quadruped.”
The horse snorted disdainfully and replied, “It is true that you inhabit three elements, but you are not particularly distinguished at any of them. You fly, but your flight is so heavy and clumsy that you have no right to put yourself on a level with the lark or swallow. You can swim on the surface of the waters, but you cannot live in them as the fish do, you cannot find your food in that element, nor glide smoothly along the bottom of the waves. And when you walk, or rather waddle, upon the ground, with your broad feet and your long neck stretched out, hissing at everyone who passed by, you bring upon yourself the derision of all beholders.”
“I confess that I am only formed to move along the ground,” the horse continued, “But how graceful is my make! How well turned my limbs! How highly finished my whole body! How great my strength! How astonishing my speed! I would rather be confined to one element, and be admired in that, than be a goose in all!”
This great fable exemplifies the argument of ‘jack of all trades master of none’ versus maximizing your strengths and ‘concentrating your forces’ into a small handful of faculties.
The reality is there are 24 hours in a day, taking away average sleep time we have about 16 hours per day to live. Very rarely does anyone spend in excess of 10 hours per day on any one skill or craft let alone close to 16. This idea that you can only pick one skill or profession at a time in order to be great, is a misnomer. We have so much time, yet we waste so much of it. What if you exchanged your wasted time for building and honing other skills and strengths in other fields you want to advance? How much more could you experience and learn? We’d surprise ourselves with how far and how much faster we’d go.
But this point reveals an important question: Could you have gone farther if you had focused all your time and efforts into one thing, instead of multiple? Common sense sais yes, of course. But how much further and at what cost? If you’re goal is to become ‘world class’, concentrating your forces into 1–2 single things could prove to be the most beneficial and rewarding. LeBron James didn’t need to care about being good at English class and writing because his focus was honing his innate talents and skills and become one of the best basketball players in the world. However, most aren’t trying to attain such ‘0.1% goals’, they’re okay to be ‘great at something’, rather than ‘world class’. I’m not trying to be one of the best writers on Medium or biggest YouTubers, far from it, in fact I can be content with my effort and impact if people don’t think I’m an amazing writer or creator. The fulfillment and value I get from my side hustles fulfills my many curiosities and aids the development in my main craft.
I have a feeling the cliche “jack of all trades, master of none” would not have held much weight around the 1400 — 1600s era. This time of history was called the ‘Renaissance’ largely because Leonardo da Vinci was alive in this time (1452 — 1519). Da Vinci was a ‘renaissance man’ (polymath), which is a term used to describe “a very clever person who is good at many different things”. Da Vinici was most famous as a painter, but he was also a scientist, engineer, sculptor and biologist. Imagine someone coming up to you today saying they wanted to do all those things. You’d probably think they were aimless and tell them to “pick one”. Interestingly, da Vinici was one of many who exhibited the characteristics of a polymath. To name a few, Aristotle (384BC — 322BC) was a Greek philosopher who also studied and wrote about physics and zoology. Michelangelo wasn't’ just a sculptor, he was a poet and theologian. (1475 — 1564). Johann Wolfgang von Goeth (1749 — 1832) was not just a writer, but a geologist and botanist. Thomas Jefferson (1743 — 1826) didn’t just rule the United States and write the Declaration of Independence, he found time to be a horticulturist and archaeologist.
We must be aware in the past it was much easier to call yourself an expert in multiple professions and thus become a type of ‘renaissance man’. The structure of education system was a fragment of what it is today and we’d have to spend decades in a university to become qualified in 3–4 of those fields. The closest examples I would label as ‘modern-day renaissance men’ would be people like Donald Glover, Kanye West, Elon Musk and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Donald Glover: Comedian. Writer. Rapper. Producer. Actor. Director. Winner of a golden globe for his hit debut TV show Atlanta.
Kanye West: Record producer. Rapper. 21-Grammy award winner. Fashion designer of nearly half a dozen clothing lines. Entrepreneur.
Elon Musk: Engineer. Inventor. Founder and CEO of SpaceX. Product architect of Tesla Motor. Chairman of SolarCity. Co-Chairman of OpenAI. 83rd wealthiest person in the world (Oct 2016).
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Former real estate investor. Former body builder. Former politician. Actor. Producer. Investor. Author. Philanthropist.
More often than not we see that most of these polymaths, past and present, were diving into fields that crossed over one another in a symbiotic type relationship — while you were studying and experiencing one field, that knowledge and experience was aiding the development of others.
If you’ve developed positive habits that make you effective and efficient throughout your day I believe you can afford yourself the time to concentrate your forces into becoming great in multiple areas instead just picking one. This idea that you only can do one or two things throughout your life is a self-constricting losing mentality. You can have one encompassing vision at the top of your pyramid — everything that falls bellow feeds that main vision in some capacity. Use the power of these real examples to propel you forward to greatness — whatever that looks like to you.
Keys To Power
That is the world we live in right now — we have thousands of distractions splintering our attention in different directions. Those with the mental fortitude and discipline to say “no” in the face of a hundred bright distractions will be the one’s who win in the long term. As I write this, my minds attention is hyper focused on constructing each sentence — my mental “forces are concentrated.”
“Intelect is a magnitude of intensity not a magnitude of
extensity.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
To turn that into a question, would you rather know a little bit about a lot of things, or a lot about a few things?
It’s easier to let the mind mindlessly wander from task to task mistaking activity for the appearance of achievement. As you read this, are you really engaged and concentrated within the writing? Or are you in the middle other activities that are pulling you from the depth of content within this article?
“Tying yourself to a single source of power has one preeminent danger, if that person dies leaves or falls from grace you suffer.”
We’re lulled into a false sense of security that everything we put on the internet is safe and going to be there tomorrow. Little do most comprehend the content we provide that’s given us our potential power and leverage is governed by third parties we have little to no control over. YouTube can delete my channel with no explanation if they desire. Medium can remove my articles without notice. Betting your chips into one basket when you don’t have preeminent control can prove to be dangerous when the stakes are high. If you have a million followers on Twitter and it’s your only platform you use to communicate to your audience or make money, you should probably consider creating content on other platforms. Or better yet, create a platform that you have autonomy in, i.e. a website or email list. The market shifts everyday, when a big new corporation comes along it has to take over the light of another, don’t be at the mercy of one single entity. “Two is one, one is none — always have a backup.”