Grab a Shovel and Start Digging

If you were ask someone how they were doing, you would probably get the response of “busy”. Everyone is busy these days. “Busy” has become the new “fine”. Laura Vanderkam in her piece in Fast Company says that “our sense of self-worth [comes] from being in high demand.” We want to feel wanted. so much so, that we fill up our schedule or keep busy “doing things.” Vanderkam points out that power is “not about having a million things to do. Everyone has a million things to do. The ultimate sign of success is having a million things to do but only doing a few of them.”

One of many effects of this “busyness” is the value of completing tasks, or what Cal Newton calls task productivity. What is left behind is value productivity, “the ability to consistently produce highly-skilled, highly-valued output”.  Newton points to Woody Allen in his article, but it made me think of my own life. I work in education, particularly writing. We as educators want to cover so much as possible because our students know so little and need to be caught up. (Oh how we love this battle cry). In fact today in class, I flew through a lesson telling them that we would hit it deeper later. What if I promised them that we would only learn four things this whole semester, and in that promise, they would masters of those skills? Or as Newton noted, to be able to reproduce consistently at a high level.

Now we get to the “how?” which is the really hard part. We have been trained to go fast and shallow. Motion keeps the bored look off their faces. We think that we must choose between deep and wide, but this is a lie.  Mike Rose, an educator once said, “If you go deep enough, you go wide.” If I teach my students four skills at master level, then I have taught them how to be writers more than fifty essays could do.

If you want to change the world, don’t grab a megaphone and shout. Grab five people who believe in you and go deep. Invest in them. Teach them what you know.

I am as guilty as anyone. I want to stop and grab a shovel and start digging.


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