Shallow or Deep?

Published: May 23, 2023

Confession: I’ve learned to skim and absorb most of my reading material quickly. I’m willing to trade depth for speed. I can synthesize an academic journal article in fifteen minutes. Anything less rigorous takes me about two. Many social media platforms predict how long it will take to read their posts, with an eye toward expedience. No need to dive in if you don’t have 4.5 minutes to spare. This blog promises “60 seconds on the Team Clock.” I endeavor to put readers out of their misery in less than a minute. It’s a dupe. My blogs are usually two-minute reads.

Shallow or deep is a choice. There are no short cuts. As easy as it has become to acquire nearly everything, there are some things that require a lifetime to accrue. Careers and relationships are the best examples. If the goal is to achieve something meaningful, practice and patience are required.

Ask any writer, public speaker, musician, therapist, athlete, teacher, or surgeon. You don’t get good at something in an hour, a day, a week, a month, or even a year. Clinical social workers often say that it’s at about the fifteen-years-post-masters stage of their careers when they hit their stride. Medical fellowships follow physician residencies for a reason. Established opera singers practice scales, not just arias.

Regardless of the amount of natural talent, most of us would rather read something written by an author who hones their craft daily than a ‘subject matter expert’ who decides to write their first blog or book. Who would you prefer to handle your delicate medical procedure? Who do you send up to bat with the game on the line?

Natural talent is the trap. Why work when you can play? Good enough can pass for excellent if no one is looking or listening too closely. As a consumer of goods and services, we all have the right to water down the depth and quality of what we consume. As a producer of that material, however, you have to own the amount of time and practice you’ve devoted to your creation. For the record, this blog is a one-minute read, but I’ve stopped counting the many years of writing that preceded it.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.