Saturday, August 21, 2021

Don't Put All Your Eggs Into One Basket (MY Eng #23)

This is part of a running series about English idioms - less about language, more about life itself. Previously, we covered 'missing the woods for the trees', 'the elephant in the room', 'practising what you preach', blowing hot and cold', 'no smoke without fire', 'one swallow does not make a summer', 'apples and oranges', 'cut to the chase', 'leave no stone unturned', 'that's the way the cookie crumbles', 'can't have your cake and eat it too', 'old is gold', 'putting the cart before the horse', 'mountain out of a molehill', 'pot calling the kettle black', 'bite the bullet', 'go the extra mile', 'silence is golden', 'the devil is in the details', 'sink or swim', 'once bitten twice shy' and 'don't count your chickens before they hatch'.

Keeping with the same theme as the previous ocassion, we're still stuck on chickens and eggs (a subtle hint for the next entry in this running English idiom series). This one's probably more familiar to most people - and self-explanatory.

Okay, let's get the contradictions out of the way. I know, I'm fond of preaching on being razor-focused, going all-in, taking a 'go hard or go home' approach to one's life pursuits. Don't spread yourself too thin. One task at a time. Multi-tasking is (more often than not) inefficient for deep work.

But look, no rule is absolute. And in any case, the idea of spreading one's resources here is more on a macro level rather than micro level. So both approaches are still reconcilable.

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The idiom simply means what it implies. Don't put all your bets on a single horse. Diversify your portfolio. Eggs are brittle objects. Puttinng them all into a single basket risks losing them all if the basket breaks.

Most of us already practice this sound advice. Like applying to enrol into multiple universities. Or applying for multiple job openings. Or making multiple swipes on Tinder (okay, let's not go there...)

The idea seems simple enough. Keep your options open. Make a shortlist. Come up with Plan B and C. Don't put all your hopes into one place. To increase your chances of success, and also to avoid the pain of disappointment.

That said, a balance needs to be struck. Don't aim for too many targets at once. Remember the tragic tale of the dog that got greedy trying to grab an extra (but non-existent) bone when crossing a bridge and catching its reflection in the water? There are exceptional times where we just can't afford to expend extra time and effort on more than one target. Ultimately, all depends on the weight of the new undertaking, and whatever is already on your plate.

* * *

Of course, just like all other piece of advice, execution is much harder than theory. The challenge of managing our workflow lies in knowing how much tasks to take on, and when to take on the next. It's normal to overestimate the magnitude of a task, and our own capacity.

So perhaps it's best not to be greedy - like the dog with a large bone in mouth - to bite more than we can chew (another idiom!). Or in avian terms, don't collect more eggs than you can carry or fit into your basket. The world has no short of eggs. So don't go catching them all just to let them slip through your fingers and smash into a splashy splat.

1 comment :

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    Yes, when you don't have another basket and don't want to risk losing all or most of your belongings, and if they fit.