Does variety trump depth?

Note: I had a minor epiphany while writing this one. Please do read it. I’d love to hear what you think about it.


This question could be taken towards the the generalist vs specialist debate. But that is not what I intend to do.

I am trying to compare variety of experience with depth of experience specifically in the context of things you choose to do in life.

For example – I have consciously limited my choices when it comes to ice cream. Almost 100% of the times when I buy ice cream, I choose between tier 1 (chocolate or vanilla) and tier 2 (butter scotch and strawberry). And that’s it. I am sure your tender coconut, black currant and alphonso mango taste amazing to you, but I am not gonna get that for myself. I will begrudgingly take a bite but that’s about it.

Similarly, with meat products too I don’t venture far beyond the “normal”. Fish, chicken and mutton – all okay. Octopus, frog, pig’s feet – not happening.

In contrast, when it comes to academic interests, I think I am well above average in terms of variety. From a linguistic analysis of languages and critical analysis of techno-politics to a feminist critique of design and the electronic design of the JWST’s infrared sensors – I love all of it. Throw in some moral philosophy, epistemology, behavioural studies and pedagogy, and you get a happy Gurjot.

Similarly, looking at the kind of workplace settings I have worked in, I think I have covered a fair bit of variety already.

There are lifers. People who join an organisation or institution in their early 20s and only leave it when they turn 60.

Then there are another kind of lifers. People who marry their high school sweethearts and then die next holding hands with each other. Highly romanticised but beyond my understanding. Why would you want to do that? I would never. Get your heart broken. Break a few hearts. Embarrass yourself. That’s how I have looked at it and I am quite satisfied with the results.

Associated with this are the friendship-lifers that I love to talk shit about. It’s the people I see in Delhi who made friends when they were in school and then just never made friends again. They go to university with their school friends, they work in the same city, they marry in the same city, then they live there, have a family, and then eventually die. I find it such a waste of a lifetime. Just to be clear, I am not dissing lifelong friendships. Heck, I have been lucky enough to have a handful of those myself. I am dissing the absolute lack of attempt at going beyond the comfort of friends you made owing to the proximity of a classroom.

Another kind of lifer behaviour is seen in brand loyalty. You see it in people’s choice of smartphones, apps, cars, airlines, clothing, restaurants, and of course FMCG products – instant noodles, chocolates, biscuits, shampoos, pads, other toiletries and whatnot.

Then there’s sports. There are three steps to this –

  1. Do you like sports at all
  2. Which sports do you like / watch / play
  3. Which sportspersons / teams do you like / support / watch

I think the first two afford a loose stance while the third one has an incredibly strong affiliation. As a football fan you could miss a game to watch an IPL match in the stadium, but you’ll never be a Manchester United fan who would join Liverpool’s victory parade.

Okay, let my try to pull this together now.

I think all these examples could be qualified into two categories, depending on how much impact they have on your life –

  1. Soft impact: your affinity to food, brands, fashion, types of sports
  2. Hard impact: your stance on relationship, workplace, career and your affiliation with hobbies, conversational topics, sports teams/players

Oh wow. I think the soft impact stuff has to do with what you consume. And the latter has to do with what you experience. That’s where the impact comes from.

I was planning on exploring the reasons why we choose variety in some aspects and depth in other aspects. I thought it probably has to do with feeling comfortable with change. And then I was gonna think about how one is better than the other, if at all.

But to be honest with you, this consume vs experience idea has blown my mind a little.

What do you think? Does my categorisation work for you and the people that you know?

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Last modified: Apr 01, 2022