Deep Dish vs.Thin Crust: Adjusting your focus as a volunteer

As I sit here thinking about the winter of 2015 there are a number of things that roll through my mind.  The top item is always staying warm and safe, but usually the topic of food comes sometime soon after.  All of us need food for sustenance and life, but the types of food we ingest also have a marked impact on who we are.

We are also fed in many other ways.  One of the key ways I have always been “fed” is through my work with others, especially volunteer groups.  Throughout my career I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with such stellar groups as the YMCA of Middle Tennessee and the Middle Tennessee Council for Boy Scouts of America.  Both of these organizations provide wonderful programming for youth and adults and I have gained so much from my association with each.

When I reflect on my approach to volunteer work at the beginning of my career I had a hunger to touch as many organizations as possible.  This hunger caused me to have my hand in many roles at one time and there were times earlier in my career when I might have spent more time in a given week working with a volunteer cause versus my own paying job.  I look back on this and refer to it as my “thin crust days”.  Nothing against thin crust, especially in pizza, but with a thin crust there is not a lot of structure or support and the toppings are spread over a wider, less substantial area.

The last 5 years have allowed me to shift my focus to more of a “deep dish” approach.  Deep dish crust is more substantial, but somewhat less expansive in the variety of toppings or time investments on my part.  By taking a deep dish approach I have greatly narrowed my focus, especially with my volunteer time, and I have hopefully given greater attention to the more focused group of volunteer activities I work with.

Twenty years ago I could cite as many as 10-15 volunteer groups I would be involved with at any one time.  I currently can list only 4-5 active volunteer roles.  Time constraints in my own business have been part of this refocusing, but my intent to make a more sustained impact is also squarely part of this personal strategy.

Deep dish involvement provides me the ability to make a more prolonged, intense investment in the areas I am working with and it also enables me to focus more deeply on the areas that are of my own greatest interest.  There is nothing wrong with the areas I no longer focus on, but I would rather make a difference for a few than be spread so thin I make no difference whatsoever, somewhat like the Starfish analogy referred to in the video Joel Barker shot many years ago.

Deep dish vs. Thin Crust.  These two strategies help me discern how to best focus my time when working with volunteer organizations and they can also have a role in career and personal development.

More about that in my next post.