I’ve read a few articles lately about foxes and hedgehogs. The fox knows many things, they say, and the hedgehog knows one big thing. You can read an excerpt from the original fox and hedgehog essay here. It’s being applied to business in most of the occasions I’ve seen it, but it’s gotten me thinking about whether I am a fox or a hedgehog.
I’ve decided I’m a fox. I’m decent at many things: writing, dancing, telling stories, cooking and baking, etc. But I’m not PHENOMENAL at one thing. The problem is, I’m not sure I like that but I also don’t want to feel limited.
Keep reading if you want to come along with me as I think this through.
I know people who are great hedgehogs. They’re really focused on that one thing they are passionate about. It’s what they DO. Free time is spent being a hedgehog. Maybe their day jobs are related to their hedgehogginess. They forgo things like exercise, social events, housework…all for the focus of passion.
I think about writing a lot, but I think about a lot of things, too. Food and when I’m going to do the laundry and the size of my bottom and how exercise would reduce that bottom so I should do some instead of writing.
On one hand, I want to be a writing hedgehog. G, I know you’re reading this, and you are a model writing hedgehog. G worked really hard at writing – she does all the Stuff like going to conferences and getting up at 5 a.m. to write. And it paid off because G is published (and awesome and you should read her books or purchase them for someone who might).
On the other hand, LOOK SHINY THINGS THAT ARE NOT WRITING. Like exercise or housework or a nap or the twins or Husband.
A friend once said that she wished her parents had pushed her more in tennis. She’s a good tennis player but she’s an English professor at a university and perhaps she could’ve been her generation’s Serena Williams or Steffi Graff (or whoever, I’m not a sports person). My dad, maybe six months before he died last year, said, as we passed a high school tennis court, “I should’ve stayed with tennis. I was a damn good player. But I played football, just like .” Both of these conversations were tinged with a unique flavor of regret. I don’t want that for myself, or my kids.
The dilemma for me maybe hinges on what the kids are calling FOMO. Here’s a funny video about it. Like, maybe I really am super good at baking and if I just stuck with it a little longer I’d be the Best Baker in All the Land. Or maybe I’m two workouts away from my goal weight. I know the FOMO people. They’re never just at home. Their calendars are booked months in advance. They are always DOING something. Foxes, I would say.
I think I might be a hedgehog who’s too scared to be a hedgehog and is, instead, a mediocre fox. I shall endeavor to work on my inner hedgehog.
Yesterday, on NPR, they had a woman talking about jargon of her job. She’s a captain of a whale watching boat. Her jargon was “flying pickle.” Listen to the piece here (it’s only like 3 minutes long). Something she said caught my mind. Baby humpback whales (referred to here as ‘pickles’) have to practice breaching. They will fling themselves out of the water 20 or 30 times in one practice session. And I thought, that’s because they’re not born just knowing. They have to practice. The pickle practices then becomes a hedgehog that’s really good at breaching.
Are you a fox or a hedgehog?