The Deep Dive

More and more I hear people talk about the value of “the deep dive.” And I wonder, who are these people? And why do they seem so fixated on the topic? I would love to tell you that my social circle is fraught with the likes of champion 10-meter platform divers, deep-sea underwater welders, pearl hunters, submarine captains, and third generation cliff jumpers that hail from La Quebrada, Acapulco. Sadly, this is not the case (but man how awesome would THAT party be?!!).

Instead, I have been hearing it mostly from people in leadership positions who are tasked with ensuring an organization’s success or growth. As most people can attest, an increase in professional or personal responsibility often means managing a wider scope. As the breadth of responsibility expands, it is increasingly difficult to attain the levels of depth one might hunger for (or be expected to know). There can be the nagging feeling of being stretched thin. And in a world where knowledge is ever expanding and change is constant, the need to stay both relevant and current (ie. one step ahead) is paramount. This means one must continually adapt and continue to learn new things. Yet, no matter what, one simply cannot be a master of everything. Here is where the deep dive comes in.

The deep dive is usually inspired by a matter of significance - an organization’s success or even an individual’s appetite for knowledge or joy. Fundamentally, it is an attempt to reach a new level of understanding in a particular area of relevance. In this regard, the deep dive is about a commitment to going beyond the surface level of knowledge. It is a veritable quest - one goes deep in order to confront the mystery of the unknown and carries with oneself the hope of retrieving any riches that might exist there. In Spanish, the word for depth is “Profundidad.” Deep and profound are related. Deep dives are transformative. The dive leaves an indelible trace. The things learned there and indeed the experience itself cannot be undone. Ideally, one comes back with the ability to use and share this richness with others.

Of course, all dives have an element of timeliness about them. You can’t stay down too long. You need to come back up for air, attend to life above the surface, juggle the things that need juggling, and catch your breath again. But each trip back down into the deep helps paint a fuller picture. Each time you come back with more.

In my life, I have had the chance to do many deep dives, some personal, and some professional.  Without question, these experiences have been enriching. Deep dives allow us to acquire a certain level of expertise and/or insight that we would not otherwise acquire. And it is our expertise and insight that allow us to add value to the world - to our companies, our organizations and our social circles.

Specialists of any kind are most familiar with the the deep dive. A brain surgeon has gone very deep. As has the Professor of nuclear physics, the pastry chef, and the leads in the Nutcracker.

Most anyone with a serious hobby or passion is very good at the deep dive. The subjects are endless: restoring old cars, growing orchids, running marathons, listening to jazz, writing code, fixing motors, tying flies.
In a world where we are often stretched - the deep dive can serve to strengthen our professional capital and can help to move our organizations forward. The deep dive can also serve to nourish the soul and satisfy the existential longings we sometimes feel inside of us.

Today, with the digital resources so widely available, one has the opportunity to deep dive into just about anything  - from the Japanese tea ceremony to short-selling stocks.

So, as life continues to place its demands on you, remember to take some time now and then to dive deeply.

And in case you are trepidatious about taking the plunge, don’t be. Here are some easy ways to "dive in":

  • Read. A lot. About your topic or issue or question.
  • Seek out experts. Find someone local and take them out for coffee or lunch and learn all you can.
  • Google. Use YouTube. Use the internet to soak up everything.
  • Let the ideas percolate. Live with the new information you have acquired for while. Let the the ambiguities linger.
  • Find an opportunity to speak or to share your findings...we learn most by teaching and sharing with others.
  • Build a network: connect with others who have expertise through Twitter or Blogs and various social media.
  • Read some more.
And remember, no deep dive happens without being brave enough to jump.

Sean Nosek


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