What does it mean?
Here’s the standard definition I found across a few dictionaries:
Definition of ‘by and large’: on the whole: speaking in general
What does, the ‘by and large’ concept mean in practical terms?
· How many kilometers are between Montreal and New York City? The answer: about 620 – give and take a few. It takes about 7 hours drive to get there. That estimation is close enough for me — no need to jump on google maps and divert your full attention.
· What’s 397 x 210? About 80.000 – I’m simply going to round it up to 400×200. My brain works faster that way. If you want an exact answer, I’ll divert my full attention from our conversation and punch the numbers in my phone calculator.
My advice is only to divert your full attention when necessary.
The main message of this post is to notice our tendencies which can oscillate toward over-obsessing about details and wasting too much unnecessary time or precious energy. Very useful to know, so we can skillfully divert our approach when appropriate and necessary.
I got the inspiration to ponder and write about this phrase when I opened my Linkedin page this morning – Ray Dalio’s post on the 6th Sept 2022 (Understand the concept of by and large activity)
It caught my attention because of unhealthy tendencies I have noticed throughout my career working with people, and here’s my take…
When we over obsess about facts and details, we lose the original perspective – the big picture.
I asked myself, what is the foundation of such an attitude?
It depends from one person to another and varies across different areas we engage in – it can be rooted in wanting to be correct, asserting control, high-jacking attention, lack of confidence, fear of the unknown, perhaps there’s a degree of self-sabotage or punishment.
When you get stuck in details, you freeze and are no longer moving forward; you are no longer part of ‘the flow.’ You have got carried away with your obsession.
This narrow point of view is widespread in our society – it’s been ingrained and became part of our mindset during schooling. One point on your exam defines whether you have passed or failed the exam. Or worse – it determines if you were fit enough to have been accepted to the university or not. What kind of point-based system ludicrousness is that?
It signifies that we have lost the meaning of what matters in life. In this particular case, we condensed the meaning of life to a single pointed approach that can define someone’s trajectory in life. What a punitive, middle-age approach! (IMO)
Losing sight of the large picture approach is detrimental to personal, financial, spiritual, and mental health. This can include the economic health of an entire country.
When we get stuck micromanaging and marinating in details, this includes obsessing about our shortcomings, we lose sight of too many things that matter in life. That’s why I think – ‘by and large’ attitude – is something we should practice and apply more often – when it is safe to do so. (PS: please don’t apply this in a surgery)
Here are a couple of relatable examples.
Your kind friend prepared a meal for you. He/she added too much salt or slightly burned the pie. The veggies were not crunchy enough. Considering the circumstances, they not being a Michelin five-star chef, ‘by and large’ it’s pretty awesome and generous of someone cooking for you. Plus, you get to enjoy a wholesome meal with your mate.
Applying for a job – reviewing job specs, you notice a few expectations you don’t meet – ‘by and large,’ it’s ok. You can negotiate the rest when you get a chance. Don’t just brush yourself away from the get go. Buy some time to learn the missing points and other necessary skills.
Having to quickly churn a report – considering the time you got on your hands – the rough estimates you were able to come up with are ‘by and large’ ok. If your boss expects a better job – negotiate for more time or some help.
Non-negotiable deadlines – if your boss is not willing to allocate more resources, you will have to compromise on the quality or quantity of the work. Make sure that’s clear from the start. What you can do in the given time with the technology and your two hands is ‘by and large’ ok.
You’re experiencing short-term losses in your long-term investment portfolio – considering the market downturn and your focus on long-term investments – ‘by and large’ that’s looking solid if you ask me. (PS: not financial advice)
Company employees… Mark is working hard, going beyond expectations because he’s driven – he wants to; Alex is doing just enough because that’s his capacity, and he’s meeting all the expectations. It all works out well, as long as everyone is happy.
Countries are waging trade wars, getting stuck in details, not budging, derailing the whole economy, stoking up another conflict – because they lose sight of the bigger, long-term picture, messing up the entire supply chain. Are these detrimental, widespread, long-term negative impacts? You tell me! What difference would it make to apply the ‘by and large’ approach in such a case?
I set up a few goals last year; my threshold was high to start with – I didn’t reach all of them, but I did great at what I achieved. I realized a few goals made no sense along the way, so I changed my track and kept on reminding myself of the 80-20 rule. ‘By and large’ I never lost sight of what matters, and I did not get stuck or lost in details, thank you very much.
Not that I’m not able to go into details where it really matters or when that’s necessary, but that’s a story for another day.
I wish you a good day!