Last Updated: December 22, 2020
It has been argued over and over that putting all your eggs in one basket is a BAD, BAD idea! When the basket falls, LITERALLY, all the eggs break – and you lose everything!
On the other hand, placing your eggs in multiple baskets is lauded as a good thing.
In real life, the problem with putting all eggs in one basket is reflected in our decisions to invest in one project only, at the expense of diversification!
Is this true, though?
The thing is, carrying more than one basket at any one time is a tricky business. It creates room for divided attention and related encumbrances.
The problem with eggs in one basket
Investing in one idea is like investing all your money in one project, and hoping it does NOT go bam! It is a crazy gamble if and when the project fails. You lose all your investment at once. Not a pretty idea of course.
A wise thing to do is perhaps distribute the cash into multiple projects. At least one project will succeed, out of the many. That is the assumption.
Being a jack of all trades, or investing in many projects can make you a master of none.
It carries its risks just as well. All the projects may fail and you lose all your money. Of course, the risk factor is reduced considerably compared to the one basket idea.
On the other hand, all the projects may actually succeed – but that is a story for another day.
Or maybe just one egg at a time!
Or maybe you only need to invest one egg at a time – still on the same project.
You do not necessarily have to abandon it if it falters. You add another egg the second time – still on the same project, then the third, the fourth, until the basket is empty.
Then you will know the project has failed if all the eggs break. At least you have been kept up to speed with what was happening – all the way.
Or else, you will have reached your target before all the eggs are done!
This is also a story for another day!
The big basket project!
Come to think of it though, being a jack of one trade or investing all your money in one project, all at once, can be a pretty nice thing, especially when it is well planned.
If you have one idea in mind, you are probably well informed about it and have projected all the pros and cons. You very well know the risk factors.
1. The Andrew Carnegie approach
When Andrew Carnegie addressed students of Curry Commercial College on June 23, 1885, he assessed the human concentration levels at doing things.
Below is his assessment about the basket thing,
‘The concerns which fail are those which have scattered their capital, which means that they have scattered their brains also. They have investments in this, or that, or the other, here, there and everywhere. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is all wrong. I tell you “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” Look round you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks most eggs in this country. He who carries three baskets must put one on his head, which is apt to tumble and trip him up. One fault of the American business man is lack of concentration.’
Book:1902, The Empire of Business by Andrew Carnegie, The Road to Business Success: A Talk to Young Men, (From an address to Students of the Curry Commercial College, Pittsburg, June 23, 1885), Start Page 3, Quote page 17, Doubleday, Page & Company, New York. (HathiTrust)
2. The Mark Twain approach
Mark Twain was intrigued by Carnegie’s words and included it in one of his many notebooks.
Behold, the fool saith, “Put not all thine eggs in the one basket”—which is but a manner of saying, “Scatter your money and your attention”; but the wise man saith, “Put all your eggs in the one basket and — WATCH THAT BASKET.”
Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar.
Food for thought
What do you think? Should we throw caution to the wind and carry all our eggs in one basket? Maybe we can survive the challenges, just like the cat!