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Winning through subtraction

“To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day.”  

– Lao Tzu

When it seems hard enough to get anything meaningful done; when we push ourselves in a futile quest for perfection, the answer is not to add to our to-do list or to beat ourselves up for falling short of our self-inflicted impossible goals.

When the world is already overflowing with choices; when just about anything we might conceivably want is available to us anytime, anywhere, anyway, we don’t need to check out more websites or click-through every page on our Google search.

When the folks we engage with–customers, family members, social groups and more–are deluged with messages imploring that we pay attention to them; when they are already struggling to separate the signal from the noise, more or louder doesn’t help.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not lacking in things to keep me busy. I receive more than enough emails. I have plenty of stuff. And shout-out to Bono for reminding me that the God I believe in isn’t short on cash.

Much of the time we delude ourselves into thinking that we don’t have enough; that we’d be better off with more information, more activity, more choices, more things.

Yet what is truly scarce is focus, meaning, connection, attention, relevance. And the abundance that matters is not achieved by piling more on or by merely throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.

If our hope is to breakthrough, to unclutter our minds as well as our homes, to lift up the significant out of the morass, we need to edit, curate, prune and customize.

Enough with the addition. Let’s celebrate and embrace subtraction.

HT to Matthew E. May and John Maeda

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