February 17, 2022

Why You Should Subtract From Your Life More Often

What if the answer isn’t adding more?

I’ve been trying out the app Blinkist recently, and one of the books that caught my attention was Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less by Leidy Klotz.

It talks about our obsession with adding and wanting more, as well as our bias against subtraction. We usually associate “adding” with improvement and progress, while we think of lack and incompetence at the mention of “subtraction.”

But the book shows how thoughtful subtraction can improve our city infrastructure, grilled sandwiches, business strategies, and ultimately, our lives.

How to grow something by doing nothing

The book Subtract reminded me of the do-nothing farming practice.

Masanobu Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer, discovered this method in the 1970s. While his skeptics put their faith in modern machinery and agricultural techniques, Fukuoka learned to trust nature’s wisdom and dance with the seasons. And he was wise to do so.

His counterintuitive farming practice did not only yield a healthy and bountiful harvest but also enriched the soil year after year and required “less labor, no machines, and no fertilizer.”

Subtracting, not adding more, improved Fukuoka’s farming practice.

Do less but do better

When it comes to our daily work and lives, Farnam Street’s advice may come in handy:

“Do less but do better.
Any energy that goes into what doesn’t matter comes at the expense of what does.
With a little extra time, you can raise the standard from good enough to great.
Narrow the focus. Raise the standard. And set yourself apart.”

While minimalism has been trendy in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed how I associated it only with interior design, fashion, and aesthetics.

And that made me wonder. How about my calendars, goals, to-do lists, inboxes? Am I not still trapped in the pursuit of more?

This is why I love the idea behind this new finite social network called Minus, where you can only publish 100 posts. Forever.

On their About page, they wrote:

Just like life, Minus has limits.”

The site doesn’t monetize nor promote vanity metrics (likes, follows, etc.) that trigger jealousy, comparison, and the need to measure up. The only visible metric on the site is the number of posts remaining on your account. How refreshing is that?

When something is finite, we think about our choices more thoroughly. We do less but better.

This post was from the archives of Love Notes, a free and spontaneous newsletter for lifelong learners and creative souls. You can join the list here. Thanks for reading! ✨

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