Simplifying life: the advantages of subtraction

When it comes to thinking about ways to improve our lives, businesses or other personal goals, there’s a tendency to consider addition as an option. I need to add services ‘X’, ‘Y’, and ‘Z’ to be more competitive in my market. I have to acquire this device to be more creative. I will buy all these products to be healthier.

I recently came across the concept of subtractive knowledge: “the idea that the most robust knowledge consists of understanding what is incorrect and what to avoid.” (Joseph Markel).

So, instead of adding, how about subtracting? Here’s a few more thoughts on this approach.

Knowledge grows by subtraction much more than by addition – given that what we know today might turn out to be wrong, but what we know to be wrong cannot turn out to be right, at least not easily.

Nassim taleb (excerpt from antifragile)

This means that it can be more beneficial to ask yourself “what are the things that I should avoid?” than asking “what should I do?”

So instead of launching ‘X’, ‘Y’, and ‘Z’ services for your business right away, consult with your customers what aspects of your existing services are cumbersome for them. You might find that adding ‘X’, ‘Y’, and ‘Z’ wouldn’t even be necessary.

Instead of relying on certain devices to be more creative, try identifying all sources of distraction to avoid interruptions; that way, you have more time to work on ideas.

Instead of buying all kinds of pills to lose weight, you can avoid specific foods for a healthier diet.

Stop adding things, and start removing what’s holding you back.

What are the things you can start removing right now?

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