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Weekly 3: When less > more

Summary: Adopt a spartan mindset. Use subtraction as well as addition. Isolate the essential. (~4 min

Idea Journal Weekly 3

February 10 · Issue #73 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Adopt a spartan mindset. Use subtraction as well as addition. Isolate the essential. (~4 min read)

#1. When you're practicing a skill, luxury is not your friend
Author and productivity expert Daniel Coyle writes in The Little Book of Talent that we all love comfort: from state-of-the-art gyms and fancy corner offices, to spotless locker rooms and fluffy towels.
The problem is that luxury is a “motivational narcotic” – it signals to our unconscious mind that it’s OK to give less effort. It whispers to us, Relax you’ve made it.
But as Coyle points out, places that consistently produce high-achieving performers across a range of disciplines are the opposite of luxurious.
Top music camps consist mainly of rundown cabins, even though they could easily afford better. The North Baltimore Aquatic Club, which has produced the swimmer Michael Phelps and other Olympic medalists, “could pass for an underfunded YMCA.” The world’s highest-performing schools, according to rankings of the Program for International Student Assessment, are in Finland and South Korea and feature austere classrooms that look as if they’re from the 1950s.
For Coyle, the lesson here isn’t moral – it’s neural. Spaces that are simple and humble help focus our attention on the task of deep practice: reaching and repeating and struggling.
As you’re developing your skills in a craft, if you’re given a choice between luxurious and spartan, he recommends choosing spartan – your unconscious mind will thank you.
#2. Adding more things to your life isn't the only option
Entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes on his blog that your life can be improved by adding things to it – or by subtracting things from it.
Other people and organizations often push us to add more things to our lives because it benefits them, but as Sivers notes, “the secret is to focus on subtracting.”
The adding mindset is deeply ingrained – it’s easy to think of what else you need, but it’s harder to look at what to remove.
For Sivers, the least successful people he knows are drawn to distractions, run in conflicting directions, are chained to emotional obstacles, and say yes to almost everything.
Whereas the most successful people he knows “have a narrow focus, protect against time-wasters, say no to almost everything, and have let go of old limiting beliefs.”
#3. Find the epicenter of your work
In their book Rework, entrepreneurs Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson write that whenever you’re creating something new, there are forces pulling you in a variety of directions.
There’s the stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do.  
Fried and Heinemeier Hansson recommend you start with the stuff you have to do – this is your epicenter.
Imagine you’re opening a hot dog stand. You might be tempted to worry about the cart, the condiments, the decoration, or the name. But you should first focus on the hot dogs – they are your epicenter. Everything else is secondary.
A hot dog stand isn’t a hot dog stand without the hot dogs. You can take away the mustard, onions, or relish. Some people may not like your hot dogs because they don’t have those condiments, but you would still have a hot dog stand.
You can find the epicenter of what you’re creating by asking, If I took this away, would what I’m selling still exist?
If what you’re creating will still exist without some element, then that element is not your epicenter.
Once you find the epicenter, Fried and Heinemeier Hansson suggest you focus all your energy on making it as good as it can be: “Everything else you do depends on that foundation.”
Quote of the Week
“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.”
- Designer and technology executive John Maeda in his book Laws of Simplicity
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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