Thursday, August 11, 2016

Less Is More in the 'Excess of Everything' Age

What we can learn Olympic boxers, cyclists, amateur fly-fishermen and backyard trampoline enthusiasts.

On the advice of our client, Gary Klaben of Chicago-based Coyle Financial Counsel, I picked up a copy of Matthew May’s The Laws of Subtraction. I was trying to squeeze in a little R&R in the deep woods of western Michigan where my wife’s family maintains a fishing cottage about 7 miles and several dirt roads from the heart of one of the 10 poorest counties in the U.S. It’s on the banks of a renowned fly-fishing and salmon-fishing river, but Internet access and cell service is spotty.

For Type A’s like myself, it can be maddening to be unplugged from the grid, and also very difficult to find a gym, swimming pool or reliable paved road to work off your excess energy. At first I tried to fight the swift flowing river, but you just can’t swim, paddle or fly cast upstream for long before you eventually run out of energy and start sliding backwards. You also realize that your body is naturally conserving energy for your return to the frenetic world back home—just like your brain is.

Waking up at the crack of 10 am (we’re in the far, far western edge of the eastern time zone), you also realize how information-overloaded we are the rest of the year. As Matthew May would say, we’re caught up in “the age of the excess of everything.”

According to May, you need to start
removing all the “excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use, or ugly” things that cloud our decision-making process.  We don’t need more premium, bonus or enhanced features—WE NEED LESS!

Our take? Start cutting back on email and text messaging every day and then try a 24-hour technology fast every week or at least limit your email/texting time to 3 intervals per day. Then start eliminating non-essential meetings, conference calls, commuting, air travel, HR trainings and other time-sucks. Then eliminate all the planning and confirmations needed to schedule the aforementioned. Guess what? All of a sudden you can think.

Laws of subtraction in sports

If you’ve been following the Olympics, you see the laws of subtraction at work. Believe it or not, it’s actually safer for boxers NOT to wear headgear because researchers found that
head guards create a bigger target for boxers, who in turn attempt more head blows. Experts say head gear also gives boxers a false sense of security. Still not convinced?  Well several studies, including one commissioned by the International Boxing Association, (IBA) found that the number of acute brain injuries declined when head guards were not used. And the IBA found that the number of times a fight was stopped because of one boxer receiving repeated head blows fell 43 percent in bouts without head guards compared with fights with head guards.

If you follow bicycle racing, you’ll also notice that the elite riders—who sometimes pedal over 100 miles per day—ride in Spartan saddles with holes or deep slits in the middle. You’d think that with all that riding they’d want seats with extra padding, but it turns out that minimalist seatsdo more for rider comfort than heavy padding does and reduce the risk of prostate and sterility issues.

How about the backyard trampoline? We’ve always had one in the back yard and never bothered with protective netting around it (sorry homeowners insurance). Without a net, kids are less likely to take excessive risks and less likely to get the elbows, ankles or new braces caught up in it.

Not to be a spoiler, May offers 6 laws for eliminating mental clutter and simplifying your life:

Law #1: What Isn't There Can Often Trump What Is

Law #2: The Simplest Rules Create the Most Effective Experience

Law #3: Limiting Information Engages the Imagination

Law #4: Creativity Thrives Under Intelligent Constraints

Law #5: Break Is the Important Part of Breakthrough

Law #6: Doing Something Isn't Always Better Than Doing Nothing

It’s a quick and easy read if you can find the time. If you can’t find the time, we suggest you make the time to do so. As regular readers of this blog know, we recommend getting started on your New Year’s resolutions around Thanksgiving time. By the same token, August is the new September. Don’t wait until after Labor Day to start getting focused for Q4.


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