Multiplication Through Subtraction

Most people believe that producing a better result in some area of their life requires that they start doing something, that they add something to what they are already doing. Better results, as far as they are concerned, requires they do something new. Better is found through addition.

Taleb introduced me to the idea of Via Negativa, the idea that better is more often found in subtraction. It’s more likely that you will find the better results you want by subtracting, eliminating things instead of adding things.

You might improve your health by eliminating certain foods and food-like substances or calories in excess of what you need. You might improve your wealth by eliminating spending on things that bring you no real joy and no real value. You might also improve your work through elimination.

  • You can start by eliminating tasks and projects that aren’t going to move you towards your goals and outcomes. The time you recover is time that can dedicated to the tasks and projects that are most important and useful to you and others. Some time ago, I reviewed my project list and deleted eighty-percent of it, an exercise that not only freed up time but also provided clarity of purpose.
  • Distractions are now so many and varied that it can be difficult to eliminate them and give yourself over to what needs your attention. You can eliminate the Internet and the social apps that draw you away from the very few things that produce the most meaningful results. More difficult, but just as important, you can block your time and provide public notice to remove interruptions.
  • Email isn’t something you can easily drop. It is, however, something you can eliminate for hours at a time by closing your inbox. Unless you are in some role that requires you to monitor email to provide support, you can go two hours without responding to email with confidence your phone will ring if someone has an emergency that requires your attention.

For most sales professionals, one of the most important things they need to remove is the tasks (or transactions) that belong to someone else on their team. Subtraction hear multiplies results, even though it requires trust in your team.

More isn’t better. Better is better. Multiplication is found in subtraction, not addition.

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