Learning to Subtract

Learning how to subtract, to let go, delegate, outsource, reduce—eliminating to be stronger—is easily lost when the talk tilts towards “more on the plate to do”.

This is not meant to a counter intuitive Zen-like blog post, and we will now chant mantras virtually. It is a reminder that we can all subtract certain things to improve ourselves, a ‘clean-out-the-clutter’ blog.

We all aspire to be better than we are; more charming, knowledgeable, efficient, respected.

In bettering ourselves, many will try to up their game; on-going education, strategic training and workshops, professional certification, or simply running a race faster, all self improvement steps to gain a new insight or capability.

With more goals, objectives, project deadlines, targets, profitability, (not to mention the repugnant acronym “KPI”), the ‘to-do’ list adds up quickly.

[list style=”circle”]
  • Want to lose weight? You have to add exercise and subtract what and how you eat. Exercise alone won’t do it; reducing your intake as well achieves results.
  • Want to stop antagonising people at work or at home? Subtract the argumentative part of your conversation, and add (at a minimum) more neutral or supportive comments. As is true with losing weight, keep your mouth closed more often.
  • Want to stop being labelled a micro-manager? Subtract the “Only I know how to do it correctly” behaviour, and add more time advising others how to do it without you—and let them.
  • Want to stop being called wishy-washy? Subtract the “I’m not sure I can..”, “Do you really think this is alright to do?” and other ready-made excuses from your conversation. Stop being hesitatingly defensive. Listening and acknowledging is plenty to start redefining yourself.
  • Want to stop scaring people your scowl? Subtract the facial contractions, say “easy cheese” to yourself and quickly close you mouth. Really.
  • [/list]

    Do you have projects/clients/staff/deadlines that are:
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  • draining and not likely going to move the needle for you
  • ones you won’t get credit for
  • potentially explosive
  • a money loser
  • [/list]

    Think about subtracting them.

    In jazz, knowing what not to play and how to use musical space is a sign of a true artist, usually accomplished after decades of playing..

    Less can be better as you progress in your career. Once you learn how to subtract, only then you can add. Carefully.

    Written by Neal Horwitz, MD of Henry Hale Maguire

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