* Note: This post is part of an ongoing series in which I am sharing the entire contents of a currently unpublished book I wrote last year, entitled: unBelievable: How to Get Unbelievable Results By Giving Up Believable Ideas. Review my blog's archives or do a search for unbelievable to see all previous posts.
You Get More When You Focus On Less
- Subtract until it breaks. - Justin Salsburey
- Your worth consists in what you are and not in what you have. – Thomas A. Edison
- He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough. – Lao Tzu
- Ninety percent of everything is crap. - Theodore Sturgeon
- It is not how much we have but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness. - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
- A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone. - Henry David Thoreau
- Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself to it. - Benjamin Franklin
- More is more!
- A big part of success is the ability to get everything I want!
- The more choices I have in life, the greater my sense of contentment.
- I've got so many things in my life, a lot of them I haven't even seen or used in a year or more! As a matter of fact, I rent storage space for some of it.
- I own _______ (fill in the blank), but I hardly ever use it. But it's there if I ever need it!
- Trying to live with less sounds like something only a person who has been 'defeated' by life would do.
- I love to shop, it's one of the pleasures that come from working so hard!
- I constantly bring more stuff into my life than I get rid of.
- Having less means I'm denying myself - I can't see how that will make my life better!
- Yeah I've got one of those already...but not THAT one!
- I have a boat?!?
Not the pre-ground, flavorless black dust that's packaged in small plastic containers and is often passed off as pepper, but the 'crushed-fresh in a pepper mill from actual peppercorns' kind.
Of course, this freshness comes at a small price - I have to regularly refill the pepper mill with fresh peppercorns. For me, that requires using a funnel. I put the small end of the funnel into the top of the pepper mill and dump peppercorns into the big end of the funnel.
During the refill process, if I take things at a slow and steady pace, I achieve a nice flow - the peppercorns make their way down the funnel, into the mill.
However, if I get impatient, by trying to dump too many peppercorns down the funnel at once, it quickly brings the whole operation to a screeching halt, because the hole at the small end of the funnel can't handle all I'm throwing at it and the flow stops. By doing this, I eliminate any possibility of getting the results I want (successfully refilling the mill), and unless I do something different, what I want to experience (fresh ground pepper) will be something I'll just have to learn to live without (hypothetically speaking).
What does this have to do with the idea that less is more? Well, if it's not obvious to you yet: How we live in and process our world, works a lot like that funnel.
Because we all have a limited amount of time each day, and because our brains are wired to help us make the most efficient use of that time, we can only consciously deal with a limited number of inputs (think the small end of the funnel), and give them the quality amount of our attention they deserve in order to reap the benefits of having them.
When we try to force too much stuff into our lives - information, things, and even people - we're going against the way things are supposed to work, which leads to a breakdown of the system (life). Instead of results, we get overwhelm, stress, and a lower quality of life - a bunch of bad stuff we really don't want.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the way that many people live their lives these days - they're bent on getting, owning, and consuming more, more, and more.
If it's the wrong way of doing things, why do so many people buy into this lifestyle?
Because somewhere along the way, they were convinced to believe that the getting and consumption of more and more stuff is the only path to true happiness. It's repeatedly drilled into their heads: How can you be happy without the latest and greatest, and how in the world can you feel satisfied by owning just one or two of them?!?
The reality is that, happiness and satisfaction come from experiencing positive RESULTS, not through the filling of every part of your life with an ever-growing collection of things that put bigger demands on your time, energy, and resources. This is why a mountain man in Alaska with virtually nothing to his name can be very happy and deeply satisfied - the key to his happiness and contentment doesn't come from the pursuit of more stuff, but from the fact that his way of life allows him to regularly experience the results he wants.
And when it comes to getting more and better results, the only way to do it is to keep the 'flow' of life moving. Anything that clogs this flow, or slows it down, has to be eliminated. This is where the mindset of less is more comes into play - it helps you eliminate anything unnecessary in order to keep this flow moving at an optimal level.
So what's the core mindset you need to adopt if you want to live a life of 'less is more', and reap the benefits?
It's simply this: Always choose quality over quantity!
Soon we'll discuss how to put this mindset to work for you in several specific areas of your life, but for now, realize that, in general, it requires you to:
- Simplify - Stop introducing more stuff into your life without solid reasons for doing so
- Eliminate - Trim down the things in your life to those that you use and benefit from on a regular basis, and get rid of the rest
- Master - Get REALLY good at a few things, instead of just 'kind of good' at many
- Focus - Become aware of things that give you the greatest result for the least amount of effort
Let's consider the fundamental reasons why it makes sense to take this approach in life, all of which center largely on doing nothing more than giving your mind and body exactly what it wants.
To begin this exploration, let me ask you a question: How much stuff - information, things, and people - do you currently allow into your life?
Are you like many people, convinced that the more of each of these that you have, the happier you'll be?
Well, let me ask you a follow-up question: When you bring more of any of these things into your life, what's your reason for doing so? What do you expect to get in return? Isn't it that you expect them to fill a need or desire you have? You want a result of some sort.
Now, do you want just ordinary results, or would you rather like to experience extraordinary results? Well, as humans, I would say that most of us are, by far, interested in experiencing extraordinary results (quality), even if it means we have to do with less (quantity), which it often does.
For example, when it comes to eating, if you're only caring for your own needs, which would you choose: A huge bucket of rice and a gallon of water (a quantity of food), or a small steak and lobster dinner with all the trimmings, along with a small glass of wine (quality food)?
Here's another example. Once again, accounting for your own needs, would you rather own 10 old black and white televisions (a quantity of TVs), or one, brand new, HD, plasma television (a quality TV)?
We put a much higher value on the quality of results we experience than the quantity of things that can bring us an experience. This is a universal principle, and works this way across the board - with everything in life.
Why does it work this way?
Because we're emotionally-driven beings, and the higher-quality something is, the deeper it impacts us emotionally - it makes us feel really good inside, something we all crave to our core!
Think about it, what affects you more:
- Watching an Oscar-winning movie or 30 YouTube videos of kids doing skateboarding tricks?
- Receiving a handwritten card from a close friend expressing their affection for you or 20 Facebook updates from people you hardly even know about things you don't even care about?
- Listening to your favorite song of all time or listening to an entire album of music from garage bands from around the country that you've never heard of?
In each of these examples, less is more - the quality of the experience is of higher value to us than having a quantity of experiences.
Having a quality experience is dependent on more than just how well something is made, it also depends on your willingness to single it out as something special, and give it a decent chunk of our time and attention. In other words, you'll only get out of it what you put into it.
This is the reason why more becomes less because, as mentioned earlier, you have a limited amount of time and attention, and if you spread it too thin, by trying to consume and manage too many things, you'll experience something, but it's not going to have the deep, emotional impact on you that it could. You'll experience ordinary results instead of extraordinary ones.
So this idea of less is more really boils down to figuring out what results/experiences are really important to you (getting to less), making each of them a priority in your life, and then devoting quality time, energy, and resources to them in order to extract the greatest value from them (to experience more).
Do this, and your life will 'flow' like never before!
Virtually every area of your life is affected by this principle, but due to a whole host of reasons, it would be impossible to discuss every single area. So let's just look at several practical ways of applying this mindset in life, and as we do, notice how simplicity, elimination, mastery, and focus are really the driving forces behind how it works:
We live in a society that's flooded with knowledge and information.
There are literally BILLIONS of books, magazines, and web sites that promise to teach us something useful.
The problem is that so many of us try to consume as much of it as we can by buying book after book, magazine after magazine, and bookmarking site after site, and then wonder why we feel overwhelmed all the time - kind of crazy, right?
It's almost like we're presented with this endless buffet of knowledge, and we keep going up to get more and more because our hunger never seems to get satisfied. And therein lies the problem.
If our hunger for knowledge and understanding isn't being deeply satisfied, it may be because we're simply consuming what we're taking in, but not digesting it. And without digestion, there is no value being extracted from what's being consumed.
Do you think buying and reading a bunch of books will make you smarter? There's no denying that a lot of people seem to think so. Just look at the row after row of books they have on their bookshelf. Not only that, but they have a whole stack of books just waiting to be read, and more on order from Amazon.
Being this enthused about learning is great, but if all you're doing is reading, reading, and reading, and you never take the time to digest - or make application of what you're learning - then your hunger for knowledge will likely never be satisfied to the level it could be.
It's always been a bit strange to me that someone will read a book about a topic, learn a ton of useful ways to improve some area of their life, and before even implementing a single one of those new ideas they learned, they're off to read another book about the same topic (they don't take the time to digest).
But here's the bottom line: Knowledge without action is worthless!
Spending your valuable time constantly reading, which leaves virtually no time for applying what you learn, is largely a waste of time.
You're better off to select 5 books in your library and do everything you can to learn and master what they teach you, than you are to simply read 100 books.
The same principle applies to magazines, and web sites. Stop collecting all of them that you run into. Instead, find the best ones, eliminate the rest, and focus on extracting real value from the ones that are left.
Less is more!
Believing the idea that too much physical stuff in life (things you buy) is a bad thing, is a concept that a lot of people have a hard time wrapping their heads around. And it's no wonder when you consider the fact that from the moment we're born, to the moment we die, our desire to consume is aroused and constantly fueled.
We're regularly fed ideas that ultimately shape our core beliefs, like:
- It's not good enough to just have a car, you need a garage full of cars.
- A comfortable house won't make you happy, success means striving for a huge house full of rooms you'll rarely use, or even multiple houses you'll only use occasionally.
- Your house can't just be filled with what you need, it's got to be filled with so much stuff, that your closets are considered too small for your needs and your garage no longer holds your car, but acts as extra storage place for all your excess stuff.
There's certainly nothing wrong with buying and enjoying things, but when you have too many things in your life, you go from using your limited time, energy, and resources finding ways to enjoy and experience them to the fullest, to wasting it on maintaining and paying for them all.
Living a life with a focus on less isn't about denying yourself enjoyment, it's about becoming more aware of how to extract the most value from what you already own, which has a huge side benefit of igniting your creativity, resourcefulness, and appreciation for those things, not to mention the freedom that comes from avoiding the debt that's usually associated with buying more.
In other words:
- It's not about denying yourself that fancy indoor exercise machine, it is about discovering that you can exercise for free by walking, enjoy it with a friend, and get plenty of fresh air at the same time.
- It's not about denying yourself that new flatscreen TV in your bedroom, it is about discovering that your time right before bed might be better spent reading something of value, talking with your mate, or even going to bed earlier than you normally do, so you can wake up refreshed for once!
- It's not about your denying your kid the latest video game system, it is about freeing up their time to pursue a hobby, get outside and get active, or simply spend more time with the rest of the family.
Yes, these are real-world, practical suggestions. They may go against everything the advertising world wants to convince you that you need to be happy and content, but it's probably not a good idea to take advice from an industry that puts their profit over your well-being.
It can't hurt to at least try this approach for 6 months to a year, to see for yourself whether what I'm saying is true or not, right? Who knows, you might be pleasantly shocked at how it totally transforms your finances, relationships, creativity, health, and overall happiness.
Stop striving to get more, and instead look for ways to enjoy meaningful experiences from less.
Life is full of to do's. The car needs an oil change, the garage needs cleaned and organized, you've got to check and answer your email, there's a meeting you've got to attend, the kids need to go to soccer practice, and at least several dozen other things - and that's just today.
So what do you normally do, you make a list of everything, and I mean everything, you need to take care of with the high hopes that you'll start at the top and work your way down, until you've completed all your tasks for the day, and scratched everything off the list.
In reality, what happens?
Well, you look at item #1 on the list, and your eye can't help but be drawn to item #2, which leads you to check out item #3, and so on, until you've made it all the way down your list, with each new line feeling like a big shovel of dirt being thrown on you until you're completely buried alive.
While it's a good idea to get things out of your head and onto paper (including everything you need to take care of), in order to feel motivated to take action on the items on that list (instead of overwhelmed), each day you need to identify just the several items you want to focus on accomplishing for that day (priorities), and move them to a separate list.
The important part of this strategy isn't simply looking at a long list of to dos and consciously determining which items from that list you want to do today, but you've got to physically create a smaller list (on a Post-It note if you want).
Why is focusing on a smaller list so important?
Well, when it comes to getting things done in life, you'll make more progress each day if you can 'keep your foot on the gas' (by devoting more time to fewer things), than you will if you start, shop, and shift gears constantly (by spending little chunks of time on a lot of different tasks).
Not only that, but starting each day with a small, focused list of to dos will help your brain to think more efficiently about the small group of tasks you've selected, and you'll find yourself working in a 'flow' more often, and with greater force.
So what about all those pesky little tasks you need to take care of? Just combine and complete as many of them as you can within a single chunk of time (maybe half a day each week). This will allow you to handle all the to dos in your life, but organized in a way that promotes a steady flow of results.
If you own a business, you understand how critically important it is to have the ability to motivate people to take action in some way in relation to your business. You want them to call you, sign up for something, and eventually to buy something from you.
The success of this entire process is based on clear communication - the more clearly that people understand the benefits of what you offer them and what they need to do to get those benefits, the more action they'll likely take. The less they understand, the less likely they'll take any action, which means little to no business for you.
So many businesses get this wrong. How?
In their marketing materials, they often attempt to throw everything they have at a customer or potential client - every product, service, method of contact, award, certification, resource, employee name, and so on - thinking that they've got to present anything and everything they have that might provide a 'hook' to get the customer to do something.
While that might logically make sense, in reality, just the opposite happens.
Most people look at marketing like this, get easily overwhelmed at all the information and choices being thrown at them all at once, and instead of taking action, their brains tell them that there's too much confusion and a clear decision can't be made, so it's best to move on to something else (like a competitor).
For example, how many times have you visited a business website where the homepage was packed from side to side with so many graphics or links that you had absolutely no idea where to start, or what you needed to do next, so you just hit the back button on your browser and went somewhere else?
Or how often have you passed a sign or billboard along the side of the road that had so much information on it, that it was virtually impossible to understand what it was promoting or what you were supposed to do about it?
These are the results (or lack of results) of the more is less approach - more information and clutter leading to less action from the people who see it.
How do you turn this around using the less is more approach? It's simple! With every point of contact you have with a customer or potential client (business cards, ads, websites, etc.), you need to decide on the #1 result you want to have from it, and then provide the most simple, clear path for them to take action toward that result.
For example, when you hand someone your business card, it's important that it quickly convey to the receiver the biggest pain you can solve or the most important benefit you can provide them, along with the quickest way to contact you. Here's an idea of what I mean:
My name is Gordon.
I cook tasty, healthy meals and deliver them to your door!
Tell me what you're hungry for...
As you can see, the benefit of the service is clear, and the action that the prospect needs to take in order to get the service is clear.
Cluttering things up by including information like a fax number, address, certifications, and so on, do little but confuse the message at this point, and prevent people from taking action. You can put those things on various pages within the website your card refers them to, so that they're only exposed to them after they've taken action and showed an interest in what you have to offer them.
This is another clear case where less (info) brings more (results).
I could go on with even more ideas and examples of where implementing this principle could dramatically increase the results you're getting with your marketing and business communication, but teaching you marketing skills isn't the purpose of this book. I simply wanted to help you appreciate how universally applicable this principle really is, and how it can have a positive impact on virtually every area of your life and business, if you just look for ways of using it.
- Because we all have a limited amount of time and attention, we can only consciously deal with a limited number of inputs, and give them the quality amount of our attention they deserve in order to reap the benefits of having them.
- When we try to force too much stuff into our lives, we're going against the way things are supposed to work, which leads to a breakdown of the system (life). Instead of results, we get overwhelm, stress, and a lower quality of life.
- Somewhere along the way, many people were convinced to believe that the getting and consumption of more and more stuff is the only path to true happiness. It's repeatedly drilled into their heads.
- Happiness and satisfaction come from experiencing positive RESULTS, not through the filling of every part of your life with an ever-growing collection of things that put bigger demands on your time, energy, and resources.
- When it comes to getting better results, the only way to do it is to keep the 'flow' of life moving. Anything that clogs this flow, or slows it down, has to be eliminated. This is where the mindset of 'less is more' comes into play - it helps you eliminate anything unnecessary in order to keep this flow moving at an optimal level.
- Always choose quality over quantity: Simplify, eliminate, master, focus.
- We put a much higher value on the quality of results we experience than the quantity of things that can bring us an experience. Why? Because we're emotionally driven beings, and the higher quality something is, the deeper it impacts us emotionally - it makes us feel really good inside.
- You have a limited amount of time and attention, and if you spread it too thin, by trying to consume and manage too many things, you'll experience something, but it's not going to have the deep, emotional impact on you that it could. You'll experience ordinary results instead of extraordinary ones.
- Less Is More - Knowledge: Knowledge without action is worthless! Spending your valuable time constantly reading, which leaves virtually no time for applying what you learn, is largely a waste of time. You're better off to select 5 books in your library and do everything you can to learn and master what they teach you, than you are to simply read 100 books.
- Less Is More - Things: When you have too many things in your life, you go from using your limited time, energy, and resources finding ways to enjoy and experience them to the fullest, to wasting it on maintaining and paying for them all. Stop striving to get more, and instead look for ways to enjoy meaningful experiences from less.
- Less Is More - Time: When it comes to getting things done in life, you'll make more progress each day if you can 'keep your foot on the gas' (by devoting more time to fewer things), than you will if you start, shop, and shift gears constantly (by spending little chunks of time on a lot of different tasks).
- Less Is More - Business Communication: With every point of contact you have with a customer or potential client (business cards, ads, websites, etc.), you need to decide on the #1 result you want to have from it, and then provide the most simple, clear path for them to take action toward that result.