I recently heard Sadhguru share 3 ways that people approach life and work:

  1. Idiot – these people don’t enjoy what they do each day
  2. Smart – these people have created a life where they do enjoy the activity and the people that they spend time with each day
  3. Genius – these people have learnt to love what they have to do. They know how to connect all important activity to their personal purpose and make it feel meaningful.

A couple of comments on youtube suggested that this was an “arrogant statement” and that not everybody has had access to education and opportunities. I don’t believe any of these 3 approaches are necessarily only accessed through formal education… in fact I see many well educated people from wealthy backgrounds who really struggle to get out of the “idiot” category.

Another comment on youtube suggested that we each operate at these 3 levels in different areas of our lives… it may be that you are a genius in health and exercise, but an idiot when it comes to personal finances… or a genius in your professional career and an idiot as a family member.

The route to genius involves having clarity on your purpose and a set of practices or rituals to connect necessary action to that sense of meaningful purpose.

What do you think? Where do you operate most of the time?

Addition

More, more, more… more projects, more goals, more connections… is the path to overwhelm.

Subtraction

Less, less, less… less projects, less goals, less connections… is the path to focus and renewal and energy.

I heard Mathew McConnachy in an interview yesterday. He said that back 10 years ago he was a movie actor, he had a production company, he had a music label and was promoting two artists… and he realized he was spread very thin… he was getting a C in everything. He shared a moment where he received a phone call from his team in the production company… and when he saw the caller id… he went “ugh” and he didn’t want to answer.

He immediately called his lawyer and said “I need to close these businesses down”.

I loved his metaphor that you can’t get As on everything in life. If you have no strategy for focus, for subtraction, you will spread yourself so thin that you guarantee that your best grade is a C+…. and there may be areas in your life where that is painful to you.

Learning to Subtract

There is so much out there on how to focus, how to have discipline, how to make progress…  

There is a lot less help on how to Subtract:

  • Letting go of things.
  • Closing chapters.
  • Saying No.

Subtraction and the Mid Life Crisis

Here’s a recent video of mine where I speak to this challenge – and how the need to subtract becomes most acute in “mid life” from 35 to 55 years old.  Before 35 you tend not to have enough skill, reputation, competence…  you need to be open to almost all the opportunities that come your way.  At 35 if you have developed competence and a positive reputation, you will start to be overwhelmed by opportunities.  If you don’t learn a new skill – Subtraction – you will grow to become a bitter and frustrated old person.

If you liked this post, you will also like Meaningful Contribution or The ABCs of a Fulfilling Life: Action, Belief, Curiosity, Discipline, Energy and Friends.