The Best Way To Add More To Your Life/Career Is To Subtract From It


Most people look to make their life better by adding something. Get healthy by exercising more. Get the team more productive by adding more people. Be more successful by gaining more knowledge. In fact the opposite is true. To get better, you need to remove things.

When I discovered I had a tumor 15 years ago, one of the things I learned along the path to vitality was that I had to remove things from my life to get healthier. It is not that I didn’t add things. But I removed things first.

When the doctors said “cut it out right away” they were in apparent alignment with this approach – remove first. This of course assumes that the disease is in a location, rather then through the system.Sometimes a surgical approach is needed – cut out the thing or the person before they contaminate the rest of the organizational body.

However in my experience diseases are not sourced in a location – as most organizational failings are not the result of a person or group of people. The source is the thinking, methods and protocols of functioning.

I found that the best solution for me was to not get surgery. Instead to cut out other things – thoughts, friends, time. As I paused and reflected, I saw that some of my thoughts were not healthy, I felt bad around some of my friends and some of how I spent my time was contributing to staying ill.  Even elements of my work at the time were bringing me down.  I needed to get rid of these things. Get rid of fears, get rid of talking about what was wrong, get rid of spending time with people who I felt bad around.

Systematically I began to remove these things from life – I stopped spending time with some people, I stopped wasting time on unimportant activities, and when I caught myself being negative, I stopped it in the moment.

Once I got rid of these things, then I had the space to add in the good.  I had lots of free time.  Time I could fill with things I loved – my wife, my new daughter, playing the piano.  I had space and time to add in many new thoughts, new people, new fun.  And space to add in healing herbs, vitamins, supplements, and juices. Removing my negativity,  I added positivity. Interestingly as I added in all this good stuff into the space where the bad stuff was, the tumor started to shrink.

The same is true at work.

People think to be more successful they need to be more….decisive, inclusive, enthusiastic, communicative, patient, etc.. To be a better team they need to add more enthusiasm, more meetings, more collaboration. In fact to improve, every leader and team I have helped over the past 20 years has had to remove something to get better. Instead of just plowing ahead and adding a new idea or skill to stop the organizational disease, they needed to remove something:

* Remove the answers – The team is there to solve problems and make things happen.  If you try to solve it all, you don’t have a team, you have slaves.  Some of you need to subtract from your mind –  “I have the answers..or better answers..than my team”.  Stop solving it all and empower them to create the organization you envision.

* Remove distractions –  A leaders job is to get people focused liked a laser beam on strategic items.  Not to keep up with 10 or 15 top priorities.  Or a new emergency every week. One executive proudly told me he had 10 top priorities for the year.  When I asked his team members, they could each only come up with 5 – and with only some overlap.   The 10 were a distraction. Keep focused, keep it small, keep it doable keep moving forward together towards your vision.

*  Remove air time – I just spent a few days with a leader who can’t seem to help himself.  He takes up all the air time.   Its not dumb stuff, but intelligent thoughtful stuff.  But is sucks the air right out of the room and the people, leaving everyone deflated.  He might think these people are quiet because they have nothing to say – not at all – they fear they are going to say something that will get him talking again.  Sad.  Sad for everyone.  Sad for the team, because they are not a team.  With just a little self control, he subtracted some his words and let others add theirs in – he was amazed at how much everyone else had to offer.   Just try to remove some talking and be a little more quiet – you’ll be amazed at what happens

Sometimes a surgical approach is needed – cut out the thing or the person before they contaminate the rest of the organizational body.  However most organizational diseases are not sourced in a person or location. The source is thinking, methods and protocols.  So identify and remove the things that are killing you.  Then you will have room to breathe life into yourself and your organization.

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