It's Not What You Add

Darren Matthews
Last Updated:
A young man contemplates one weekly decision—the subject of this email
Table of Contents

There is a paradox to growth no one likes to hear.

It’s this:

Doing more doesn’t always create more.

There are countless examples. Take the Apple product range that had grown to an epic size in the run-up to the near bankruptcy of the business in 1996. Steve Jobs famously cut the Apple range down to four products thus reducing inventory and focusing the business on quality rather than quantity.

The lesson is a central one in the book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown.

In it he makes a simple point about less, but better.

We live in an accelerating world where the inclination is to join in. If we can keep up, we can grow too is the rationale. It is a fallacy.

We end up stretched too thin and over-invested in doing something we don’t really want or understand. We end up chasing a life we don’t want—stuck on a doom wheel going nowhere.

When it comes to making decisions, the same is true.

Making more decisions doesn’t make you a better decision-maker.

The paradox of growth applies to your decisions too. Making more choices creates fatigue and leads to poor-quality decisions which often feed regret.

Some might mock the grey t-shirt man, Mark Zuckerberg, but his focus on removing unnecessary decisions from his life shouldn’t be ignored. Limiting the choice of clothing he has to pick from his wardrobe reduces his decision load.

Others use rules to limit their choices. Others set constraints to prevent them from doing more than they need. Tim Ferriss famously asked what is one decision I can make that saves a hundred other decisions?

Quite simply, if you want to grow anything then understand this: It is not what you add that matters, it is what you take away.

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