The Art of Doing Less
|June 13, 2012||Posted by Roshawn Watson under Uncategorized|
By: Roshawn Watson
One of the reasons that the rich get richer is because they are proficient in doing more and more with less and less. Their ability to extract the best out of their portfolios, businesses, and other assets, even in cases of limited capital, speaks to their mental leverage and ingenuity. I find this interesting because sometimes we create artificial barriers to our success. We claim that we are on the right paths and that we’re “judicious with how we spend our resources, yet circumstances prevent our success. While this may be true, I’m constantly blown away by people who eliminate the excuses and produce anyway. At the end of the day, whatever you presently have, you have traded your time for. You have to decide whether it was a fair trade. You have to determine whether you would like the assessment of the sum total of your life. Should you be getting more bang for your buck, time, or other resource? In this article, we will discuss how you can have a lot more with less by visualizing your future, determining your core contribution, and investing in yourself.
What You See Is What You Get
You only qualify for a future that you can see. Unfortunately, what you see is shaped by your context. According to Stephen Covey, most people have a scarcity mentality. This paradigm is deeply rooted in the fear of lack. It says that there is only so much available, so I have to make sure that I get mine. If your pie slice is too large, that means there is less available for everyone else. There are always losers with scarcity mentality. People with this paradigm tend to be petty and stingy and rarely praise someone else, regardless of his or her contribution to their successes. Fortunately, there is more than a single pie! Abundance mentality is diametrically opposed to scarcity mentality. It originates from a deep sense of “personal worth and security.” It says there is plenty more laid up in store, so there’s no need to be so territorial. We can all win.
Related Article: Why The Rich Get Richer
Think you can or think you can’t, you’re right either way.
Your paradigm is not trivial. It will literally frame the rest of your life. It will determine whether you become a giver or a hoarder, whether you need to be the star or can function as a team player, whether you stick with a lengthy job search or throw your hands up in despair, and whether you pursue an ambitious career path or settle for mediocrity. Having an abundance mentality means that you see opportunities when someone with scarcity mentality sees challenges. It determines your hope and ultimately your success.
Choose Your Paradigm
Fortunately, you can choose the lens that frames your life. Tony Robbins illustrated this point masterfully with the following story. A gentleman grew up and had an average life but fell on tough times. He began to use alcohol and drugs as crutches. In a moment of despair, he robbed a convenience store both to get more alcohol and drugs and to provide for his family. During the robbery, the proprietor of the store made a sudden movement, and the robber instinctively sprayed bullets. The store owner was fatally wounded. The shooter went to prison. At the time, his 2 sons (2 years apart in age) were very young. Someone decided to check in with the 2 sons when they were in their early thirties. One son was a successful salesman and had 3 children of his own and a happy family. The other son turned to alcohol and drugs and robbed a little store, much like his father. This time, no one was killed, but he had a gun, was eventually caught, and ended up in prison.
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They were each asked “how do you explain where you are in life at this particular time?” Both sons, without a talking to each other, answered almost identically. The successful son said “with a father who was in prison, I had a perfect role model of what not to do. I chose to create a different life.” The second son said “with a father who ended up in prison as a role model, how could I have done anything differently?” Both brothers cited their father as the reason for their lives ending up the way they did, yet their lives were vastly different. Likewise, we can choose how we respond to life’s circumstances by consciously choosing the paradigm of abundance. The circumstances don’t determine your future. Your responses to them do.
Determine Your Core Contribution
Another aspect of doing more and more with less and less is determining your core contribution. Most of us are poor multi-taskers. For many, balance is an illusion. That doesn’t resolve us to a dichotomy of either adequate provision or a fulfilled life. Let explore three case studies of people whose lives were (are) not defined by what most would consider production, yet by focusing on their life’s passions predominantly and making money secondarily, they were still able to carve out better than average (understatement) existences while leaving a distinctive body of work.
Case Study 1: Henry David Thoreau
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” Henry David Thoreau
Philosopher Henry David Thoreau had some fascinating insights on the value of the items we buy, particularly with respect to our lives. He believed the things we buy don’t just cost money, they cost us time, effort, and sacrifice. They cost us our lives. Thus, he was particularly careful with how he expended his resources. In fact, he devoted just six weeks a year to earning income. During that time, he produced enough income to thrive for the rest of the year. The overflow from his abundance during that period was enough to sustain him. The rest of his time was spent researching, thinking, wandering, and writing.
I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely. Henry David Thoreau
I believe one of the most powerful takeaways from his philosophy is that we should think more carefully about the true costs of our purchases and even our work. When you purchase finance that car over the next 4 years, ask yourself if it was worth 4 years of your life? When you toil 48 to 50 grueling weeks working every year, are you more fulfilled or merely receiving a paycheck? Obviously, he lived during a different time than us, so you may wonder whether his model is reproducible today, which brings us to the following two examples.
Case Study #2: Rick Warren
Popular author and minister Rick Warren is a modern day example of someone who is not overly dependent on earning income (traditional production). His seminal work, Purpose Drive Life, sold in excess of 30,000,000 copies as of 2007 according to Publisher’s Weekly. For years, he has lived on a tiny fraction of what he earns in royalties, and he returned 25 years of salary to his ministry and reportedly hasn’t received a salary from it in years. He gives away a whopping 90% of his income. Hmm, does that sound familiar? Thoreau thrived on working a mere 12% of the year (6 weeks), just as Rick Warren can thrive on 10% of his income.
Case Study #3: Jim Collins
Another person who has embraced doing more with less is business consultant and author Jim Collins. His New York Times profile indicated that he spends 53% of his time on creative, 28% on teaching, and 19% on other endeavors. When compiling his research into a book, he enters into an intense “monk” mode, where he writes 7 days a week. On days where he has a fit of inspiration, he estimates that he may write a single page a day on average. Each of his books is a $500,000 project, taking several years to complete. He elects not to do book tours.
Based on his level of output, compared to prolific authors such as James Patterson, you may think that he is not producing enough. However, he is embracing how he works and has achieved success in his own right. He has sold a combined total of over 7 million copies of Built to Last and Good to Great alone. He is in the top echelon of public speakers, receiving upward of $60,000 at a time. Not only does he turn down numerous requests (does fewer than 18 speeches per year), but he asks attendees to come to his facilities. Like Thoreau, he is not dependent on constant production, in the traditional sense, to sustain his lifestyle.
Now, fortunately, I can probably spend the rest of my life picking any question I want to, regardless of whether it will be profitable. Jim Collins
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As illustrated by all three case studies, your financial success doesn’t have to be defined by constant production. Through proper development of your core competencies and management of your personal finances, you can write your own ticket. The irony is that by zoning in on what you do best and your passions, you stand to make your biggest financial gains. These are all men who appear obsessed with leaving an indelible mark with their bodies of work.
Maximize Your Time
I hope you’re convinced to get more and more from less and less is not as simple as simply increasing production. Instead, we need to invest more time in production capacity. This requires what Stephen Covey called “sharpening the saw.” The principle is central to our renewal and longevity. Covey went on and called this “the single most powerful investment we can ever make in life-investment in ourselves, in the only instrument we have with which to deal with life and to contribute. We are the instruments of our own performance, and to be effective, we need to recognize the importance of taking time regularly to sharpen the saw…” This is undoubtedly what Abraham Lincoln meant when he said…
Give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first 4 sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln
Sharpening the saw concerns itself with making daily deposits in the mental, social, physical, and spiritual spheres of life. The thought is that when you are operating from abundance in these areas, you will be able to outperform what you could have done if you were unprepared and/or exhausted . Henry Ford famously drew a distinction between “busyness” and “productivity.” Flurry of activity doesn’t equal productivity. He felt that only the person who has the luxury of time could originate a creative thought. Don’t devalue what YOU bring to the table by ignoring your production capacity. I have said it numerous times, the best gift you can give others is often a better you.
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On a very visceral level, whenever I think or write about this topic, I am affected. I can’t help it. It immediately causes me to re-evaluate my priorities and output. As much as I love my to-do lists and systems of organization, it is unwise to assume that things cannot be improved significantly. As I reflect, I wonder: “what am I missing?” “what could I do if I valued my future over the latest episode of Law and Order: SVU?” I invite you to do some self-reflection as well.
Yesterday is in the tomb, but tomorrow is in the womb, so what future do you see?
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