Applying Addition By Subtraction to Clarify and Achieve More


hack the unessential - bruce leeI get questions every day from my clients asking about some product, information bit, or training program they read about or saw an ad for online, in the paper, heard on the radio, or whatever.  Information and advertising is pretty much unavoidable in today’s world.  You’re taking in some info right now by reading this, for example.

I’m not trying to cast judgment on it or say that it’s all good or bad.  As I talked about last week, most everything falls on a spectrum somewhere.  What I am trying to say is that there’s a lot of it.

There’s so much info, in fact, that the tendency is to take all that information and do little to nothing with it (paralysis by analysis) OR to excitedly jump into the next best thing until a few minutes, days, or weeks later when the NEXT best thing comes along (Shiny Object Syndrome).  Either way you end up spinning your wheels and not making any real progress from where you are now towards what you’ve set for your goals.

This shit happens all the time in the fitness or nutrition world, but also in business/work life and relationships, as well.

I’m preface my next piece of advice by saying that, believe it or not, I’m human and I am not perfect at it, but here’s what’s been helping me:

Become better at the things I already do well by subtracting all the extra.

Probably most of you are familiar with The Pareto Principle, or more commonly called the “80/20 Rule”.  For the sake of being brief it states that 80% of your results will come from 20% of the components in your plan.

Basically, you’re going to have a few “big rocks”, as my mentor Vince Gabriele calls them, that give you some major return on your investment.  The rest will be little odds and ends of progress from a lot of different things contributing small amounts.  AAA, the auto club, is a good example of this.  Their big rocks are (I assume) their membership/service program and their insurance.  They have lots of little income streams from their affiliate hotels, travel services, sponsorship of products, and so on.

Casey Viator Overhead PressIn fitness, 80% of your results will come from 20% of your basic exercises.  For most people this is a squat, deadlift, press, row, and locomotion (walk, ruck, run) exercise.  All the extra stuff would be your isolation exercises, pre/rehab, and so on.

In relationships (romantic or otherwise), 80% of your success will come from spending mindful time with and listening to/conversing with people who you want a relationship with.  20% will come from all of the little things like calls, cards, flowers, aromatherapy candles, gimp masks, or whatever.

In business or work there’s going to be a couple of big things that are your moneymakers.  They may be filming video, going out and pressing the flesh with local businesses, hitting up trade shows, or hiring contractors to handle certain tasks.  The 20% might be filling out TPS reports, responding to an email thread about cleaning the break room, or cold calling from a list.

The best progress I’ve found in a long time has been letting go of a lot of the little things.  Not to say that they don’t have value and that you shouldn’t do any of them, but by finding some shiny objects or distractions to cut then you’ll free up time, reduce stress, and be able to devote even more of your resources (mental, financial, physical, spiritual) to the big winners.

Personally I’ve given up or at least shelved some side projects that, while I think they would be successful, would be just far enough outside of my area of expertise that they would take me a lot more time and resources in exchange for a more modest gain than that effort spent on pumping up my established winners would yield.

Relationship-wise I’ve cut ties or reduced my interaction with people who were energy vampires.  I’ve also reduced my non-productive social media activity, which is a big time and energy killer for a lot of people.  Social media is great, but I don’t have the time or inclination to be in or read 15 concurrent arguments by people I don’t really know about subjects that only hold a tertiary interest to me.

too busy memeI live a pretty full life, which is a nice thing to complain about, but I had reached the point a while back where the stress of keeping all the plates spinning, balls in the air, or whatever metaphor you like was quickly and obviously (to myself and everyone else) killing me.  I was the one-legged man in the ass-kicking contest and losing hard.  Since the same topic comes up daily in my conversations with people then I can only assume that I am not alone in that feeling.

Since reducing the load I’ve been able to redistribute my energy and found that my quality of life, work, and relationships has all improved.

So my question to you is what can you subtract in order to clarify your life?  Start by going through a rundown of your day (which is probably enough to make you feel exhausted alone) and create a list of important and unimportant tasks.  Is there a way to group or eliminate the unimportant tasks?  I’m sure you’ll find at least a few things that can be reduced, giving you more time to work on your big rocks.

Don’t forget to head over to to join the Beyond the Barbell Life-Strength-Journey movement!

Comments on Applying Addition By Subtraction to Clarify and Achieve More Leave a Comment

January 27, 2016

Johan @ 1:28 am #

wrong email adres in my comment.

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