Seeking Simple – Subtracting Before Adding

Ever feel like you’re wrestling with an overstuffed plate of obligations? Or like you’re so caught up in the minutiae that you lose sight of the big picture?

There’s a reason the sayings “having a full plate” and “missing the forest for the trees” have stuck around. These phrases capture our collective struggle with complexity and detail-overload. But, what if there was a way to unburden that loaded plate? What if there was a method to step back and appreciate the forest as a whole, rather than getting lost in each tree?

This is where the concept of Seeking Simple comes into play. The question then begs, how do we begin to Seek Simple? How do we master the art of subtraction before we pile on more?

Answering 2 Questions

2 Questions: How do people’s plates get too full? Why do people miss the forest because of the trees?

Answer: Because people often do not Seek Simple.

How do We Seek Simple?

There are several ways to Seek Simple:

  • We can look for the essence of the thing at hand…we can do that by peeling off the layers of complexity until we approach ‘the essence’. For example: at our home we have a white, four-legged, domesticated mammal, which others [not so close to the trees] would call a dog.
  • We can pay attention to our intuition, like Obvious Adams. [‘Obvious Adams: The Story of a Successful Business Man’ by Robert Updegraff, (1916).] When our gut feel says this or that we can accept that our gut feel is often able to help us.
  • We can strip away complexity…when stuff doesn’t make sense we can assume it is mumbo jumbo until someone proves it is not.
  • We can do a good job of delegating.
  • There are many other ways to Seek Simple.

As we peel off and strip away layers of complexity…we are subtracting.

Subtracting Before Adding

Subtracting is one way to Seek Simple.

And subtracting provides several benefits, including:

  • Subtracting is one way to initiate the Creative process. The ‘look for the essence’ point above is actually a step recommended by creative-thinking experts. When we know the essence we can begin to use creative-thinking processes. It is not the only way to go about a program for creative thinking…but, it is one way that works.
  • Subtracting is a key to good communication. For example, it is key to marketing messages. Chip and Dan Heath provide tremendous advice in their books Made to Stick and Switch.
  • Subtracting is a key to problem solving. Remove the chaff so you can see the wheat of the problem. As you remove the chaff good solutions will jump out at you.
  • Subtracting also works in mathematics. In fact, it is one of the first arithmetic functions we learn. When we want people to understand us, we must build our messages…from arithmetic to algebra to calculus. We can not assume people follow our jargon or our complicated spreadsheets or our complicated charts. We need to start with subtracting.


So, it’s evident that the power of subtraction is no trivial matter. It’s not just an idea, but an essential tool to handle the complicated world we navigate.

Think of a sculptor, subtracting unnecessary parts to bring out the beauty of the raw stone. That’s what subtraction does. It helps us dig out the essence, kickstarts creativity, clears up communication, and brings out effective solutions to problems.

It’s like laying a simple arithmetic foundation before jumping into complex equations, ensuring we’re understood by all. As we traverse through life’s path, let’s strive to clear our plate, view the forest instead of focusing on each tree, and master the art of Seeking Simple.

This not only redefines our perspective but strikes a balance between the complex and the simple, the profound and the accessible, the additions and the subtractions.

The approach of Seeking Simple and Subtracting Before Adding is a practical method for a more organized and harmonious life. Now, more than ever, it’s time to subtract before we add.

Together our conversations can expand solutions and value

We look forward to helping you bring your ideas and solutions to life.
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