Less is More

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Recently I spent several weeks at Oxford University and other parts of Europe as part of a leadership program. The program was fairly relaxed and gave us ample time to think, look around, party, work and generally soak in the Oxford atmosphere. Some of the participants, having come from hectic working backgrounds, felt that the program was way too spaced out for comfort. We are not used to such a relaxed pace, and some felt that we did too less in the given time.

Too less? But then, isnt’ less more?

In the consumerist societies that we live in today, “Less is Bore” would seem to be a relatively appropriate statement. That would be true if we skim the surface. The very term “Less is More” has always intrigued me. What does it really mean? Here are my two cents on what it means and what it does not mean. Let me know what you think.

WHAT DOES IT NOT MEAN?

  1. It does not mean that if you have a smaller house than your neighbours, you have more real estate than them. It does not mean that even in some weird philosophical way, let alone in a physical way. In fact, it is okay to have the biggest house in the neigbourhood. It is okay to have the fanciest car too, or to have a fancy vacation to the Bahamas as well.
  2. It does not mean that you cannot buy anything new. Of course you can. You can even buy expensive things. There are those who believe in ‘giving up’ all personal property to stop contributing to the materialistic machine; but that is not how most of us think.
  3. It does not mean that the smallest mobile phone is the most powerful. You know it isn’t. In fact the smaller mobile phones get, the more difficulty I have in using them. It does not mean that the smaller a product is in its category, the better it is.
  4. It does not mean that having less is equivalent to higher morality. You are not really better off if you have less and it is not always about the moral high road. Living in a cave with no food or free wi-fi can suck!
  5. It does not mean that if we work less, we will make more money. I wish it worked this way, but unfortunately I haven’t seen it happen all these years, and it is unlikely that things are going to change soon.

SO WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I could go on with the “What it does not mean” list, but I will stop at five. It is getting pretty depressing.  Cheer up, because this is not what my understanding of ‘Less is More’ is. What I sense it means is that if one focuses, one can have a greater impact. Remember, the experiment with the magnifying glass, where you can burn a piece of paper by focusing the sun’s rays? That is “Less is More”. Let me now list out five examples of it.

  1. Less Clutter: When you live in homes or work in offices with less clutter, you find peace of mind; don’t you? The outcome of that is better quality work.
  2. Less meetings: When you travel to a new city on work and line up six meetings throughout the day…things tend to fall apart a bit here and there. With lesser appointments, you will find lesser hassles, allowing you focused attention to those you keep. The output is usually better and you relax in the breaks.
  3. Buy Less: Here is the tricky one. When you get less of the ‘wants’ or the luxuries or impulse buys, you have more money to invest or to save. Your money then begins to work for you, and not the other way round.
  4. Stare less at the computer: I see this all the time. In a generation of “Smart Phones, Dumb People”, people stare at their computing devices all day. When you do less of this, you are less tired, more creative and certainly more productive.
  5. Less work at home: I will make this the last point in this otherwise endless list; and this refers to the image on top. That’s me rolling on the grass with my kids. You can spend quality time with your family and friends if you take less work home. It’s a short life my friend, and you will not realise when your children grew up.

That’s the idea in general I think. It is not an absolute statement and is only an acceptance of what I have found to be true. I have lost weight, improved my health and done things that I love doing, just by setting my priorities right; at different points in my life. For those times in our lives, this statement holds true.