Add Laws of Subtraction to Your Reading List

I am a minimalist; things and brands and stuff really don’t do anything for me.  My husband isn’t.  This makes for an interesting life as he refuses to get rid of things and I find new, creative ways to eliminate the unnecessary.

What about you?  How do you feel about “stuff?”  Do you find yourself bringing more things into your house and not letting go of the old?  Do you find yourself thinking that the quality of something is defined by how much of it there is?  Are you a better, more successful business owner because you do more and work more?

Matthew May(@MatthewEMay), author of The Laws Of Subtraction Six Simple Rules For Winning In The Age Of Excess Everything, would say that excellence and elegance are found in less rather than more.

I received a review copy of the book and it came at the best time of the year – a time where we are all bombarded with messages to buy more and do more and be more.  I dug into the book with gusto and thought I’d share some of my impressions here with you.

A little Bit About Matthew May

You may already know Matthew from his writing on American Express Open Forum where he is a regular contributor.  He’s also an accomplished author with three award-winning books under his belt: The Shibumi Strategy, In Pursuit of Elegance, and The Elegant Solution.   He is a popular speaker, creativity coach, and innovation adviser to companies such as Toyota and Intuit. He is also the founder of Edit Innovation, an ideas agency based in Los Angeles.

But his proudest moment was winning the New Yorker Magazine cartoon caption contest!  That is probably a great example of how Matthew lives his subtraction strategy lifestyle.

The Laws of Subtraction: A Mindset for Sanity and Success

In a world of multi-tasking and overwhelm, I think you’re going to find respite inside the page of The Laws of Subtraction.  In the sharing of stories from his own experiences as well as those of several dozen of his professional friends and experts, you’ll start to see a pattern emerge that just might lighten the load of what YOU think you need to be successful in your business and your life.

May outlines six simple rules and illustrates how companies like Toyota as well as some of the folks you’re probably following on Twitter, like Jonathan Fields, approach subtraction as a success strategy:

  • #1: What isn’t there can often trump what is.
  • #2: The simplest rules create the most effective experience.
  • #3: Limiting Information engages the imagination.
  • #4: Creativity thrives under intelligent constraints.
  • #5: Break is an important part of any breakthrough.
  • #6: Doing something isn’t always better than doing nothing.

Laws of Subtraction Can Transform Your Business and Your Life

One of the things I really like about this book is that it straddles that space between teaching, informing and entertaining.  You’ll find its insights applicable to all aspects of your business and your life.

For example, law #3 is, “Limiting information engages the imagination.”  As an intro to this chapter, May gives a list of examples where you have to guess what links all these companies and situations and in all cases, it was using the strategy of limiting information to engage and entice the audience.  Just reading this made me stop and think about all the different ways that I can apply this strategy.

I think you’ll have the same experience.

Is The Laws of Subtraction for You?

Of course, if you’re a business book junkie like me, you will love this book.

It’s got that addicting mix of name-brand company stories combined with the stories of small business experts who you may know and follow on social media combined with interviews with experts on all kinds of interesting topics.

5 Comments ▼

Ivana Taylor - Book Editor


Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is Book Editor for Small Business Trends and publisher of DIYMarketers , where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is the President of Third Force, Inc., a marketing firm that specializes in getting your ideal customer to choose you. Ivana is the book editor for Small Business Trends and co-author of the book "Excel for Marketing Managers."

5 Reactions

  1. This sounds like a very interesting book. I came to the same conclusion as Rule #4 during brainstorming sessions. I’m curios about Rule #5 though and guess I’ll need to read the book to clearly understand it. I imagine we need to dispense completely with old ways if we’re going to achieve a breakthrough.

  2. Ivana: I have a gut feeling that I need to get this book in order to subtract stuff in my worklife, so I can do a transformation and get a more positive output later on! :)

  3. Hi Martin and Michael – I LOVE Rule #5 — BREAK is an important part of breakthrough. Not to get all zen about it — but you can’t really “get” the transformation until you see how broken something really is. It’s like you have to walk through the muck — or go through the desert, hungry and thirsty to really appreciate that glass of water.

    So the way I look at it — it’s the break down that causes the breakthrough. Instead of looking at our negative experiences as bad luck – we can look at them as springboards to something better.

  4. Ivana: I love your expression: “springboards to something better.” 2013 will be the “bouncing back” (paraphrasing a book title, Bounce! The Path to True Business Confidence by Barry Moltz) year! :)

  5. Btw: I ordered the book now! ;) It will be a great fuel for my soul during X-mas! :) Thanks Ivana for your interesting book reviews!

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