Violating The Rules Of Arithmetic

Life is complex

There are several steps to making it simpler and more enjoyable. One of these is the idea of subtracting things. Addition by subtraction. It isn’t always intuitive, but it is surprising how often it comes up. Or should come up.

Lenny Dykstra

Back in the 90’s, there was a story, possibly apocryphal, about the Philadelphia Phillies and their skilled, but difficult outfielder, Lenny Dykstra. On coming to the clubhouse one day, another player tells solid-citizen catcher Darren Dalton, “They traded Dykstra.” His reply. “Good trade, who did we get?”

Obviously adding by subtracting. Make the whole better by eliminating some of the parts.

Where to begin

Know what you want. For most people life goals are pretty simple.

  • Establish a lifestyle and the means to maintain it.
  • Have predictability, certainty if you can get it.
  • Have a margin for error. (security)
  • Help others, especially family

People don’t always get all the pieces. Sometimes they try to speed things up and get off track. They end up doing things and commiting to things that delay or hurt achievement. Sometimes, they avoid things that would happen. Most failed situations have common features. Misplaced resources. Too many distractions. No priorities.

Act on what you find

Notice what stresses you. It could be a financial situation, a relationship that is broken, a customer who is not worth the price to deal with, or a supplier who is unreliable. Stress is a killer. Do not participate unless the cost/benefit works significantly in your favour and even then, not for long.

Fix stress and create value for yourself by reducing the load. If you hate your line of credit more than you love your condo in ski country, sell the condo and reduce the line of credit. If a customer is not worth the trouble, invite them to shop elsewhere. Look for a new supplier. Learn to meditate.

You probably can’t sell off the children, but remember how important a turbulent adolescence will be. Well adjusted adults learned their limits early. A mid life crisis is just a misplaced adolescence and much more costly.

Not everything that hurts you is a big thing.

If you attach yourself to forty, 5-pound anchors, you will drown at the same rate as if you attach yourself to one 200-pound anchor. People usually solve big problems and overlook the small. Jordan Peterson has said that stress is the accumulation of small unfinished tasks. Planning is helpful in getting past the problems, both big and small. Do not overlook small perturbations in your universe. Planning makes the path clearer.

Planning is about allocating scarce resources.

Time, energy, and money are for you to use to get more of the things that please you. Assess how you spend your resources. Pay special care with the small turbulences. Find the 5-pound anchors and eliminate them. Freeing the time and money previously devoted to things that stressed and thus hurt you is liberating. That time and money and especially the energy subtracting things from you life allows you to achieve more and make your life closer to what you want it to be.

Better life is an easier goal once you see the two sides. You can make your life better by adding things you want, or by subtracting things that you do not want or need. But you must decide. Failure to quit something is a decision to do nothing and it is just as much a decision as the decision to do something. You should choose the one with the better cost / benefit ratio.

In aggregate little things are a big thing. Learn to make things better by taking things away. Addition by subtraction will solve more life plans easier and quicker than addition by addition.

I help business owners, professionals, and others understand and manage risk and other financial issues. To help them achieve their goals, I use tax efficiencies and design advantages to acquire more efficient income and larger, more liquid estates.

In previous careers, I have been a partner in a large, international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you. 705-927-4770

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