I find Dieter Ram's famous principle: "less but better" extremely powerful. This principle drove his decisions as an industrial designer to craft masterpieces of beauty and usability. They inspired many others, including Apple's John Ive. It is hard to resist the attraction of essentialism in a world of distractions, fast consumption and superficiality. "Less but better" talks about serenity, thoughtfulness and beauty instead.
Aristotle said ... Along the same lines, we are pushed to reflect on how many things in our lives are accessory. How many things can you cut off so what remains can be better? What a difficult task! It demands deliberation, determination and true will. Those competences are hard because we've mastered other arts instead. We've mastered the art of consumption, of things and information. We now consume bits at a higher rate than any other human being has ever done in history. We've mastered the art of reacting. Reacting at anything that is thrown to us, which are many. We consume bits and build our views around them. It quench our intellectual needs and aspirations.
So we try to compete against others in the game of hitting a ball when someone throws it at us. Few ever wonder whether they should be playing that game in the first place. Hitting balls is easy. Perhaps not easy, but it is intuitive. You can't help it. The moment you see the ball coming, your whole body is triggered to react. If you happen to be good at hitting balls, someone else will notice, they will applaud, and you will rejoice. Unlucky you. Do you know who questions whether we should be playing that game in the first place? Those who are really bad at it. They are forced by incompetence to think: "why the hell should I do this?" Do you know what we think of them? "These guys are stupid, not worth our time". We're unable to hear the signal in that noise.
I'm deep in the trap of hitting balls. I'm quite good at it. Always been. School is just a training field at reacting, and I was a great at it. I can keep on reacting until I die, I'll make a very good living out of it. But I feel there's something missing, and I'm pretty sure you feel it too. "Less but better" is an inspiring way out the noise. Less will create the space we need to start tuning in, but focusing on less means taking risks. I'm still figuring how to find the courage to take those risks, specially because the reward is uncertain.