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Addition By Subtraction

As we strive to grow and develop a successful career, oftentimes our minds go to asking what we need to “add” to ourselves to be better—what industry designation or production level do I need to achieve; what selling system do I need to learn; what product do I need to add to what I offer a client?

What is interesting is that seldom do we ever look within ourselves and ask the opposite question—what do I need to “subtract” from who I am in order to grow and develop. What do I need to subtract from my own behaviors? What toxic business relationships do I need to subtract?

I heard this story many years ago from Larry Wilson in Orlando, Florida.  Wilson had just sold “Wilson Learning” and was starting his new venture, “Pecos River Training and Development Academy.” Larry Wilson was the keynote speaker for my conferment for one of our industry’s prestigious designations.  Yet he told this story as a way of emphasizing the importance of not just “adding” to who we are—but to also think about what we need to “subtract.”

He went on to explain that legend tells us that when the 29 year old Michelangelo was asked how he sculpted one of his greatest artistic achievements, the statue of “The Perfect David.”  The statue is actually named “David” but when people saw it and it’s amazingly perfect detail—they renamed it “the Perfect David.” When asked how he did it, Michelangelo simply replied, “I removed everything that wasn’t the perfect David.”

For that, Michelangelo had to see the perfection of David within the marble.  He had to see it in his own mind first. Then Michelangelo subtracted more and more marble till he arrived at “perfection.”

Did you know that there were two other renowned Italian artists of the era that were commissioned to complete the “David” before Michelangelo?

They barely started the work. They complained about the marble. It had too many flaws. It wasn’t perfect enough. It wouldn’t hold up. The working conditions were not ideal, they complained.

Our own authenticity comes from chipping away everything that is not us.

What business relationships do you need to let go of and just move on? There are people who you are trying to work with that you should just subtract. What do you need to subtract? Who do I need to subtract—some people suck the energy out of you, crush your attitude and deflate your spirit.  What about your day-to-day workplace is filled with dysfunction or even deceit? You need to subtract this dysfunction and deceit. What do you need to subtract? My experience has shown me that I grow more when I start thinking about what I need to subtract. What “weight” am I carrying around that I need to get rid of? It is better down the road without that load.

Then what about us as leaders, coaches, mentors or co-workers? Do we see the other person as they can be—to realize the highest and most perfect vision of them?

What if our workplace becomes a center of immense harmony and excellence because the potential of ourselves and others is consistently realized and upheld? How different will your business be when you are feeling energized, excited and positive?

What might that create?