Surplus - More is More

Lean Creativity Edition

Charlie Greenman
October 01, 2020
3 min read

Less Is More

You might have heard of the idea of "Less is More". I've heard that idea most commonly thrown around with user interfaces. It's the idea that the more intuitive the design i.e. the least amount possible, the simpler things are. This in many ways is true for many things in life. Always choose the most efficient path, even if it isn't the most efficient.


Surplus - Keep It Simple

So the question then becomes, what is "Less is More" within the concept of surplus. There are two options

  1. Figure out what you need to buy, and buy less.
  2. Buy the same thing everything week(i.e. buy more), but spend less mental energy.

What Lean Creativity Promotes

Lean Creativity promotes option #2. The idea withthe Lean Creativity framework is that mental energy is best preserved for more impactful tasks. Therefore surplus, within the context of particular tasks, "Less is More"


Surplus as a Rule

The rule is, will surplus make your worry more, or worry less? Will it make you happier, or not as happy? If the answer is happier and worry less, then surplus as a rule should be embraced. For me personally, this means having recurring surplus for food, recurring surplus for hygiene, and living quarters that allow me to have everything that I modestly need(whiteboard, bed, standing desk, shelf), right doctors, nutrients etc.


Surplus - Emphasis on Automation

The intent of surplus is an emphasis on automation, and being able to hand over task to others who are better equipped at what they are doing. While "Surplus" here is discussed within the framework of reserving mental energy, this concept stays true to business. If you find yourself embracing surplus to live a luxurious lifestyle, I would argue you run the risk of losing focus. This is an integral piece to keep in mind. When you find yourself getting more than you need to operate, that is when it is time to push back.

I would say, that is why on principle I simultaneously approve of one's decision to buy luxurious items, or not to. It depends on what you are going after in life, and if it allows you to operate better, then do so.


Everything is a balance

One of the principles I hold dear to is Maimonides's "Middle Path":

The straight path: This involves discovering the midpoint temperament of each and every trait that man possesses within his personality. This refers to the trait which is equidistant from either of the extremes, without being close to either of them. Therefore, the early Sages instructed a man to evaluate his traits, to calculate them and to direct them along the middle path, so that he will be sound {of body}. For example: he should not be wrathful, easily angered; nor be like the dead, without feeling, rather he should adopt an intermediate course; i.e., he should display anger only when the matter is serious enough to warrant it, in order to prevent the matter from recurring. Similarly, he should not desire anything other than that which the body needs and cannot exist without, as Proverbs 13:25 states: "The righteous man eats to satisfy his soul." - De'ot 1:4

This principle stays very true when it comes to surplus. Depending on the role you have chosen in your life, what the middle path means for you, will change. For instance, an entrepreneur attempting to start a billion dollar company, vs an academic will have very different needs and wants. So, it's important to be aware of your unique role. If you find yourself being different, and being extreme it is simply because you are attempting to accomplish something ambitious and unique.

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