For majority of my life I wanted to be productive of my time. I wanted to produce with the little time I’m given and make a name for myself. I went to college, got the degree. After the degree, I got the job and bought the house. I kept producing. Bigger house. Bigger job. Bigger responsibility.
Soon enough, I hit a wall. Is this the natural conclusion of how far my roots can grow? With no possibility of growing, a door appeared on that wall. And later, a window. This must be a sign that forcing productivity is not the only way. That there’s always a hidden door, window, or suspicious looking wall formation that you’d place a bomb in front of as if this were Legend of Zelda.
I had reached the natural conclusion of my production for that point of time in my life. This was life’s way of telling me that you have to find another way to thrive and surely enough it gave me awareness to the polar opposite — reduction.
I always had a goal of immaculate performance. I knew that the only person I’m competing against was myself. That everything else is out of my control. But I never would think of this goal as impure inaction. Like many opposites such as discipline and freedom, you see them as incompatible. But that’s not the truth. Opposites tend to act as partners.
Discipline is never a lack of freedom, it is rather our relationship with time. With great discipline, you gain your freedom. This focused efficiency in life is most important. You can be free in your disciplined time or disciplined in your free time. They both are equal.
Reduction is similar. The more you reduce in your life, the easier it is to let more in. Our lungs must be empty before we draw air. Our mind must be clear to draw inspiration. The universe always seeks balance. When we are full, we cannot invite more in.
I had overproduced. There was no room left. My only option at this point was to liberate and limit. All of the habits that I formed over the years which produced something meaningful needed to be reconsidered with reduction in mind.
Workouts to produce muscle would now become ways to reduce stress. Walks to promote heart rate now became a way to ground myself. I had found ways to evolve each habit to their acting partner.
As they evolved, I learned completely different ways to do them. It felt awkward and counterintuitive. They were already ingrained that I never had to actually think about what I was doing. The way I knew how to do them was effortless.
I had relied on these habits to get me from one point to another. They would continue to serve me in my work, but taught me a great lesson of staying open and paying close attention to how I can recognize these opposites.
For everything that could be done with your right hand, the left hand could also do if taught and used. Learning to be ambidextrous goes against nature. We’re inclined to use our dominant hand. We’re used to doing things one way.
But as we learn to unlearn, we find that the opposite can produce the same result if not better. That the regular use of the opposite gives the other time to recover only to be more powerful the next time.
The basketball player who can use both hands produces twice as many options as one who cannot when finishing. When they find which of the two strategies works best on their defender they can then reduce to consistently score while always having the option to use the other that is ready from recovery.
In a world of constant productivity, many think in producing terms, few ever think in reducing terms. Be a reducer in an overproducing world.