The least you can do can be the most you can do. Here I draw on the example of my beautiful guinea pig friend Praline, and on wise words from Scott Adams, Rick Rubin and Helen Reynolds.
My friend Praline is perhaps the Buddha of guinea pigs. Certainly, he is a Zen guinea pig.* He radiates good-natured calm, stillness.
He is the loveliest of guinea pigs. Yet he is perhaps not the brightest of guinea pigs. My wife affectionately describes him as “a sentient bolster pillow.”
In a given day, he will do very little. A hidden camera** video of any 24-hour period in his cage would probably not make for scintillating viewing.Praline is living his best life. He will sleep a good deal of the day. Occasionally, he will nose his wickerwork ball around his cage. He is nothing if not enthusiastic about his food. Praline devours his twice-daily meals of lettuce, kibble and the odd other vegetable. He grazes all day on hay, exerting the minimum possible effort.
But occasionally, Praline will act in a manner most determined, most deliberate. He will shove his spotted circular fleece cushion across the cage in a targeted and efficient movement. This done, he can sit sphinx-like upon his fleece cushion, in the most advantageous position to reach his food with zero effort. He need only move his neck ever so slightly forward to obtain another mouthful of hay.
Praline’s actions may be few and far between. But when he acts, it is with intent. Praline is a living case study in doing the least that can be done, to the maximum effect. Praline is living his best life.***
How you do one thing is how you do all things. Acting with intent. Doing the minimum to achieve the most positive outcome is advisable, in all activities.
The bare minimum that you need to do
“Just think about the bare minimum that you need to do.”
These words come from my friend Helen Reynolds, in a recent CrowdControlHQ video. Helen is speaking here about the world of public relations, advising busy PR professionals on the best way to plan social media content. But what she has to say can be applied to almost any activity. Helen says:
“If you’re a creative, you might get a zillion ideas a day on what would be amazing, what the audience would love. Your content plan can’t be about that, it can’t be about putting down every idea you’ve got, and hoping that you’re going to do it. A content plan is about committing to some content that’s going to help you achieve your objectives. So if there’s one thing I’d say to you to think about it’s just think about the bare minimum that you need to do.”
Helen argues that a bare-bones plan provides the ideal balance between structuring one’s activities and having the flexibility to react to immediate, pressing issues as they arise.
Keeping things simple
This principle of doing the bare minimum that you need to do is also present in Scott Adams’ brilliant blog post, The day you became a better writer. Adams shares some of the best and most succinct advice for writers that I have ever seen. He says:
“Business writing is about clarity and persuasion. The main technique is keeping things simple. Simple writing is persuasive. A good argument in five sentences will sway more people than a brilliant argument in a hundred sentences. Don’t fight it.”
I will close out this post with one of my favourite quotations from a master of keeping things simple, Rick Rubin:
“There’s a tremendous power in using the least amount of information to get a point across.”
What more need be said?
How you do one thing is how you do all things.
Focus on the bare minimum that you need to do.
Be more Praline.
* Jane’s Addiction have a song for this moment…
** Photek has a song for this moment…
*** I do not wish to leave you with the impression that Praline is selfish. He is the gentlest and most sharing of pigs. But we have had to divide the cage he shares with his neurotic brother Sundae, due to the latter’s tendency to assault Praline. Left to his own devices on his side of the cage, Praline has evolved an enviable daily routine. He has arrived at the way to live his best life while exerting the minimum possible effort.
- Scott Adams – How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.
- Scott Adams – Win Bigly.
- Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking.
- Photek – The Hidden Camera.
- Praline portraiture (both photopraphic and drawn) by @MJCarty.
- Scott Adams Twitter avatar pic. (as at the time of writing). I make no claim to the copyright for this image, and will remove it from this post immediately if required.
- Rick Rubin portraiture by @MJCarty.