How to Make ‘More’ from ‘Less’ and the Unseen Dangers of Measuring Success

“Learn to… be what you are, and learn to resign with a good grace all that you are not.” ~Henri Frederic Amiel

I spent last week enduring some painful, semi-agonizing “hard edits” of my book, Lead Without Followers, as I continue to race towards my end-of-July deadline for finishing the manuscript and a September 1, 2011 release date.

(You can now sign up to receive instant notification of the book’s launch here.)

After just two weeks of writing, the book’s first draft was upwards of 16,000 words and not even to the half-way point in my loose, hand-written outline.

But the flow of the book was bothering me. Something wasn’t “clicking” right as I read those first 60 pages over. It frustrated me and I felt like I couldn’t move forward with writing until I rectified what had already been written. What you could call “Writer’s block” — although I don’t really believe in such a thing — settled in.

And so I felt compelled to begin to delete big chunks of text, almost at random. I spent hours reordering paragraphs and pages to correct the flow so that the reader would maintain a necessary pace and interest as the book’s pages weave together a fascinating narrative about the state of our world, our collective understanding of leadership, and how to remedy it.

I read over and over and over a gain, and cut upwards of 3,000 words in the manuscript. Suddenly, all the progress I had been making felt to take some steps backwards.

It hurt, but it was necessary.

And having now corrected the flow of the opening chapters of the book, suddenly, my writer’s block — holding me back from any significant progress in a week or two — was shattered.

That’s how ‘more’ comes from ‘less’

You can’t always measure what you perceive to be “success” and “progress” by counting quantities and comparing your pace to the pace of others. Yeah, we live in a competitive and material world that tells us that more is better, less is failure, and if you’re not keeping up with the crowd then you’re not worthy of their company.

That’s the plight of measuring your success: more ain’t always better. I could have kept writing thousands of words and ended up with a book that totally sucked because the pace and flow of the chapters was horrendous.

Stepping backwards was scary because it was unknown, but those steps back helped me move forward. And in just a day’s time the word-count of Lead Without Followers was already back to over 16,000 words — and a far sharper, clearer, stronger and more-inspiring 16,000 words than before.

Sometimes, you need to make the tough decision to seek growth from decay, honing from hard editing, and strengthening from regression. Innovation is changing what already works. A blade is sharpened from the fine reduction of its edges.

Every aspect of life is accelerated by removing what needn’t be there to begin with: uncomplicating the complicated, undoing the knots of our mind, and unlearning all that’s unnecessary.

And as you pursue your dreams and endeavors, never forget that more comes from less and that stepping back a few paces let’s us see the road under our feet more clearly.

In your own life, in what ways do you see ‘more’ coming from ‘less’? Take a second to share with us below.

Last week: teaching lil' cousin how to rock out

Here are some updates on my end that I wanted to fill you in about!

» I spoke to my friend Greg Berg as his first guest on Radio Enso last week. We talked World Domination Summit, Lead Without Followers, what it’s like to be entrenched in the world of politics and much more. Listen to the first episode of Radio Enso in full here.

» Also last week, I was interviewed by Lisa Robbin Young from Business Action Hero about Generation Y, Lead Without Followers, how to pursue your dreams, and the problems with modern leadership today. You can download the very entertaining hour-long podcast here.

» This past weekend, I got amazing news that Lead Without Followers: The Book will be integrated into course curriculum in one political science class at American University in Washington, D.C. this fall! The soon-to-be-released book will be class reading, and I’ll even be traveling back to the District to guest-lecture at some point this autumn. Boomshakalaka?

» Finally, we’re still locked into a tight battle for the top vote-getter on ChangeThis.com, you vote for my Lead Without Followers manifesto proposal until August 4th — I’d hugely appreciate your help in sharing this alternative leadership message with the ChangeThis community!

And remember, if you’re not already a DaveUrsillo.com Subscriber (what, why not?!?), you can also sign up to get instant notification of when Lead Without Followers: The Book is officially released in print and online, for your epic enjoyment!

Flickr photo credit: whologwhy

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