Hack away the unessential
“The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed — it is a process of elimination” — Elbert Hubbard
Getting rid of everything that doesn’t matter allows you to continuously stay in touch with who you are. We make room for things that matter by removing everything that doesn’t. Bruce Lee once said, “It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” Many times, we don’t go far and fast in life because we carry along the inessentials. The fastest and the most productive way to travel in life is to travel light! This unusual philosophy by Bruce Lee has its application in virtually every aspect of human life. Whether in effective communication, productive relationship, creating a saner environment, improving on our inner peace, weight loss, bringing clarity and focus in our life endeavours, solving complex problems, reaching our goals and potentials, and most especially personal development. As we go through life, we learn and grow by cutting off people, places and perspectives that hinder our growth. To evolve into the best version of ourselves, we will painfully need to cut-off some un-essentials.
Bruce Lee, was a Hong Kong-American actor, director, martial artist, martial arts instructor, and philosopher. Born on November 27, 1940 and died on the 20th July 1973, his short life span (32 years) has undoubtedly impacted more generations of martial art fans than any other actor in history. Famous martial artists like Jackie Chan and Jet Lee see him as the unrivalled legend that inspired their own philosophy of life. How could someone who lived just 32 years inspired a legacy that has refused to die after he left the scene many decades after? Many believed that his strange philosophy of hacking away the non-essentials has really made his life and philosophy so essential to others.
In 1501, Michelangelo, the greatest artist that ever lived, accepted a commission to carve a marble sculpture of the biblical David to be placed high atop a buttress on the Florentine Cathedral in Italy. He started the work on a mass of uninspiring marble, chiseling away chunk by chunk until he got the desired figure. It took four years for Michelangelo to carve the famous sculpture out of an 18-foot-tall marble block that other artists including the famous Leonardo da Vinci regarded as an unworkable and inferior marble mass.
When Michelangelo was asked by the pope about the secret of his genius, particularly in regards to the statue of David, largely considered to be the greatest sculpting masterpiece of all time. Michelangelo responded by saying, “It’s simple. I just remove everything that is not David.” What I want to focus on is the way Michelangelo revealed David from the stone. He simply removed everything “that wasn’t David.” Lots of artist will describe their method of sculpture in a way that is similar to Michelangelo. They feel that there is something or someone trapped within the excess stone that is waiting to be released by the artist. As with sculpting, I feel that, individually, we are all slowly, but steadily, adding more stone to our true selves, hiding us away from the world.
How often are we told that in order to be truly ourselves we need more of what everyone else has? Why don’t we try removing the inessential things that aren’t true representations of ourselves? Maybe we will find that we are all masterpieces simply hidden away under excessive stone and material possessions? Many times, we do the job that we hate to buy the things we don’t need! What if we begin to remove what wasn’t David? Hack away at the things you thought were necessary, and find out just how much they aren’t.
There are so many things that are just unnecessary in life. We live in a world where we keep ourselves constantly sane by consistently asking ourselves this pertinent question: Is this actually necessary? The easiest way to become irrelevant in life is to continuously pursue irrelevant things!
To obtain enlightenment means the extinction of everything which obscures the “real life.” Sometimes we keep objects that clutter our physical space due to an imagined sentimental value, but if you never use it, do you need it? In the same manner, we may need to unclutter our mental space as there are many things that take our mental space but are really of no value.
Take a look and examine your life and say, “Am I living the life I want to live? Am I having as much joy as I could? Where are the areas I could have more joy?” What can you let go of? How can you be more productive, simple and direct? How can you un-clutter your environment? How can you un-clutter your mind by letting go of everything that is unessential?
What are the things to hack down on?
#1 HACK DOWN ON YOUR CIRLE OF FRIENDS: Someone once said, “You don’t need certain number of friends. All you need is a number of friends you can be certain of.” You don’t need too much friends. You heard me right; cut down on the number of your friends! It is not the quantity of friends that matters but the quality. Cut off quantity and increase quality. Mike Murdock said, “The ability to disconnect from people who abuse and misuse your life is a priceless one.” We must constantly carry out relationship audit and severe ourselves from toxic and destructive relationships. You have to learn to cut-off people that threaten your peace of mind, joy, self-respect and self-worth. When the wrong people leave your life, the right things start to happen.
#2 HACK DOWN ON YOUR URGE TO BE LIKE OTHERS: Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘’To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment’’. Your uniqueness is your selling point and it must never be negotiated. Bruce Lee said, “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are. Most people don’t know who they are, so they die as someone else! The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. Be yourself; everyone else is already taken! Ingrid Bergman said, ‘’Be yourself. The world worships an original’’.
#3 HACK DOWN ON THINGS THAT COST YOU YOUR PEACE: Marcus Aurelius once said, “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself in your way of thinking.” Anything that costs you your peace is too expensive. Pursue only the things that brings you joy, fulfillment and peace. Don’t ever negotiate your peace. Cut-down on things and people that threaten your peace.
#4 HACK DOWN ON COMPLEXITY; BE SIMPLE: The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak. Any fool can make something complicated. It is a mark of genius to make something simple. Leonardo Da Vinci once said, ‘’Simplicity is the utmost sophistication.’’ Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. Leo Babauta said, “Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” The simplification of life is one of the steps to inner peace.
#5 HACK DOWN ON BAD HABITS: Habit, if not resisted, soon becomes necessity! Joyce Meyer said, “You can suffer the pain of change or suffer remaining the way you are.” You must be intentional about dealing with the bad habits in your life. There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “Bad habits are easier to abandon today than tomorrow”. Deal daily and consistently with the bad habits in your life. Conquer your bad habits lest they eventually conquer you. The habit you don’t cut-off will cut your life short!
I have observed in life that if you don’t know the things that are essential, everything seems important! Marcus Aurelius once said, “Most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquility. Ask yourself at every moment, ‘Is this necessary?’ ”. What we need are few; what we want are many. Life is all about discerning the vital few from the trivial many. You don’t need more space, you need less stuff. You are the sculptor of your own life! One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. Alexis Carrell said, “Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.”
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