Friday, May 13, 2011

The elegance of saying no

I've been reading a book about product ideas called In Pursuit of Elegance. It says that to produce something of elegance, you have to think in terms of subtraction instead of addition.

We know this with fashion (no frou-frou, please) and in math (where an elegant proof covers everything in the smallest number of steps possible). But in most of the rest of life, we habitually assume that more + more + more = better. We think that to improve something we need to supplement or expand or provide additional options.

But if elegance is a matter of distillation, then getting things on our to-do list done requires making a don't-do list. The author quotes Steve Jobs who said, in the wake of introducing the iPhone,

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of many of the things we haven't done as the things we have done.
I think this is completely true. I read it and wonder what elegant parenting would look like. What are the hundred good ideas that moms need to say no to? Are they all things that compete with parenthood? Or are they popular ideas about parenting that are add-ons, non-essentials, frou-frou?

What would you put on your don't do list?

And what does it mean to be a person of elegance?  

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