When Subtraction equals addition.
Feb 12, 2019
Traditional Beliefs About Subtraction
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned over the past few years has been the art of #subtraction
. For whatever reason, many of us believe that subtracting things from our lives has a negative connotation, that we are giving something valuable up. Sometimes that’s exactly the intention.
In the case of Lent for many Christian faiths, the believer commits to self denial of specific luxuries for 40 day to replicate the 40 day fasting sacrifice by Jesus Christ's journey into the desert. During Ramadan, Muslims practice fasting during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad.
I am aware of other faiths that have similar practices in sacrifice by subtraction. These two are examples simply two that I have experience with and are indicative of sacrifice in the form of the removal of a daily luxury. Both faiths are rewarded after successful practice is complete. By their very nature, these examples require the withdrawal of something desired. It is meant to be uncomfortable.
Purposeful Positive Subtraction. (When 2-1=3)
Lately, I have been looking at subtraction from a completely different perspective revolving around growth. Two years ago I was in Laguna Beach, California to partake in the Wake-Up Warrior
movement. This period was a culmination of several major transitions for me. I had decided to leave the number one real estate team in Ohio to start my own brand and business. There was also a lot of consideration with leaving the Cleveland Fire Department and the lifestyle that had become for nearly two decades.
These two major changes coupled with recently retiring from the military as a reservist left me needing some direction. The idea of going somewhere and getting hit over the head with reality in a military type setting was necessary. The Wake-Up Warrior concept was important to me at that time because I needed a hard reset. I missed the harshness and reward of the military consequences I had grown accustomed to.
Sitting at the hotel bar the evening before training was to start, I thought about some of the changes I wanted. More accurately, the changes that I needed. Living and fighting in Iraq had left a mark. Struggling with anxiety upon my return, I was able to function in my day to day life but I was not who I wanted to be. To cope with the anxiety I often drank. A little buzz always took the edge off but I never knew when enough was enough. There was never a time where I allowed it to get me into trouble. There were no DUI’s or work incidents. But the frequency began to be a problem and it was just time to stop.
I know a lot of people drink because their family did. My dad drank and like most things in life, he did so poorly. He drank very sporadically and it always ended in a dramatic scene. He once was fighting with my mom in the front of our house after drinking a six pack. He ripped her snub-nosed .38 from her purse and shot 5 rounds through the front door. He then threw the pistol so hard that it stuck in the door. Over the years, there were many similarly dramatic incidents but this was the most memorable.
Drinking was not a part of my family life growing up but it did become a part of my culture once I joined the Marines. Not drinking a few beers and not having a nice cocktail after work. I’m talking about the drink until you puke then pass out drinking. Going out with the sole purpose of drinking until you can no longer function. Weekend benders that left you unable to recall hours or even days at a time. Most off-duty activities revolved around drinking. No one forced me to drink but it was always there.
So...the point is that I had built a relationship around drinking for 25 years. As a Realtor, there were functions or opportunities to meet up constantly. Alcohol is always a part of those functions and I was not one to shy away from it. Again...no one ever made me drink and I never felt pressured. But it was there and so was I. I always partook. And almost always to the extreme.
It did not occur to me when I booked Wake-Up Warrior to stop drinking. That wasn’t my intent and it wasn’t anything I planned or even considered. I didn’t care that I drank. The only negative that I could actually admit with my drinking was with my family. My wife hated that I drank. Not because I drank but because I drank so irresponsibly. I drove after far too many. I always drank beyond my fill and I never came home at the time I intended. She had many worrisome nights wondering if this was the time that I wouldn’t make it home.
On February 8th, 2017 I ordered an IPA in Laguna Beach and savored every ounce with the intent that it would be my last drink for a while. My only thought around it at the present moment is that I don’t care to drink. I haven’t had even the slightest craving nor desire to drink. If tomorrow I decide I want a beer, I will decide if that’s a good idea or not. For the moment, I am very happy to have subtracted one thing that was standing between who I was and who I wanted to be.
What do you need to subtract in order to be who you want to be? Make the decision and simply jettison. If it’s something as serious as alcohol or substance and you cannot do it alone, get help. But make the decision...that’s the first step.