“It’s not the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” – Bruce Lee
I just watched the new Steve Jobs movie last night, and loved the scene when Steve Jobs shitted on John Sculley (on the failure of the “Newton”).
John, the reason the Newton failed is because it has a stylus.
Funny enough— you can kind of see how Apple is starting to lose its core value— which is to hack away at the inessential (Bruce Lee).
What Steve Jobs would have hated about the iPad Pro
I just saw the iPad pro announcement, and I was aghast. I thought to myself, “What would Steve say if he were still alive?”
The whole point of the iPad is that Steve didn’t want a stylus or a keyboard. This is what helped him (and the Apple team) innovate the iPad to be able to be used without a stylus or a keyboard.
Now you see the new iPad Pro— and there are several things Steve would have been pissed off with:
I re-read Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson— and I remember reading how Jobs would test hundreds of different screen sizes with Jony Ive— to find the “perfect” size for a tablet (what the iPad Air 2 currently is).
I briefly saw the iPad Pro in a store, and it was pretty ridiculous. Do you really need 13’’ for a tablet? What do you need with all that extra space?
One of the biggest mistakes us Americans make is this: we assume everything bigger is better.
But what if the opposite was true— that innovation was being able to make do with less? Often having a smaller screen helps you be more productive, more creative, and more innovative. The iPhone 4s is probably the “perfect” size for a smartphone— Steve said you could reach every corner of the screen with your thumb without moving your palm. Unfortunately all these mega-big “phablets” aren’t engineered for our human bodies (there are limits to the size of our hands).
Anyways going back to the iPad pro— it is this awkward device that isn’t quite a laptop or a tablet. It is like the awkward teenager who doesn’t quite know which social clique he fits into— and tries to tread the line between being an “emo” kid and a jock. It doesn’t quite work.
2. Adding superfluous add-ons
No Apple— we don’t need a “Pencil” (glorified marketing for a stylus) nor do we need a detachable keyboard. If we “needed” these things we would just buy a Microsoft Surface (ironically enough— it seems that Microsoft is starting to “innovate” more than Apple nowadays).
Hacking away at the inessential was Steves’ mission. Even when making the original iPod, he wanted everything to be accessible with at least 3 clicks. With the iPhone, he kept asking “Is this really necessary?” Without that devotion to ruthlessly editing the inessentials, we might still have Windows phones with 100’s of buttons.
More add-ons=more weight, more complications, more stuff to charge.
3. Wanting to sell more shit
Honestly, I admire Apple so much, and idolize Steve Jobs. But honestly at this point— it seems that all Apple is interested in isn’t to “innovate”, but to just sell more products (probably to the Chinese market).
I look at companies like Leica— they have also (mostly) wavered from their true identity— to have a few core products, and doing them damn well. But look at Leica’s new products (T, Q, etc) — and they are essentially expensive cameras to (once again) sell to the Chinese market (they have tons of money and an expanding consumerist base).
I think we’re at the point where hardware has “maxed out” — do we really need bigger screens, faster processors, or more space? I think the point we’re limited is by the software — not the hardware. It is going to take a lot of new “innovation” in software to drive innovation forward (I love how the iPad can imitate a track-pad— that is one of the newest great innovations).
The future is in the past
I think about innovation a lot. I like the idea of “revolutionizing” (Karl Marx) and overthrowing the old— and paving way for the new.
Ironically enough, the future is in the past (credit Nassim Taleb from “Antifragile”).
The iPad wasn’t a “revolutionary” device— it is a re-imagined stone tablet from thousands of years ago.
The Kindle isn’t innovative at all— it is just a replication of a small paperback book (ironically enough, what makes the Kindle more technologically advanced is that it simulates the older technology of paper).
Uninstall one app everyday
I have tried to be be more “efficient” and “optimized” in my life by downloading new apps everyday.
But I took a note from Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching) in which he says that the fool adds one thing a day, and the master subtracts one thing a day.
So I tried an experiment with my smartphone— instead of installing a new app a day, I would uninstall an app everyday.
Holy shit, this is the first time in a long time I have finally regained control of my brain. I feel my phone is now my slave— rather than me being a slave to my phone.
Superfluous things I’ve removed from my phone:
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)
- Email (shit this is the best removal ever— now instead of checking my email when I’m waiting for the bathroom I can actually admire the walls and be okay with being “bored”)
- Notifications (without shit popping out in my face all the time, I can actually focus when using my phone)
It was scary at first to uninstall things— but remember; you can always re-install them later.
I did this experiment the last 3 months, and the only “essential” things that have lived on my phone include:
- What’s App
Honestly everything else feels superfluous.
So friend— if you really want to learn how to “focus” and “innovate” — see how you can continue to ruthlessly subtract from your life.
Limit yourself to 3 options
Recently on my blog, I’m trying to ruthlessly minimize everything. For some reason I am drawn to the number 3— the holy number (trifecta, the trinity, etc) is that it feels perfectly balanced.
So on my blog, I am keeping the menu only limited to 3 pages. Why? This helps me “innovate” by reducing the superfluous from my site. It keeps me focused, and provides more information with less clutter.
Furthermore, I’m limiting my website portfolio to only 3 projects. If I want to add another project, I need to figure out 1 project to remove. This means less is more— I only show my best work, and it is a true test to show what I’m truly dedicated to.
More devices, more problems
So friend in your life see how you can “innovate” with getting by with less.
More devices, more problems
I am a sucker to technology, I love buying new shit, and geeking out at the Apple store.
But if you really want to be focused and innovate in your life, only have the essential devices you need in your life.
For me that is just 2 things: a smartphone and a laptop. Everything else is a distraction.
Focusing is hard. But eliminating distractions are easier. Once you eliminate distractions, there is nothing left but to work.
Similarly on my laptop, I tried to do the same experiment as my smartphone (uninstall one app a day). I’m running pretty lean now, all I have is:
- iA Writer (best app ever, using this to type this right now)
- iBooks author (to make e-books, PDF, etc)
The benefits of constantly uninstalling apps I don’t need— the computer runs faster, is more memory-efficient, and once again— fewer things to distract me.
Nowadays even when I’m browsing the web— I try to use the “one tab” rule— I focus on each site one at a time. I’m not allowed to have more than one tab open (unless I’m doing finances in Google Sheets with Paypal or something). This helps me focus at one thing at a time.
Even when I’m with Cindy, I will try to do only one thing at a time. If I’m having dinner with her, I’m turning off my phone. No not silencing or setting it to vibrate— turning it off. Off, completely. This helps me be fully-present with her.
Even when I’m dicking around on my smartphone I will focus:
“Right now I am only going to focus dicking around on my smartphone.”
Once I’m doing screwing around on my phone, then onto better stuff.
Kill distractions; then it is easy to focus
Be ruthless about eliminating distractions.
I love spotify, but I get distracted. Rather than enjoying the song I’m listening to right now, I’m seeking the next new new song to download and listen.
Even now, I’m using an old iPod nano (the clip one with the Lcd screen)— and I only have two albums on it (Dr. Dre “Compton” and Kendrick Lamar “To Pimp a Buttefly”) — and I listen to each album beginning-to-end.
I love books, and have tried to use all the different devices (iPad, Kindle Paperwhite, smartphone)— but frankly speaking, the book is the perfect “technology”.
You don’t have shit distracting you when you’re reading. When I’m using the Kindle app now— I’m distracted by the “calculating reading speed…”, the loading animation for screen-turns, the “highlighting + notes + social sharing” features, and all this extraneous bullshit which takes away from the pure reading experience.
With the physical book (yeah it sucks carrying the extra weight) the benefit is that you never need to “upgrade” it. I can give my Steve Jobs book to my future child 5 years from now, and my future child can give that to his future child 40 years from now, and so on.
Can you imagine giving your future kid your Kindle paper white with your e-books? Fuck that.
Even with photography— I love technology and all these new “innovations.” But to be honest— no digital camera is “relevant” after about 2-3 years (same cycle as smartphone). However with a film camera (film Leica)— you can use it (in theory) for your entire life, and it will still be usable 200 years from now (most film Leica’s are fully-mechanical, and can take photos without a battery).
Look to the past
What really is “innovation”?
Steve Jobs says innovation isn’t to pick good ideas— but to say “no” to 1000’s of great ideas (and focusing on the 1-3 good ones).
For me, innovation is to hack away at the inessential— and finding inspiration from the past.
In photography that means finding inspiration from the masters of photography (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Josef Koudelka, Andre Kertesz) rather than looking at Terry Richardson or any other contemporary photographer.
In design that means looking at Roman architecture, looking at nature (funny enough how ‘modern’ architecture is just imitating nature with stone, wood, and water).
In technology that means subtracting superfluous excess (the Vibram Five-fingers essentially removes the need of a padded shoe, and imitates our walking as hunter-gatherers from the past). The iPhone is innovative because it removed all the inessential buttons. The Macbook laptops were innovative because they removed the CD rom drive (they invented the future — I actually think the new 12’’ Macbook is the best innovation from apple since the Macbook Air). I also see the new digital Leica M is innovative (the one that doesn’t have the extraneous “live view” and video functions).
Please please please camera companies, computer companies, and any other tech companies (if you’re reading this) — rather than adding features to your new products, see how you can remove features from your future devices.
Samsung “innovated” with the Galaxy S6 by removing the option of a removable battery, expandable storage, and a back that is open-able (it essentially copied the iPhone).
Leica also innovated with their Monochrom by removing the option to shoot color (it only shoots in black-and-white). Fewer choices, more freedom, and more innovation. Think of it as a “creative constraint.”
Subtract the inessentials
So if you haven’t yet— I highly recommend watching the new Steve Jobs movie, and better yet— reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson.
And see how you can subtract the inessential from your life — hack away shitty friends, shitty family, shitty products, extraneous luggage, furniture you never use, gadgets that are collecting dust on your shelf, clothes you haven’t worn in 6 months, and anything else holding you back.
A good quote to make you inspired:
“I do not intend to fasten upon my back a burden like this, of which I never can get rid of myself, nor do I nimble and lightly equipped as I am, mean to hinder my progress by plunging into the deep morass of business transactions” – Demetrius
Subtract, ruthlessly, be light, free, and happy.
Thursday, 10:54am, Dec 10, 2015 @ Free Speech Movement Cafe at UC Berkeley
Oh yeah something that inspired me here (saw this as a plaque here), when Diogenes was asked what was the greatest good for men it was:
“Freedom of speech.”
Farewell and create some beautiful art, ignore the people who try to hold you back, and “do you.”