Happiness is letting go of what you don’t need and using what you have

“Why do some people and organizations succeed with so little while others fail with so much?”

Scott Sonenshein, a professor of management at Rice University discusses the above question in his new book, Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less –and Achieve More than You Ever Imagined

Most of us are used to “chasing” – focusing on acquiring resources: more money, more expertise, more awards, more information…Does this rat race make you drained? What can you do to be happy and successful?

“Even if I didn’t know what to do, [I] just had to begin. You’ll only get the idea once you start . . . you have to act first before inspiration will hit, you don’t wait for inspiration and then act, or you’re never going to act.” Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez dove in and found his inspiration as he made his first film El Mariachi (grossing $2 million against $7000 budget).  


What can we do with our existing resources? How to stretch?

  • Use resources you have in less conventional ways
  • Combine different identities to approach the problem.
  • Amasse eclectic experiences
  • Change own expectations
  • Bring creativity into routines

Feature the few assets you have. Take advantage of your disadvantage. Creatively use the resources that you do have by asking 1) can it be broken down further, 2) does the description of the subpart imply a use. 3) Work harder and smarter than anyone else around you.

It is not resources but resourcefulness that makes the difference. As a startup founder when you don’t have the capital or large teams to deliver your vision. What can you do? Make the most of your existing product and relationships. Ask for advice and feedback. Based on personal experience, I can say that this strategy has helped me gain access to customers, money and team members. I enjoyed reading the many stories and research in Stretch.

Here are some practical suggestions/exercises to stretch. Sonenshein says, “the key to success is not having more – it’s stretching”.

  1. Find sleeping beauty – what personal resources have been shelved for years? Identify potential ways the dormant resources can help advance an objective. One action I can take to immediately revive it.
  2. Backward looking plan– act and then reflect. Instead of making grand plans that cause ‘analysis paralysis’.
  3. Turn trash into treasure – find better use of unused things. Mobilise people to do something new. Look around your house for things that can be put to better use
  4. Just Say No – stop taking on more resources and be creative with what you have.
  5. Go explore – read something different, learn something new, have lunch with someone from a different industry, travel.
  6. Take a break – rotate between difficult and mindless work, walk as part of a daily ritual, go on the clock to limit the amount of time spent on tasks
  7. Appreciate – gratitude in the present helps prioritise the future. So write your gratitude journal daily listing three things that you are grateful for.

The key to stretching is to learn by doing. “When we plan, we’re not acting but delaying our actions and speculating about a future that may or may not exist.”

Just like while exercising, you can cause injury by stretching excessively. Too much of a good thing can turn out to be bad. Here are some injuries from over-stretching.

  • Turning into a cheapskate
  • Wandering to nowhere
  • Leaping without learning
  • Being cursed by high expectations
  • Making toxic mixtures that might be novel but not useful

“The road to stretching starts with a simple but significant shift in mindset—giving up the belief that having more resources = getting better results and replacing it with the conviction that a
better use of resources = getting better results. This change in mindset takes us away from a dehumanizing rat race for resources that is impossible to win and provides us with a way to make do with and magnify what we already have.” says Prof. Sonenshein.

So give up the chase and stretch the resources you have! Ask yourself “How do I take what I already have & get the job done?”

Credit for visual @danisaveker.
July 6, 2017

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