Do Less. Try Less.
There’s a hilarious scene in the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall where the main character, Peter, played by Jason Segel, decides to take a surfing lesson. Paul Rudd is genius as Kunu, the washed up, spaced out, albeit extremely wise surf instructor.
The scene begins with Kunu reassuring Peter that “Kunu will be your instincts.”
Peter does his best to fully trust Kunu, as ridiculous of an idea as that might appear to be. Kunu’s philosophy on surfing is that one should not do or try anything. It is from this place that he launches into this memorable quote:
The less you do, the more you do.
After several failed attempts to “pop up”, Kunu distills it down even further to these simple instructions:
Peter totally doesn’t get it and Kunu can’t explain it, so they head out into the water anyway.
To this day, the scene makes me howl with laughter. I absolutely adore Kunu! And Peter, for that matter.
But there’s more to this scene than utter silliness. I think there is actually some truth to it.
The less you do, the more you do.
I’ve never surfed, but I have done yoga for over a decade. The closest I’ve come to surfing is riding the subway while standing. If you want to hold your ground on mass transit, you’ve got to develop a whole new awareness for what your body is capable of.
I find myself in a bit of the same predicament as Kunu. How do I explain subway surfing with actual instructions? Kunu is right. It’s not about doing more or trying more. It’s about noticing where your center of gravity is and allowing that sense of balance to radiate outward.
Noticing and allowing is quite different from doing and trying. Noticing and allowing is about being.
From this perspective — the idea of subway surfing, or plain old, regular surfing on actual waves — it would seem silly to try to do more than just be. Would it make sense to start juggling or eating a slice of pizza or doing your taxes while surfing? Some might say, difficult, but not impossible. To each his own. But just how good would that experience be?
The reason this scene, and the idea of doing less, sticks with me is because of how often I’ve thought that I am not doing enough. I should be doing more. More, more, more.
I have so many ideas, things I want to make and produce, and out of all of these ideas, I have been doing… nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. Nope.
Jessica Abel (my new guru, right up there with Kunu) hits the nail on the head in her blog post One Goal to Rule Them All:
Too many projects = no projects.
(Seriously, stop whatever you are doing and pick up everything she is putting down.)
Pick something! Do that thing. Be that thing. Go all in.
It might need to be something small, like doing your taxes (crikey!) or replying to an email or tidying up your workspace. Do the thing. Feel the sense of accomplishment upon completion. Do the next thing. One at a time.
Eventually your little wins will turn into big wins as you build momentum towards the thing.
I recently read Greg Mckeown’s excellent book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. There are many choice concepts and quotes from his book, but try this one on for size:
Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?
Doing less — eliminating distractions, saying NO to self-limiting beliefs, excuses, and the general cruft of life — is about making room for the good stuff: being in the moment, making your mark on the world, living your true purpose.
It’s not supposed to be so hard.
Let it flow in like a good swell. Notice and allow yourself to feel centered. Hold your ground. Stand tall like a mountain.
From this place, be all that you are.
And listen to Kunu.