Subtract Book Summary By Leidy Klotz

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Subtract (2021) by author, is a groundbreaking book that provides an insightful exploration of subtraction as a means to make significant, positive change.

It dives deep into the human tendency to add and have “more”, while also illustrating why it doesn't necessarily lead to contentment.

Moreover, it explains how our minds and situations operate against subtraction in our lives.

This book will give readers an in-depth understanding of this inspiring concept, while also providing concrete plans and tips on how to make subtraction part of their day-to-day lives.

It is filled with hard-hitting wisdom and illuminating insight – the perfect companion for anyone seeking to take control of their life, create meaningful change and make lasting improvements.

Subtract Book

Book Name: Subtract (The Untapped Science of Less)

Author(s): Leidy Klotz

Rating: 4.2/5

Reading Time: 24 Minutes

Categories: Psychology

Author Bio

Leidy Klotz is an incredibly accomplished professor at the University of Virginia.

His expertise is in design and behavioral science, and he has helped shape the study of engineering into a multifaceted field with numerous aspects to explore.

He has worked diligently to build connections between human behavior and design, making his work highly relevant in today's world.

Klotz isn't just an expert in his field though - he is also a talented author.

He has written several books that aim to help readers understand how design impacts our lives, from Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less to Understanding Human Behavior in the Design Process.

Through his writing projects, he seeks to educate people on how we use what we know about human behavior and psychology in combination with technological progress to make life more productive, efficient and comfortable for everyone.

What Adding And Subtracting Tells Us About Our Humanity


Subtraction might not be our go-to when we look to make a difference, but it can certainly help us fight the urge to constantly add.

In these sections of Subtract Book Summary, you’ll learn why we prefer addition and what mastering subtraction can do for our daily lives.

You’ll follow along on a tour through history to understand how subtracting is an essential part of our humanity.

From prehistoric times to modern day, from our genes and faith to architecture, discover why adding things is so important – and how subtracting can combat racial injustice as well.

Plus, understand why Legos are an excellent example of the power of psychology in this process!

Using this renowned book as your guide, start by learning how you can use subtraction to resist your natural inclination towards addition today!

The Power Of Subtraction: Why We Struggle To See The Benefits Of Taking Away

Subtraction is often overlooked, but it can be a force for positive change if people just like Sue Bierman are willing to take the plunge and propose subtracting something from our lives.

In San Francisco, for example, the double-decker freeway was blocking the waterfront view of the bay and preventing citizens from enjoying their shoreline.

Despite this fact, people still weren’t willing to vote to remove it until an earthquake forced their hand.

Today, of course, we see the results of that subtraction – The Embarcadero waterfront has become one of America’s top tourist attractions and has brought a lot of jobs and money to San Francisco.

The same is true in our everyday lives as well – by subtracting some unnecessary items or activities from our daily schedules, we can make more productive use of our time and can also achieve positive goals more quickly.

We need to remember that subtracting can be just as powerful as adding when it comes to making improvements in life!

The Power Of Subtraction: How A Simple Reminder Can Make Us Choose Taking Away Over Adding

The author of Subtract, while building a Lego bridge with his son, noticed something – he was more likely to add to the shorter pillar than to subtract from the taller.

This piqued his curiosity and launched him on a journey to test this observation.

His findings supported his idea – when asked to improve a song or update a travel itinerary, most people chose to add rather than subtract as their solution.

He wondered why this was true – were people just preferring things they’ve built? Or could it be because subtracting wasn’t really accessible in their minds?

To elaborate on this point, the author ran another experiment asking participants to improve a hypothetical mini-golf course by either adding or removing things.

When reminded that subtraction was an option, significantly more of them took things away – indicating that subtraction is less mentally accessible than adding.

In other words, we can easily think of solutions which involve “adding” something but are less likely come up with solutions which involve taking away from something.

It’s like how children can only select toys that they can see and reach in the cupboard – they aren’t necessarily avoiding certain toys because they don’t want them; they simply can’t imagine reaching for those toys because they aren’t as accessible in their minds as the ones within reach.

This behaviour translates into our decision-making beyond childhood too; if something is out of sight we assume it’s out of mind and opt for solutions involving additions instead of subtractions.

Why Do We Ignore Subtraction? Understanding Human Behaviour Through The Lens Of Bowerbirds

Human Behaviour

We as humans often feel the urge to add, or acquire, instead of subtracting.

This might be because of an innate biological drive for competence and control, which is what adding provides: a physical consequence that can be observed and admired by others.

For example, male bowerbirds tend to show off their competency by adding sticks, leaves, and colorful objects to their nests – a little like showy architects of the bird world.

They don’t even need these nests; they just want to demonstrate his skill.

Similarly, we get satisfaction from adding because it makes us feel competent and happy – even if it isn’t tangible pieces of our environment we are “creating” but insignificant files on our computer we could delete but choose not to.

The native drive to seek food that kept our hunter-gatherer ancestors alive still manifests in us when we see something new to add or get – the thrill of acquisition satisfying that same urge.

So no matter whether you are stocking up on provisions or going through your computer junk folder, adding makes us feel fulfilled and content with ourselves in a way subtraction can never quite recreate.

The Power Of Addition: How Adding Revolutionized Human Civilization

It’s amazing to think that the creation of something as seemingly trivial as stone pillars, which were found at the Göbekli Tepe archaeological site in Turkey, has affected human development in such a tremendous way.

At this site, archaeologists discovered an early example of monumental architecture, containing large and intricate stone pillars.

This immense structure predated the nearest human settlements and villages that had been found by that point—there were no signs of a human settlement near the temple!

This led them to conclude that it was in fact addition that enabled humans to build structures like these temples, transforming from small hunter-gatherer bands into cooperative villages with a sense of belonging.

Addition enabled people to come together and coexist in order to create something extra special – civilization itself!

The key takeaway here is that first came addition; then civilization.

This remarkable insight gives us greater appreciation for humanity’s oldest cultural artifacts: adding.

We Live In A Culture Of Busyness: What Have We Lost When We Chose To Add Rather Than Subtract?

Keynesian economics teaches us that we can get rich by adding.

President Harry Truman recognized this when he delivered his famous address in 1949, calling for assistance around the world to help people become better off.

He recognized that if more people had access to food, clothing and other goods, then manufacturing businesses would grow, creating more jobs and allowing people to spend even more money on products – a recipe for economic growth.

Truman’s message sparked an era of consumerism whereby economic growth was seen as synonymous with prosperity and peace.

Global income has increased from $3,000 per person in 1950 to $14,500 in 2016 and life expectancy around the world has also risen from 48 years to 70 years over the same time period.

But despite all of these gains, many of us seem to carry a ‘busyness’ burden due to lack of leisure time.

Keynesian economics has allowed us to get rich by adding but it is important not to forget the importance of balance between work and leisure so that enjoying our newfound wealth doesn’t become a stressor itself.

Subtraction Can Be The Key To Effectively Tackling Systemic Oppression

Effectively Tackling

Systemic oppression can be addressed using a subtraction mindset.

This means that instead of adding resources or managing a complex problem, it is better to focus on taking away things that create obstacles to equality.

An example of this plan in action was in South Africa, where international campaigners sought to tackle the apartheid regime by withdrawing funds and support from businesses and industries tied with it.

By reducing the strength of the oppressive system, tensions were reduced and eventually led to its collapse by 1990.

This proves that subtraction-based changes carry more weight than addition-based ones in terms of tackling systemic oppression.

It also shows us why understanding is essential before any ideas for change can start formulating, as you need to know all the components of a situation before deciding what should be taken away for best results.

Subtraction: The Harder Choice That Rewards Us All

In life, subtraction can often be more difficult than simply leaving things as they are.

But techniques such as satisficing-when you’re satisfied with something that’s “good enough”-are only limiting your potential for a better outcome.

Subtracting the unnecessary to arrive at something superior is worth the extra effort, and proves time and time again to have amazing results!

Take for example the city of Lexington, Kentucky.

Over 100 years after initially blocking off their creek in order fight against cholera and flooding, Kate Orff proposed an idea centered around subtracting what was now unnecessary: removing buildings and roads that had been built on the creek, so the town’s waterway could encourage leisure activities for citizens.

Through subtraction she was able to reinvigorate the whole community – making it clear that subtraction is well worth the extra effort.

Wrap Up

The Subtract Book by Professor Johnathan Churchill has several key messages.

Ultimately, all of our biology, culture, and economics can lock us into a cycle of acquisition.

However, the Subtract Book’s final takeaway is that taking away things, or subtracting them can create positive change and lead to something better than just settling for “good enough.”

Subtracting isn’t always easy or short process but this book shows you how it can help transcend “good enough” rut and move forward towards beauty, simplicity and true progress.

That’s the final summary message of The Subtract Book: by actively subtracting things in life we can find real answers and embark on a journey toward the good outcomes we desire.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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