Via Negativa

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.” -Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) in the film Say Anything

“Via Negativa: In theology and philosophy, the focus on what something is not, an indirect definition. In action, it is a recipe for what to avoid, what not to do — subtraction, not addition…Michelangelo was asked by the pope about the secret of his genius, particularly how he carved the statue of David, largely considered the masterpiece of all masterpieces. His answer was: ‘It’s simple. I just remove everything that is not David.’ -Nassim Nicholas Taleb, book Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder

Sometimes the best way to find out what you want is to know what you don’t want.

Start from the negative.

Make a list of everything you don’t want to do, say or be. All the people, places and things you want to avoid. All that makes you feel unhealthy or unhappy.

Before you know it, you’ll have carved away all the excess marble. And your own masterpiece of a life plan just may emerge.

P.S. – Speaking of masterpieces, this scene.

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