When There Is Nothing More To Add

(Simplifying but never reaching perfection)

"Perfection is Achieved Not When There Is Nothing More to Add, But When There Is Nothing Left to Take Away" Antoine de Saint-Exupery. 

I like Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s quote about “perfection”. He’s famous for two things in my mind: flying and for writing “The Little Prince”. Perfection — what a word. It is an ideal that means different things to each of us. And everyone is chasing it.

Perfection. It is like the laser light toy people use to play with their pet cats. Cats chase the light but the point of the laser pointer was to have fun and to play. We do the same but hopefully we never quite catch it. May we never catch what we think is perfection.

And speaking of never catching laser lights, I am reminded about the problem of traveling at the speed of light. I refer to pop culture sci-fi ideas of spaceships flying between the stars as easily as hopping aboard a plane and leaving New York for Tokyo.

From what I read we can move faster and faster but it gets harder with each increment. You have to use increasing amounts of effort to go just a bit further as you approach the speed of light. Time slows down, your mass changes and you never quite hit the mark and go as fast as photons. You keep cutting away at the gap between less than light-speed and advance at an aching pace. The gap never goes away.

Achieving perfection is a bit like a starship stretching ever closer towards lightspeed.

The first cuts, edits and changes result in massive changes. You get enormous rates of changes off the low base of a starting point. But at some point you hit a limit.

I was taught by my mentor about trading as being simple but not easy. He had worked to strip away a lot of details and indicators used by others but had shared a methodology and a perspective about finding what works without the frills.

And the day after he finished teaching me he was done, but I am still cutting, editing, optimizing and edging my way towards perfection. I’m not quite there and I doubt day will ever arrive but I do know I’m a lot further from my starting point.

It’s not just in trading and investment. We look for time savers, life hacks, or for “techniques”, to use in our day to day lives.

Over the long haul we make choices about how to survive and who we have in our lives. Most start out with a sliver of one corner of the world to start life in. The fortunate have the entire world at their feet. In the end, everyone has only so many hours, only so much time on Earth, and only so much room for the world in their lives.

The truly blessed among us can imagine, see and expand their options of what they can cut. Bruce Lee, Picasso and Steve Jobs and just about anyone with a base of “classical” training, who would go on to become masters, will cut, iterate and innovate towards personal perfection.

Everything is about this: reduction, simplification and optimization.

What’s left over is used.

We all keep taking away, as we crawl towards, and never quite touch “perfection”.

I’m certain that I will be adding and updating this post but definitely taking away things too to make it more “perfect”.