In the above pod, Laurie Santos and Tim Harford talk about the power of subtraction and why we so often choose ‘more’ when doing doing less is often a better option. It is a good overview of the subject. They tell the story of how pilot Chuck Yeager saved himself from a likely fatal spin in the X-1A, by choosing to nothing, i.e. giving up control of a tumbling aircraft. That is, until he could safely regain control.

It’s hard for us to do nothing. Just look at the investment industry. It’s built to make money on people doing more stuff, even when all the evidence is the contrary. This same phenomenon shows up in other areas of our lives as well.

A significant portion of the populace feels like they should do something to help the environment, like recycling all manner of consumer goods. But is recycling really the best thing you can do?

Patrick I. Hancock and Michaela Barnett writing at Behavioral Scientist look at Americans’ attitudes toward the problem of waste. It should be obvious that not consuming something in the first place would be the preferred way to go, but people don’t think that way. They write:

People living in the U.S., it seems, default to disposing of waste rather than making decisions that would lead to less waste in the first place. This is harmful because there are negative impacts along the entire production supply chain, especially when goods are produced with the intention of disposing of them. Recycling does have a place in a sustainable waste management system, and is far better than landfilling, incinerating waste, or letting it escape to pollute the natural environment.

By all means, recycle when possible, but don’t kid yourself that its necessarily the best option. This bias toward addition is persistent. So it will take some practice to move beyond it. In an earlier post I wrote:

It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of doing more, saying yes and getting distracted along the way. Part of this is our bias toward thinking that more equals better. The more you default toward ‘doing less’ the more you see it. So keep your eyes open.

Saying no doesn’t come naturally. Most of us are people pleasers. Santos and Harford provide a few hacks to help you default more to saying no so you can find more room in your life for things that matter even more.

This content, which contains security-related opinions and/or information, is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon in any manner as professional advice, or an endorsement of any practices, products or services. There can be no guarantees or assurances that the views expressed here will be applicable for any particular facts or circumstances, and should not be relied upon in any manner. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment.

The commentary in this “post” (including any related blog, podcasts, videos, and social media) reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the Ritholtz Wealth Management employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded the views of Ritholtz Wealth Management LLC. or its respective affiliates or as a description of advisory services provided by Ritholtz Wealth Management or performance returns of any Ritholtz Wealth Management Investments client.

References to any securities or digital assets, or performance data, are for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an investment recommendation or offer to provide investment advisory services. Charts and graphs provided within are for informational purposes solely and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The content speaks only as of the date indicated. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects, and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others.

Please see disclosures here.

Please see the Terms & Conditions page for a full disclaimer.