211. Subtract with Leidy Klotz

At the beginning of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, the Once-ler says, “I meant no harm. I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.” Biggering, it turns out, is the default setting for most of us. For years, Leidy Klotz, author of Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, has studied how we transform things from how they are to how we want them to be. Both his research and the Once-ler’s tale relay similar sentiments: we gravitate towards adding and systematically neglect subtracting. This remains true even when subtracting might add considerable value to our lives!

On this episode of POTC, Yael and Leidy discuss the science supporting addition by subtraction. Listen to this episode today to learn how to be deliberate in your choices, subtract what’s no longer serving you, and add value to your life in the process!

Listen and Learn:

  • Yael and Diana discuss the role of values and subtraction in their personal lives 
  • The values reinforcing Leidy’s life journey to “less”
  • The important distinction between “less” and “subtraction”
  • What happens to subtraction options when we’re under pressure
  • Why we tend to add when subtracting is the better option
  • Practical advice for being more deliberate in your choices
  • Important differences between saying “no” and subtracting
  • The story behind Leidy’s interdisciplinary approach to behavioral science
  • Evidence based advice for subtracting in your personal life
  • How to be more deliberate about making subtractive changes at a global level


About Leidy Klotz

Leidy Klotz, PhD, studies how we transform things from how they are to how we want them to be. His research on the science of design has appeared in both Nature and Science, and he has written for The Washington Post, Fast Company, LitHub, The Globe and Mail, and The Behavioral Scientist. Leidy’s work applies whenever we are designing and problem-solving, whether for climate change, art, parenting, or personal finance. The range of implications of Leidy’s research have been highlighted in outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Grist, The Boston Globe, and national newspapers on five continents.

A professor at the University of Virginia, Leidy has authored more than 80 original research articles and secured more than $10 million dollars in competitive funding to support his and others’ work in this area. Recognized nationally as a professor who inspires, Leidy has taught thousands of students, including 21 Ph.D. advisees, whose designing and teaching shapes the world. Before becoming a professor, Leidy designed schools in New Jersey and before that he played professional soccer. Buy his latest book, Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less, and follow him on Twitter @Leidyklotz!  

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Episode 211