Summary of The Laws of Subtraction

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The Laws of Subtraction book summary


8 Overall

7 Applicability

9 Innovation

8 Style


Life is demanding, uncertain, noisy and cluttered. So now is the time to figure out what’s important and delete everything that is not. Business innovator Matthew E. May explains that he based his book on the 10th law in The Ten Laws of Simplicity by John E. Maeda, president of the Rhode Island School of Design. The lesson is that you can subtract from your life “anything obviously excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use or ugly.” May draws on themes from the arts to help you do more with less. He defines six major rules, or “laws” of “the art of subtraction,” and enhances his advice with enlightening examples from art, design, comic books and architecture. He provides good models of subtraction in action, though this is not the typical how-to book; it’s lots more intriguing than that. Readers looking for specific one-two-three steps for paring down may be disappointed but will still find useful, thought-provoking guidance. getAbstract recommends this philosophical work to people interested in simplifying their lives and to artists, writers, designers, architects and other creatives.

In this summary, you will learn

  • What the six “laws of subtraction” say and
  • How to apply them to simplify your life.

About the Author

Matthew E. May is an author, speaker and coach who helps major corporations with business innovation. He wrote The Elegant Solution, In Pursuit of Excellence and The Shibumi Strategy.



The Minus Moment

Modern life is too complicated, loud, overbearing and excessive. Having too many choices may leave you overwhelmed. To simplify your life, delete or remove “anything obviously excessive, confusing, wasteful, unnatural, hazardous, hard to use or ugly.” To experience the way that having and doing less adds meaning and purpose to life, embrace a minimalistic approach. Just follow the six “laws of subtraction”:

Comment on this summary

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    Patrick Brigger 5 years ago
    Everyone should read this summary and the book!
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    gillian herrera 5 years ago
    This is truy great book and it is having interesting topic that we should be implementing our own lives.
    Need to have a summary.

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