April 26, 2023




Via Negativa, Quality Questions, & More

At a glance

Good Morning. Welcome to all the new readers of Faster Than Normal who have joined us since last week!

Today is the first edition of The Fast Five. Five actionable ideas for faster progress. If you’re a longtime reader, I’d love your feedback! Hit me up with any thoughts alex@alexbrogan.com—I’ll do my best to respond to everyone.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Mental Model: Via Negativa.

Insight: Quality questions.

Quote: Big steps.

Question: Curiosity in the mundane.

Visual: Hierarchy of digital distractions.


| Mental Model

Via Negativa: The Power of Subtraction

Source: DeanYeong.com

Our society tends to focus on addition—adding habits, skills, or possessions to improve our lives. However, there's a lesser-discussed approach to personal growth and problem-solving that can be just as powerful: the concept of via negativa, or the power of subtraction.

The term via negativa comes from Latin, meaning "the negative way" or "by the way of denial." In this context, it refers to the idea that personal improvement and growth can be achieved by identifying and removing detrimental elements from our lives, rather than adding new ones.

Here's a simple summary of the concept:

  1. Instead of adding new habits or solutions, focus on subtracting negative influences.

  2. Pay attention to what you avoid or eliminate, as it can be more impactful than what you add.

  3. Removing distractions and unnecessary commitments can lead to increased productivity and well-being.

The via negativa approach can be applied to various aspects of life, such as health, productivity, relationships, and personal development. Here are a few examples of how to implement this powerful framework:

  • Health: Instead of solely focusing on adding healthy foods to your diet, prioritize eliminating or reducing the consumption of unhealthy foods. By cutting out processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive snacking, you'll likely see a more significant improvement in your overall health.

  • Productivity: To boost productivity, focus on removing distractions from your environment. Clear your workspace of unnecessary items, limit the number of browser tabs you have open, and mute notifications on your phone during work hours. By eliminating distractions, you create a more conducive environment for deep work and concentration.

  • Relationships: To strengthen your relationships, subtract negative influences and toxic people from your life. Surround yourself with supportive, positive individuals who uplift you and encourage your growth.

  • Personal Development: For self-improvement, consider what habits or thought patterns are holding you back. Work on eliminating negative self-talk, procrastination, and other barriers to your progress.

By embracing the via negativa approach, you can simplify your life, enhance your well-being, and create a more focused path towards personal growth and success.

Remember: Improvement isn't always about adding more to your life. Sometimes, the most significant gains come from what you remove.

| Latticework

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| Insight

The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life.

Challenge: Write down three questions you can ask yourself daily to help you maintain focus and direction in life.


  1. What is the most important task I can accomplish today?

  2. How can I improve 1% every day?

  3. What am I grateful for?

| Quote

David Lloyd George, former British Prime Minister, on seizing opportunities:

"Don't be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps."

| Question

How might I approach my daily routine with more curiosity and wonder, allowing myself to explore the nuances of the seemingly mundane?

| A Visual I Enjoyed

Have a wonderful Wednesday, all.

Until next time,


| P.S. — My Weekly Picks

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