When my daughter asked this simple question, I struggled to give a coherent answer. Then I realized that vacuum is defined by the absence of matter.
It struck me that in many instances the best way to describe something is by being clear what it isn’t.
For example: Silence is the absence of sound, efficiency is the absence of waste, death is the absence of both heartbeat and brain activity.
The big advantage of this negative approach is that it immediately provides a clear path to improvement and creation:
- If you want to create vacuum, get rid of matter.
- If you want to create silence, get rid of sound.
- If you want to improve efficiency, get rid of waste.
This approach is very helpful to set and achieve goals as well.
If you want to become a better listener, get rid of the behaviors which prevent you from listening, such as being distracted, multi-tasking, etc.
If you want to become proficient at deep thinking, get rid of the environment which prevents you from stepping out of the hamster wheel, such as wall-to-wall calendar appointments, open office space, etc.
If you want to improve strategy execution, get rid of the obstacles which slow the organization down, such as muddy goals, turf battles, etc.
The distinction between is and is not is often the first step to improvement and creation.