The N+1 Theory

I lived with a guy named John Doyle in college. Like many people at MIT, John was brilliant. He instantly understood math and physics that sounded like foriegn languages to me. But he had his issues with drugs and alcohol that ultimately killed him before he reached 40. I’m saddended just thinking of John.

John had a theory he called ‘the N+1 theory’ and while he applied it destructively in his own life, I have often found great inspiration from it in mine.

The N+1 Theory states that there is always one more of anything.

Yesterday morning I was sitting at a cafe staring at my screen thinking ‘what more can I write about on this MBA Monday theme?’. And then I thought about off balance sheet liabilities and I was off. N+1

I sometimes think that we’ve already seen every briiliant idea for a web service and then someone walks into my office and explains something fresh and new to me and I get that excited kid in a candy store look in my eye. N+1

I’ll be in yoga class thinking that I can’t possibly do another Vinyasa and then I do it perfectly. N+1

I have found that most of the time, there is always more where you think there is nothing left. You may have to look a little harder/deeper but it is there.

That does not mean that there is an infinite supply of everything. Math would say that when you extrapolate N+1 all the way out you get to infinity. But we are talking about life, not math, here.

I find the N+1 theory very inspiring. It is pure optimism sprinkled with tenacity and we need that in our work and our lives.

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