We were all introduced to the concept of enough when we were little through a little story of three bears and a girl with a habit of doing B&E. Yet in real life the space between too little and too much is such a brief stop we often miss it entirely. So I was interested when I came across a reference to a book called Enough: Breaking free from the world of more by John Naish. After all the core of any good early retirement plan is knowing when you have ‘enough’ spending. John goes through the world in several chapters that look at enough information, food, stuff, work, options, happiness and growth.
What is interesting about the book is often our tendencies for excess is partly driven by evolutionary instincts that were great for our species for thousands of years, but is killing some of us today. Food is the perfect example of this particular situation. For thousands of years the idea of ‘eat until you want to burst, when you can’ was a good strategy, after all you never knew when the next famine would hit. Yet today when endless all you can eat buffets, that strategy is literally killing people. A lot of us lack the sense of enough food to stop that cycle before it gets out of hand.
The same idea applies somewhat to information. Marketing companies have spend a fortune trying to understand our brains and realized a few interesting facts. Like today we are drowning in so much information that even the marketing departments of many companies are finding it hard to get their messages into our heads. So what is the solution? This is what I liked about each chapter, the author provides a few ideas on knowing when you have hit enough. With information the obvious one is start on a information diet. Did you really need to read all those news sites and blogs each day? Likely not, so can you pare down to a smaller number of sites? Perhaps one for national information and another for more local content.
While I could easily keep gushing on how much I like this book I will attempt to jump ahead to two other concepts I really enjoyed in the book. The first is the fact we have a strange culture towards work, it’s like the option of having part-time work is a problem rather than an obvious solution to a lot of people’s lives. If you can earn a good wage why do you need to work full time? After all at some point the extra money is likely largely going to taxes and buying excess stuff. So don’t forget to consider that when you are looking for a job, the best benefit of all just might be working 80% of the time or what ever number works for you.
The other concept I really liked in the book was the discussion about happiness. In a culture of ‘more, more and more’ even the idea of happiness has turned into a endless quest for more of it. Yet what is wrong with skipping the endless happiness quest and parking yourself instead at contentment for most of the time. Really? Nothing is wrong with that as an ideal.
In fact, if you understand how happiness occurs it damn well makes a lot of sense. Case in point, your happiness is largely determined from comparing your baseline to you current experience. Hence if you change your baseline in an attempt to be more happy it often fails in the long term, as what used to make you happy now only makes you content instead.
For example, let’s say you drink red wine and your day to day choice is some homemade wine from a decent kit. Then you decide to upgrade to drinking a better wine from the store in order to be more happy. The only problem is after a few weeks of store bought wine your taste buds and your mind have adjusted to that new level. It’s now no longer bringing the same level of happiness and instead you are merely content and out some more money. Adaptation is a bitch when it comes to happiness.
So overall, I was very impressed by this book as it helped explained several things that I sort of knew about, but didn’t fully grasp the concept. I would have to rank this as one of those books you MUST read prior to planning your retirement. You might just find you can get by with a hell of a lot less spending than you think you need to, once you understand your own level of enough.