Don’t Want It! [Also... On the Value of Re-Reading Useful Books]

Readers, I'm re-reading Jacob Lund Fisker's paradigm-shifting book Early Retirement Extreme, and I re-stumbled onto a quote worth sharing.

Giving up wants can be as tough or easy as going on a diet, giving up smoking, or changing other habits dependent on strength of character. However, doing without is often thought of as a sacrifice, especially when strongly attached to material comforts. It's quickly realized (after about a month) that happiness does not stem from being surrounded by possessions, but that being surrounded by them is the result of an addictive habit. Thus, it can be tremendously liberating not to "need" something to be happy.

Since humans need very little, eliminating various wants can go far in terms of solving problems. Can't afford it? Don't want it! Too complicated? Don't want it! Reduce and simplify. Reduce and simplify! An entire aesthetic can and has been formed around this principle, and so the pleasure from following this path can be as strong as the (previous) pleasure of accumulation. However, as there's a point of diminishing returns to the pleasure of accumulation, there's also a point of diminishing returns to the pleasure of giving things up. The optimal point is somewhere in the middle. It should therefore be kept in mind that while eliminating problems can be a very good tool, some will be very tempted to make it their only tool, in which case it becomes a hammer for which the whole world becomes a nail.
--Jacob Lund Fisker, Early Retirement Extreme

What I love about this quote is how it synthesizes and combines ideas from minimalism, frugality, consumerism and consumer empowerment, all of which are frequent discussion topics here at Casual Kitchen.

Also, it brings to mind other worthwhile books I've discussed here at CK, like Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and her equally useful follow-up book Spark Joy. Marie Kondo's central idea is to keep only the possessions that truly spark joy in you, with a secondary theme that you can--and probably should--eliminate nearly everything else in your life that doesn't spark joy.

An interesting conclusion that we can draw out from these complementary books and the philosophies behind them is the striking idea that you actually "don't want!" a surprisingly large percentage of your stuff. Maybe you once might have thought you wanted it... but you were wrong. We're often wrong about our wants and needs.

If you can acknowledge this, if you can accept it, not only will you have less stuff (probably a lot less stuff), but you'll also have far more happiness. And more money! Think about it: a meaningful percentage of the things you will buy in the future will be things you ultimately "don't want!" Avoid buying them. It's a great feeling to get rid of stuff, but it's better (not to mention more enriching) to not accumulate stuff at all. Marie Kondo and Jacob Lund Fisker ought to get together for a beer one of these days: their ideas are surprisingly in sync.

And the savings aren't limited just to money. Think of all the time you'll save if you don't have to shop for things you "don't want!", if you don't have to take them home, if you don't have to figure out a place to store them, don't have to dust them, organize them, maintain them, pay for extra square footage in your home to make room for them, and so on. And, obviously, you won't have to agonize over whether or not to discard something you never even bought. The "don't want!" heuristic enables you to avoid the entire exercise. Every time-consuming part of it.

So, lately, I've started using this way of thinking whenever I consider an item or a service that I might need or want: How can I "don't want!" this? How can I avoid acquiring an item, avoid spending money and time, and yet still solve this particular problem I'd like to solve?


Finally, a closing thought on re-reading books. Only a small fraction of books merit reading once--and a vanishingly small fraction of books merit reading more than once. I'm getting enormous value on my second reading of Jacob's book. It's helping me groove and maintain values and habits I prize deeply, values and habits that I want to make sure I keep in the years to come.

Which books merit re-reading for you? For me, they tend to be books that taught me new or particularly useful habits, or books that helped me shape a new way of thinking about the world. Books like Early Retirement Extreme, Your Money or Your Life and Nicholas Taleb's books The Black Swan and Antifragile all fit this category. William Irvine's excellent book on Stoicism, A Guide to the Good Life, fits. And so on.

What are books that you have (or will) re-read? Why? We can all benefit by hearing about "re-read worthy" books. Share your titles in the comments!

Readers! You can help support the work I do here at Casual Kitchen by visiting Amazon via any link on this site. Amazon pays a small commission to me based on whatever purchase you make on that visit, and it's at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

And, if you are interested at all in cryptocurrencies, yet another way you can help support my work here is to use this link to open up your own cryptocurrency account at Coinbase. I will receive a small affiliate commission with each opened account. Once again, thank you for your support!

No comments: