Why ‘starting with growth’ is dangerous

  • Grow your business
  • Grow the economy
  • Grow your team

We hear phrases like this all the time. 

But none of them focuses on making a positive difference. All they focus on is doing more of something. More of anything.

When we start our goals with ‘growth’, we deprioritise purpose. 

What if we replace the word ‘grow’ when we set our goals?

It might look more like this:

  • Serve people better with your business
  • Fairly distribute resources in the economy
  • Care about the people in your team

Perhaps this is still a type of growth – but it’s growth driven by purpose. And surely that kind of growth is more valuable.

What do billionaires and hoarders have in common?

Hoarding can be defined as “excessive accumulation of items, regardless of actual value, occurs.”

A hoarder at home

The TV show ‘Hoarders’ shows this in all its horrific glory – quantities of things that people will never be able to use, with reasons for holding on to them that defy logical explanation.

These look like tragic cases because they are poor

A billionaire who is able to keep accumulating cars, houses, clothes, private jets, and cash is no less of a hoarder – they can simply pay someone to keep their unabated accumulation organised. And instead of pitying it, it is fetishized.

Amazon CEO and world’s richest man Jeff Bezos’ personal wealth has increased by $24,000,000,000 since the Coronavirus pandemic began. He is the only member of America’s five richest people to refuse to sign the Giving Pledge – a commitment to donate half of his wealth during his lifetime or in his will. 

Richard Branson has put his Virgin Atlantic staff on unpaid leave whilst asking for £500m of taxpayer money – equivalent to just over 10% of his personal wealth. If he kept his business going himself – as many others will have to do – he would still have so much money he would never be able to spend it.

Luckily some other billionaires – the Bill Gates’s and Warren Buffet’s of this world – do show us that it doesn’t have to be this way. So why do the Bezoses and Bransons still exist?

Stuffing an emotional void with cash

Although pitying these billionaires is a feat of mental agility of Olympic acrobatic proportions, this line of thinking does beg a question: 

“What is the emptiness inside that these people are trying to fill with money?”

And what would the world look like if they could fill it in other ways?

The ‘Enough Mindset’: What is it?

An ‘Enough Mindset’ is about understanding what ‘enough’ of something is for us, so we can know when we’ve reached our goals, concentrate on contentment, and put a stop to our endless quest for ‘something more’.

An Enough Mindset can be applied in all areas of life:

  • Do I need to up my salary, or have I got enough money?
  • Do I need to buy this food item/piece of clothing/thing for my house, or have I got enough?
  • Do I need to be the perfect partner/parent/child/student/employee/boss, or am I doing enough?

How could the Enough Mindset change us?

  • Becoming more conscious about whether we’re working towards goals, so we’re not working towards something we haven’t actively decided we need or want
  • Gaining more time to focus on the things that matter to us
  • Consuming less, helping the planet and other people
  • Taking better care of what we put in our bodies
  • Being kinder to ourselves 

Working ‘constantly wanting more’ out of my system

I first started exploring the idea of enough after moving from the UK to Ecuador, and realising the contentment I was finding in a society with more limited options. But, for me, it wasn’t simply about minimalism or renouncing things – living in Ecuador brought many challenges, it would be insensitive to idealise a situation where many live in poverty. I was in a privileged position of comfort, albeit one with less distractions and choices, and this felt good to me, once I got the ‘constant want’ out of my system.

For this reason, I don’t like the idea of thinking in black-and-white terms of “shoulds” – you should buy less, you should work less, you should eat less – how much we want to do something is a personal choice. ‘Enough’ does mean that we stop fetishizing excess, but it is only ‘minimal’ if you decide it is.

Enough is personal.

I’m working out my ‘enoughs’. And, honestly – as you’ll see in my previous post – I’m struggling with some of them too. This ain’t easy, so I’m gonna be working them out for some time.

How do you define yours?

I just realised I’m a workaholic. Now what?

When you believe in the work you do, it’s like a drug. Addictive.

Doing work I believe in gives me a sense of purpose that I’m lacking elsewhere. It provides positive feedback, and makes me feel needed.

And yet, somehow, no achievement is ever enough. I’m addicted to wanting more. Why? 

“Addiction begins with the hope that something ‘out there’ can instantly fill up the emptiness inside.” — Jean Kilbourne

In my case, I wonder – did I become so reliant on being praised for my work that I feel restless and unfulfilled if I don’t receive it?

And can I ever get enough?

Here I’m going to note down some questions to myself, to reflect on. I’m sharing so you can reflect too, if you like.

  • How can you do less of the work you don’t care about, and concentrate on the work you do?

  • How can you teach yourself to separate your self-worth from the work you do?
  • How can you figure out when you’ve done enough?

I don’t have any answers with this post. But I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment, and let me know what you think.

Photo by Avi Richards on Unsplash

We need to display the integrity our politicians lack

So another round of climate talks come to an end, with another round of protests, and another set of deeply insufficient promises and targets in place.

Once again, political integrity is called into question. Worldwide, people like me are frustrated that they are not taking action. They aren’t doing anything – our political representatives.

And yet, I can’t help but think that part of that frustration comes from our own desire that they will solve our crisis for us; with solutions that will require little to no change on our part.

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve always taken the view that there was little point in individual action when industrial polluters were able to continue unabated on a massive scale. That, whilst governments are still this level of destruction, my actions were not worth changing. But this year something in me changed. I admitted to myself that I was making excuses. Politics might not be changing yet – but I can’t use that as an excuse to not take any action myself. To do so would display a huge lack of integrity. A lack of integrity that I’ve never wanted to admit to before. A lack of integrity that would make me like them.

So, as we approach Christmas, I’m making more sustainable shopping decisions, and buying less overall. It’s not a perfect solution yet, but hopefully I’m starting to move the needle in the right direction.

We might not be able to solve the problem of our politicians’ integrity. But, by taking little steps towards making better buying choices – including buying enough instead of buying to excess – we can start by facing up to our own.

A Tale of Two Fridays

Friday 29th December: Black Friday sends the global marketplace into a worldwide buying spree. The Guardian reports on ‘outstanding’ figures.

Friday 6th December: The United Nations climate change convention is in full swing. Greta Thunberg arrives, saying “I hope world leaders grasp the urgency of the climate crisis”. All week, The Guardian has been reporting on a mission to create an army of Gretas.

Tomorrow is Friday 13th December 2019.

Tomorrow the UN convention comes to a close.

Will we face up to the truth that we need to reduce consumption? Or will we continue to blindly consume, in the vain hope for ‘sustainable growth’?

When we don’t want to see

My brother sometimes works for a farmer doing building projects – let’s call him Harry.

I’ve never met Harry, but the talk I hear of him is that he’s one of those real ‘salt of the earth’ kinda guys. A real ‘grafter’. You know… just a simple farmer done good through hard work. An ordinary good guy who deserves it.

At least, that’s the way my brother frames it, and my dad. They both seem to admire him. They speak of him in a way that’s reserved for those good guys who are self-made men who’ve done it all themselves by sheer grit and determination.

Grit and determination. It plays into values around social mobility, about someone coming ‘from nothing’ and being a good honest guy who just works hard and ‘makes it’. He wasn’t born into it, that would be unjust. No, Harry’s a farmer. He’s no ‘suit’.

And yet, I can’t help but feel like the good honest guy thing is something they want to believe, rather than it necessarily being true. You see, Harry isn’t just a farmer. He’s now built a whole small industrial estate on his farmland which he’s going to great lengths to hide from public view so he doesn’t have to pay any tax on it. Along with his son, he’s now building houses and selling them – although according to what I’ve heard, the quality is not good, but he’s making great money on them. He’s created a network of CCTV cameras across his empire so he can keep track of everything, all of the time, from his mobile phone. He’s a multi-millionaire.

Like I said, he’s no farmer. He just happens to have a farm.

In fact, this work isn’t good and honest at all, is it? It’s tax evasion and shoddy workmanship. It’s corruption.

But he couldn’t do that. Ordinary people aren’t corrupt, because we’re not driven by greed. That’s others, that is. He’s just a farmer.

My brother has a real chip on his shoulder about ‘rich people’. He would never self-identify as coming from an upper middle class background – it goes against the identity he holds deep to his own core of being a grafter, someone who does good, honest work. And Tim does. So why would he admire someone like Harry?

For me, it comes down to how we judge people by what we want to believe, rather than what we can actually see. Tim and Dad have become so entrenched in the idea of Harry as a good guy, a self-made man, that they can’t see what’s right in front of them. They can’t, and they won’t.

I brought their relationship with Harry up the other day in conversation with my dad. “I find it weird that you guys would look up to someone like that – it seems mostly because he’s rich.” To which my dad answered, “But he isn’t, you know, rich like that.

He is, Dad.

He is rich like that.

There’s a phrase: “All that glitters is not gold.”

It’s time to coin a new phrase. Maybe I should try it out on my brother sometime. Would would it be? “Dirty hands do not an honest man make”?

Can perfectionism be selfish?

The chef who puts everything into your dinner, but by the time it’s ready you’ve already given up and left.

The website that really encapsulates what you stand for, but took a year longer and ran over budget.

The builder who does an amazing job, but finishes six months late.

Perfectionists have a narrative. A narrative that “if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”.

But that’s a narrative that’s stuck with our society for too long; and – when unquestioned – is full of pitfalls.

Just think:

  • Can a fabulous birthday cake really be perfect if it wasn’t ready in time for the party?

  • Can a website really be perfect if it doesn’t suit the timelines and budget in a business’ strategic plan?

  • Can a house you need to move into really be perfect if you can’t live in it until six months later than planned?

Because really, perfection isn’t just about quality. It’s about balance.

It’s about understanding what’s enough to meet the needs of your customer. Not what’s enough to satisfy your ego.

So, when thinking about our perfectionism, here’s a question we could choose to reflect on:

“Is my perfectionism serving my needs, or the needs of others?”