The Culture of More

Here is something none of us can argue about: we are firmly caged in a culture of “more”.

I’m no historian, and I have no real desire to pinpoint when this culture first took hold of us a human race. I can, however, observe that the rise of capitalism, globalisation and consumerism means that we’re moving from one thing to the next at even ever-increasing speed.

All in the pursuit of more.

It should not be news to anyone that we’re in a moment where instant gratification is pursued on-demand (pun entirely intended). Most of which has manifested as the accumulation of material goods fuelled by the banks’ cunning plan of overwhelming us with debt.

I recently watched Rise of the Sufferfests and about three quarters through the documentary I was convinced that I had to prove my worthiness by finishing an obstacle race. Many of the reasons to do this are compelling and resonate with me:

  • In the age of the computer, most of us have a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before. We know we need to move more.
  • The type of work we’re doing doesn’t always render a tangible result. The documentary’s narrator says it best: “We send out 72 emails. We print papers. We pass those papers around to each other. And at the end of the day, we don’t know what we’ve accomplished.” On that backdrop, I can see completing something physically tough is a reminder of the good’ol’days where we did actual things.
  • Having read a lot about our minds and happiness recently, something finally clicked into place for me when I read Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. We’re not happy because we avoid obstacles, challenges and problems; we’re happy in the moments when we overcome those.
  • That last point reminds me of Seneca’s On Festivals and Fasting, which Tim Ferris speaks about often. My key takeaway from this is that once we encounter the worst-case scenario (according to our minds) and live through it, everything else in life can be viewed through a different lens. This tends to mean that surviving a Tough Guy race (and the subsequent stage 3 hypothermia) means that the next argument my wife & I have about something fundamentally insignificant will be so much easier for me to deal with. (Right?)

And just as I was about to enter my first obstacle race, I remembered this culture of more within which we find ourselves.

I realised suddenly that in that notion I suddenly didn’t feel content with completing a full marathon; I now wanted to add a bucketload of crazy obstacles to it before I would feel worthy. The irony obviously being that after completing an obstacle race, I’d just have to find the next thing in my pursuit of more.

I know that whenever I pursue something different, something better or just more of the thing that I have now, it’s because I have a discomfort in this moment. And instead of just sitting with that discomfort, I can’t bear it and would rather jump into the deep-end of something else to change something about this moment.

But that’s just the way that we have brainwashed ourselves and deepened the neural pathways in our brains. And unfortunately for us, the acceleration of innovation in mainstream technology has made this easier for us.

A simple example is how we spend even more hours working today than ever before in history, yet we have incredibly powerful computers assisting us.

Oh, and fuck steady, linear growth. Everything needs to be exponential.

I’m not about to be a hypocrite and say that I have my life completely figured out. I often find myself pushing forward and seeking acceleration because I’m not comfortable with the status quo. This happens, especially in my business.

I have however learnt that there are moments and stretches of time where I’ve managed to do less and that these are the times where I’ve felt some form of peace, calm and happiness. Whenever I’ve accepted this moment for whatever it is without seeking more, I’ve found more breathing room for myself.

Day by day it is becoming harder to get off of this hamster wheel. Money makes the world go around after all.

Starting today though, try at least to be aware of those decisions you make purely in pursuit of more. And then try not making any decision in that moment; just letting the moment be.

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