Notes: Living in the Land of Enough

Courtney Carver sent me a complimentary copy of her latest ebook, Living in the Land of Enough. It contains a wealth of knowledge and ideas for living more consciously and rewiring how we live in a world of plenty. Here's a sample:

Seven Ways to Live in the Land of Enough

1. Save Your Money. There is no need for credit cards or therapeutic shopping in the land of enough. There are also no overdraft fees or ATM charges. Just put your cards away for 10 days. Then, keep a list of purchases you would have made if you were using your credit card, or if you were shopping for sport, and take note of the money that you didn't spend.

2. Take Your Time. In the land of enough, you have time to breathe. Stop trying to squeeze so much in. If you are always running late, falling behind, or trying to catch up, try slowing down. Cancel a few unnecessary appointments and don't schedule any new ones if you can help it. Then, make a little time everyday for solitude.

3. Disconnect. Set a specific time to disconnect each day. In the land of enough, there is less need to be plugged in. If you can, commit to not using a computer after dinner or before lunch time. Be mindful of how much time you spend online and are virtually available. Protect your time and your mind.

4. Eat Real Food. Only eat food that you prepare. Now is the perfect time to eat fresh, seasonal. Do not eat anything from a box, restaurant or drive-thru. While you may choose to eat less when eliminating processed foods, you may find that you naturally eat just enough.

5. Make Space. Clear out some space in your home. You don't need to take on big purging projects during this time to make space. Simplify one room (or even just the corner of one room) and keep it as clean and clutter free as possible. Even if the rest of your house is cluttered, this area can be a great reminder of how you might feel living with less.

6. Entertain Yourself. Unplug your TV and plan to enjoy your friends, family, the great outdoors, or a book you have been meaning to read. Do not spend time and money on expensive shows, travel or recreational activities. While the land of plenty calls you to spend more money for entertainment, you already have enough right where you are.

7. Say Thank You. As you go through these steps, you will find enough time and space to be grateful. Through prayer, thank you cards, or a kind gesture, share your gratitude every day.

I love how she explains there's no risk involved in exploring living with enough:

There is no risk involved by visiting the land of enough. Bring your family with you and talk about what you like and don’t like about the changes you’ve made. Based on these discussions, you can decide what changes become a permanent part of your life. If you don’t enjoy living without TV, plug it back in. If saving money makes you miserable, go on a spending spree at the mall after your experiment.

Notes: Book Highlights from the Impossible Manifesto

My highlights from Joel Runyon's Impossible Manifesto:

Some time between our teenage years and adulthood, people strip away the possibilities from us. We're told what we can do and what we can't do. What's possible and what's not.

We're made to believe what we should do and what's simply irresponsible. Somewhere along the line, we forget that we control a lot of things.

It's your life. You get to decide what happens. There are a million different influences around you every day trying to get you to buy into what you "should" do, but ultimately you really can do whatever you want.

You get to write your story.


Are you telling a good story with your life? The emphasis is on the word "good", because whether you like it or not, you're telling a story. No matter what you do, with each decision you make, you're writing your story every day.

Whether your story is an adventure-filled page-turner or more boring than a 50-year-old-textbook is up to you. But, you get to decide.


When you want something, make sure you want something worthwhile.

Because eventually you are going to have to fight for it.

And it better be worth it.


Wanting to live vicariously through others takes relatively little effort. You can sit back and watch TV or scan the Internet, reading about people doing interesting things with the click of a button. But, because there's little effort involved, there's little conflict.

There's also little reward and little meaning.

The more worthwhile the cause, the more Impossible it tends to be. The more Impossible something tends to be, the more conflict the character invites in. But the more conflict the character invites in, the larger the story arc becomes and the more potential it has to suck you in because it's so compelling.


Living a good story is an amazing reward by itself.

Even if nobody knows what you're doing, you're enriching your life by immersing it in a story. Instead of having arbitrary goals and accomplishments, by living a great story, you create narrative for them. A context. A purpose.

Instead of just crossing stuff off a list, you're experiencing a story. You're living an adventure. One that's worth writing about.

One that's definitely worth living.


The really great stories are about pushing the limits and seeing what is possible. Not stopping ahead of time because the challenges seem too great, but rather pushing forward exactly BECAUSE they seem so daunting. You see a massive conflict ahead, but realize that victory is just going to be that that much sweeter.


When you start to challenge what's Impossible you begin to realize a whole new world of things that aren't actually Impossible. They only represent the limitations of other people's imaginations.

Once you've shot through the limits that are placed on you by other people, you begin to realize that there are still things beyond your limits that now seem within reach. So you keep going and going and keep discovering new so-called "Impossible things" that are now somehow doable.

Every time you challenge the Impossible, you gain a new understanding of what is actually possible.

You realize how small a world you had created for yourself with your own self-imposed limitations in the past. And how big of a future is possible. Pretty soon, even the most ridiculous things in the world don't seem out of reach if you really want to achieve them.


It's hard to imagine owning your own business when you're stuck working at UPS getting chased by dogs in the snow. It's hard to imagine running a marathon when you can barely jog a mile without heaving up a lung. It's hard to imagine traveling the world when you haven't even been out of the state.

You have to gain perspective.


It's hard to make huge jumps sometimes and imagine yourself in a completely different world living a completely different life than you are now. But that's because of your perspective. Your current perspective colors your subjective version of reality.

Push the boundaries of Impossible and you'll see that it expands. Keep pushing and you'll see that your subjective version or what's possible isn't as accurate as you think it is. The boundaries of the Impossible are constantly expanding. So keep pushing them.


Do something. I said this earlier but it bears repeating. The easiest way to confuse the feelings of accomplishment with the feelings of inspiration is to forget what accomplishment feels like. If you've accomplished something recently and remember what it feels like, the lure of watching someone else do something isn't nearly as attractive.


No one will live your life story for you. No one will make your life one worth reading about for you. No one will challenge what's possible with your life for you.

No one that is...except for you.


Chances are, you probably already know what you need to do. That thing you have in the back of your mind. That thing that gets you excited about life. That thing that keeps you up at night, but you're scared to try because everything might fall apart. That's the thing you need to do most.


The need for courage

The great myth of fear is that you overcome it. Fear isn't a barrier and it isn't something that you overcome. It's simply a constant.

You don't learn to get over fear. You learn to coexist with it and press on anyways, in the midst of it's presence.

That's why you need courage.

Courage allows you to look fear dead in the eye and tell fear to suck it.

People who do great things don't have an absence of fear. They have an abundance of courage, which allows them to do the Impossible, in spite of the fact that they're scared out of their mind.


It isn't all about you. Lots of people have lived great stories, but the ones that have the most impact are the ones where the authors look back to see how they can help other people tell great stories as well.

You can download the full manifesto for free over here: Impossible Manifesto.

Notes: Book Highlights from The Pursuit of Elegance

"What made the Sopranos finale one of the most-talked-about events in television history? Why is sudoku so addictive and the iPhone so irresistible? What do Jackson Pollock and Lance Armstrong have in common with theoretical physicists and Buddhist monks? Elegance."

I recently finished reading The Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew May, a book that gave me so much insight into what elegance really is. I'm sharing my highlights from the book below.

I read books almost exclusively on my Kindle and I love that I can highlight passages in the books as I'm reading and have those highlights synced to my Kindle profile.

(The location numbers below let you find the highlight when reading the book on the Kindle.)

the full power of elegance is achieved when the maximum impact is exacted with the minimum input. (Read more at location 91)

A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally what is not. It is the discipline to discard what does not fit—to cut out what might have already cost days or even years of effort—that distinguishes the truly exceptional artist and marks the ideal piece of work, be it a symphony, a novel, a painting, a company, or most important of all, a life. (Read more at location 132)

as Henry David Thoreau once observed, if you're familiar with a principle you don't have to be familiar with all of its applications. (Read more at location 157)

Because by nature we tend to add when we should subtract, and act when we should stop and think. Because we need some way to consistently replace value-destroying complexity with value-creating simplicity. Because we need to know how to make room for more of what matters by eliminating what doesn't. (Read more at location 179)

What is Donald Knuth's definition of elegance? "Symmetrical, pleasingly memorable, spare—with the ease and immortal ring of an E=mc2."Read more at location 258)

Symmetry. Seduction. Subtraction. Sustainability. These are the key elements of elegance—the laws that can help us harness the power of the missing piece. (Read more at location 297)

Symmetry helps us solve problems of structure, order, and aesthetics. We are natural-born symmetry seekers. Most of nature, with its infinitely repeating patterns, is symmetrical. It is present in nearly every living thing, and we generally equate symmetry with beauty and balance. In fact, a number of studies have found that most people find symmetrical faces more attractive. But symmetry isn't limited to biology. Symmetry is where mathematics, nature, science, and art come together. We are adept at noticing a lack of symmetry, which is why we can exploit it to our advantage—when someone experiences a degree of asymmetry, they naturally want to "fill in" the obviously missing piece. It's the nature of symmetry that enables us to find solutions given only partial information. When symmetry comes into play, what appears to be missing isn't. It's at once absent, and yet present. (Read more at location 298)

When, for example, Sopranos viewers were robbed of a standard story structure—a beginning, middle, and end—they were initially distraught. But when reassured by the story creator himself that the missing piece was "all there," they went in search of an ending—the "truth"—to restore their perceived loss of symmetry. Symmetry allowed you to complete the letter E earlier, and the role of symmetry in Sudoku is clear. (Read more at location 305)

Seduction addresses the problem of creative engagement. It captivates any attention and activates any imagination. The power of suggestion is often stronger than that of full disclosure. Leaving something to the imagination, open to interpretation, creates an irresistible aura of mystery, and we are compelled to find answers. The seduction is in what we don't know. What we don't know far outweighs what we do, and we are naturally curious; we are easily drawn to the unknown, precisely because it is unknown. What isn't there drives us to resolve our curiosity. (Read more at location 309)

Subtraction helps us solve the problem of economy. Doing less, conserving, doesn't come naturally. Humans are natural-born adders, hard-wired to push, collect, hoard, store, and consume. Perhaps that's why Costco is so successful—something about taking home thirty-six rolls of toilet tissue makes us feel especially secure. And therein lies the conundrum. The same penchant we have to "fill in," to add, is exactly why elegance, being subtractive, is so elusive. Whether we're talking about a product, a performance, a market, or an organization, our addiction to addition results in inconsistency, overload, or waste, and sometimes all three. We all face these types of problems. It is how we handle them that enables or prevents elegance. Do we really gain through loss? Can we actually add value by subtracting?Read more at location 321)

When we use the word elegant, we're describing a solution that is as surprisingly powerful as it is uncommonly simple: it goes to the heart of a wickedly complex problem with such laser-like clarity that it leaves no doubt that the solution is the right one, or at the very least a long way down the right road. Elegant solutions solve intractable problems once and for all without causing further ones. Put another way, not everything simple is elegant, but everything elegant is simple. (Read more at location 357)

Most people are also at least somewhat familiar with another kind of symmetry, the rotational kind of symmetry exhibited by, say, a snowflake, sphere, or starfish. In addition to its mirror-reflection symmetry qualities, if you rotate a sphere around any axis going through its center, it appears to be the same sphere. (Read more at location 408)

mathematician Hermann Weyl defined it in his seminal 1952 book, Symmetry: "A thing is symmetrical if there is something you can do to it so that after you have finished doing it, it looks the same as before."Read more at location 415)

Scientists and artists agree that symmetry bridges any gap between the two seemingly disparate fields and holds the power to reconcile that which we normally think of as personal, emotional, and subjective—aesthetic beauty (proverbially being in the eye of the beholder)—with what we normally think of as impersonal, rational, and objective: the truth. Symmetry is such a fundamental characteristic of the natural world—of the universe as we believe it to be—and plays such a big role in whatever we think or do, that we often overlook its importance. Until it's absent. (Read more at location 422)

Thus, the final questions Taylor confronted were these: given the overwhelming appeal of Pollock's paintings—one of his last drip paintings, Blue Poles, is valued at well over $40 million—do people prefer fractal patterns over nonfractal ones? If so, does the fractal dimension range Pollock painted within, and that nature exhibits, represent some sort of ideal? If so, the implications might be enormous. The short answer to Taylor's questions is yes. Since 2000, Richard Taylor has conducted dozens of visual perception experiments, with rather fascinating results. In a survey of 120 people to see whether fractal patterns are preferred over nonfractals, 113 people chose the fractals. In several tests involving 220 participants, subjects were shown more than forty different fractal patterns from a number of different sources. Universal preference was given to images with fractal dimensions between 1.3 and 1.5, irrespective of how the fractals were generated—computer, Pollock paintings, nature photographs, or Pollockizer. Today, all of those mesmerizing screensavers on your computer are dynamic fractals roughly in that range. (Read more at location 653)

Hans Monderman believed that traffic controls do not, and cannot, create that kind of behavior, but rather that you have to build it into the design of the road. As he told the Times in the August 22, 2004, Sunday edition: "Treat people like zombies and they'll behave like zombies. But treat them as intelligent, and they'll respond intelligently." What Monderman is saying is exactly what Jackson Pollock was saying, only in different words: when you are fully involved in a process governed by very simple relationship rules, a natural inclination takes over, and a self-organized pattern emerges that is far more orderly than anything legislation could produce. Under those circumstances, you're connected and interacting with what's around you. Lose that connection, and a mess ensues. Hans Monderman thought that traffic controls sever us entirely from the very connections we need to travel safely and they amount to admitting defeat in achieving good road design. That raises the most important question of all: What are the dynamics under which these natural symmetries can develop?Read more at location 793)

travel controls give a false sense of security, an illusion of safety, which is "the biggest mistake we can make. Traffic rules strip us of our capacity for socially responsible behavior, our ability to be considerate. The greater the number of prescriptions, the more the sense of personal responsibility dwindles."Read more at location 811)

What he means is that how we behave is ultimately governed by our surroundings and the cultural signals that go along with them. So by removing clear boundaries and blending street with sidewalk, you create a social context for behavior based on the environment itself. In a space shared equally by drivers, bikers, and walkers, the right-of-way priority disappears, replaced by good judgment and common sense in interpreting the simplest of governing core values required of any working relationship: respect for others. (Read more at location 816)

"What's wrong with how we engineer things is that most of what we accept as the proper order of things is based on assumptions, not observations," Hamilton-Baillie says. "If we observed first, designed second, we wouldn't need most of the things we build." To his point, in spite of the billions spent each year around the world on installing and maintaining traffic controls, there is absolutely no comprehensive research anywhere to demonstrate the benefits of traffic signals—in either the context of traffic flow or safety—but there are a number of studies showing their detrimental effect. (Read more at location 823)

"We have a sophisticated ability to handle complex situations far beyond what traditional engineering assumes," states Ben. "Signs and lines only inhibit the way we work as social creatures. They reduce our extraordinary ability to read and respond to situations appropriately, because the more evidence there is of legislated control, the less we think we have to be involved, to use our own senses."Read more at location 841)

The famous poet Fujiwara Teika developed the equivalent of non finito in his verse, believing that "the poet who has begun a thought must be able to end it so masterfully that a rich space of suggestions unfolds in the imagination of his audience."Read more at location 990)

Jobs revealed that a stop-doing strategy figured centrally into Apple's approach: "We tend to focus much more. People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I'm actually as proud of many of the things we haven't done as the things we have done."Read more at location 1066)

Curiosity—aka the need to know—is part of what's behind the impact of not just the iPhone strategy, but also of elegance and the missing piece in general. (Read more at location 1082)

Berlyne determined four primary external stimuli that arouse curiosity: complexity, novelty, uncertainty, and conflict (defined as the violation of expectations). He also discovered that there's a specific trigger point for curiosity: if the level of stimulation is too low, there's no real motivation to explore; if it's too high, the result is anxiety and avoidance. In other words, in order for something to motivate us to act on our curiosity, it needs to hit a kind of "sweet spot" for one or more of the four stimuli. (Read more at location 1095)

gap—when we perceive there to be a gap in our knowledge, we feel deprived, a feeling we label as curiosity. And it's our desire to alleviate that feeling that motivates us to obtain the missing information. How deeply deprived we feel is relative to how we perceive the gap. It all depends on how much we know and how much we want to know. (Read more at location 1111)

The first is to arouse curiosity by demonstrating a moderate gap in the observer's knowledge. Second, provide just enough information to make them want to resolve their curiosity. Third, give them time to try to resolve their curiosity on their own. (Read more at location 1179)

focusing only on what we already know can limit our ability to think more expansively. (Read more at location 2135)

"What's wrong with how we engineer things is that most of what we accept as the proper order of things is based on assumptions, not observations. If we observed first, designed second, we wouldn't need most of the things we build."Read more at location 2139)

Just before he became mayor of New York City in 1994, Rudy Giuliani attended an all-day seminar on "Broken Windows" policing methods at a think tank called the Manhattan Institute, where George Kelling was a fellow. As mayor, Giuliani hired Bratton as chief of police, and a more far-reaching effort to shut down small crimes in New York City began. Manhattan's infamous "squeegee men"—petty perpetrators of forced vehicle windshield cleaning, followed by demands for money—were tossed in jail. Drug dealers were frisked and arrested for carrying guns. Graffiti was cleaned up, broken windows fixed, litter removed, and the petty criminals dwindled in ranks as they became the center of police attention. Day by day, month by month, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, the number of arrests for smaller crimes rose. As they did, the rates of the more serious crimes dropped, quickly and sharply. A new vitality took hold. Before the Giuliani/Bratton campaign, 125th Street in Harlem didn't have a supermarket or a movie theater. Today you'll find Magic Johnson Theaters, Pathmark, The Gap, Barnes & Noble, Disney Store, and the office of former U.S. president William J. Clinton. (Read more at location 2161)

Toyota employees know that fact-based problem solving and visual management is at the heart of every decision and that true knowledge comes from clear, accurate, firsthand observation—of customers, of operations, of products. Both Toyota and William Bratton would agree with the wisdom of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed detective, Sherlock Holmes, who, when asked by sidekick Dr. Watson whether he had formed a theory shortly after arriving at the scene of the crime, said: "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has the facts. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts." Similarly, at Toyota, marketing reports and focus groups are all well and good, but those are just data, and while data may indicate the facts, there is no substitute for being in the field to gain true insight into problems facing customers and employees. Likewise, if you're a copper in Bratton's rank-and-file, you know that you need to be on top of what's going on no matter what your beat, and the only way to do that is to be out there not just looking, but seeing. (Read more at location 2205)

In the factory, a new associate in a Toyota plant is sometimes asked to observe a particular operation while standing within a circle drawn on the floor, known as an "Ohno circle," named for the engineering pioneer Taiichi Ohno. Ohno often would draw a circle on the floor in the middle of a bottleneck area and make a line employee stand in that circle all day to watch the process, directing them to observe and ask Why? over and over. Ohno believed that new thoughts and better ideas do not come out of the blue, they come from a true understanding of the process. Typically what happens during this exercise is that you quickly become familiar with the process, and start to see problems, gaps. Because you can't move or take action, you start to ask Why is this occurring? Finally, you come to understand the root cause. Then, and only then, can you offer a solution. When the person would report to Ohno any observations made, problems discovered, and solutions recommended—as well as the rationale for them—Ohno would just look at the person and say, "Is that so?" By requiring keen observation before action, by demanding that one look beyond the obvious surface symptoms to better see the deeper causes, by never giving answers and only asking questions, Ohno taught people to stop and think. (Read more at location 2260)

A sustainable idea is the visible outcome of viewing finite resources as scarce and precious—an opportunity to think anew—and exploiting the one eternal source of creativity and innovation: observation. (Read more at location 2294)

It seems that if we can stop, look, and think long enough to ask the right questions and fight our natural tendency to arrive at an immediate answer, we will find ourselves in a better position to see the elegant solution. For many of us, though, it is answers that have consumed our thoughts since we were first-graders. Perhaps it's worth revisiting Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Elephant's Child": I keep six honest serving-men; (They taught me all I knew) Their names are What and Where and When And How and Why and Who. I send them over land and sea, I send east and west; But after they have worked for me, I give them all a rest. (Read more at location 2299)

Most people recognize the eureka! moments of legendary insight—Archimedes' discovery of volume displacement occurring during a bath, Einstein's theory of special relativity coming to him in a daydream, and Friedrich von Stradonitz's discovering the round shape of the benzene ring after dreaming of a snake biting its tail. The more you look into how groundbreaking solutions came about, the more you realize how much they share a common element. Philo Farnsworth was plowing a field as a teenager in 1921 when the idea for projecting moving images line by line came to him as he gazed out over the even rows, prompting him to use his knowledge of electrons and vacuum tubes and invent the first electronic television. Richard Feynman was watching someone throw a plate in the air in Cornell University's cafeteria in 1946 when the wobbling plate with its red school medallion spinning around sparked the Nobel Prize–winning idea for quantum electrodynamics. Kary Mullis, another Nobel winner, was driving along a California highway in 1983 when the chemistry behind the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) came to him, stopping him in the middle of the road. In 1995, car designer Irwin Liu sketched the innovative new lines of what became the shape of the first Toyota Prius after helping his child with an elementary school science project involving the manipulation of hard-boiled eggs. Author J. K. Rowling was traveling on a train between Manchester and London in 1990, thinking about the plot of a novel, when the character of Harry Potter flashed in her mind—she was able to work out all the details of a children's story without so much as a pen and paper. Shell Oil engineer Jaap Van Ballegooijen's idea for a snake oil drill came in 2005 as he was watching his son Max turn his bendy straw upside down to better sip around the sides and bottom of his malt glass. The common element in all of these eureka moments is a quiet mind, severed for a time from the problem at hand. Most artists, musicians, writers, and other creatives instinctively know that the incubation of great ideas involves seemingly unproductive times, but that those downtimes and timeouts are important ingredients of immensely productive, creative periods. Until fairly recently, the how, when, and why of being kissed by the muse was something of a myth and mystery. But now researchers examining how the human brain solves problems can confirm that experiencing a creative insight—that sudden aha! flash—hinges on the ability to synthesize connections between seemingly disparate things. And a key factor in achieving that is physical or mental time away from the problem. New studies show that creative revelations tend to come when the mind is engaged in an activity unrelated to the issue at hand. Pressure is not conducive to recombining knowledge in new and different ways, the defining mark of creativity. (Read more at location 2332)

While no one yet knows what exactly that process is, what is important to know is that putting pressure on ourselves to speed up or artificially influence our brains to work harder, or more intensely, or more quickly, only slows down our ability to arrive at new insights. Ironically, when we let go, when we escape, either physically or mentally, we actually speed up the transformational processes. (Read more at location 2363)