Less is Better

Less is Better, sometimes.  Having more or better stuff is not always a good thing.

 by Dave Cottrell

 Less is better sometimes.  As we stand on the edge of the old year and look ahead at the new, perhaps reflecting on the blessings we already have and being thankful and satisfied is a very good thing to do.

One of the reasons many people in this old world are unhappy is not because they don’t have enough (though that might be true), but because they’re not satisfied with what they have.  Every time they look at the person next to them, they see someone with something they want.  That makes them unhappy.

But more isn’t always better.  What looks better can be harmful.  Sometimes, less is best.  Bear with me.  less better

Solomon, the great Hebrew king wrote, “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife. .”  (Proverbs 17:1 – OT)  Many years later, Paul, a highly educated Jewish scholar and early convert to Christianity wrote,”But godliness with contentment is great gain.” ( 1Timothy 6:6 – NT)  In fact, Paul gave up more than most of us would ever dream of having to pursue his new career as one of the most traveled missionaries of the 1st century, yet he was very content with less.

The desire for stuff (a truly great word!) can be a strong motivator, yet its fulfillment is very empty.  Like the successful athlete standing on the podium with the gold medal around her neck, if getting a gold medal was her only goal, her victory is hollow, indeed, as that moment when it is realized is all too fleeting.

The trip, itself, must be satisfying and a source of enjoyment, as that is what one does for most of the time.

There is nothing wrong with wealth, nor the pursuit thereof, if it is not an end in itself, but rather the reward of intuition, innovation, inspiration and perspiration in a life well lived and work well done.  Much good can be done with wealth, but  much good can also be done without it.

The way you treat and care and show you care for others as you travel through life often (dare I say MOST often) does far more good in the lives of the individuals you meet than all the wealth in the world will do.  At one point in history, a very expensive container of perfume was broken and used to give a few minute of joy to one Jesus of Nazareth.  One of his followers complained that the perfume could have been sold and the money distributed to the poor.  His answer was that there will always be poor, but he would only be there in person with them for a short time.

It is nice to think of all the good you could do if you had wealth and use that as an excuse to pursue wealth as a “be all and and end all,” but sadly that often happens while walking on the heads of those who need the blessing of a simply word or touch NOW and who would surely be a great blessing to you if you stopped to see that they are there.

Less is better… often.  Pursuing wealth less so that you can spend more time with the people around you gives you wealth that cannot be measure by spread sheets and fat balances.  But less can also save your life.

My grandfather, my mother’s dad,  came over from Scotland with his folks and older siblings in 1912.  If that date rings a bell, good.  Perhaps you paid attention in history class (or at the movies!)

1912 is the year of the fateful voyage of the Titanic, that great “unsinkable” ship that sank in the north Atlantic on its maiden voyage.  less is better sometimes

My grandfather and his family were supposed to be on board the Titanic.  My great grandfather was a cabinet maker and architect, educated at the University of Edinburgh.  He loved all things modern, and was extremely excited about taking his family on the greatest ship every built, as he moved his young family to Canada.   His children also were excited, as they had spent much time reading about this great ship and all the modern technology being put into it.

But only a few weeks before the ship was scheduled to leave, word came to them from White Star Lines that the Titanic would not be ready on schedule.  It was going to be a few weeks late.  They gave them the option of traveling on schedule on an older, much smaller ship (and with a discount) or waiting the extra time for the new ship.

My great grandfather decided that he and my grandfather’s eldest brother should go ahead on the smaller ship to get everything ready in Canada, and my great grandmother and the rest of the family could still travel in relative luxury on the Titanic when it finally sailed  (even though their cabins would have been “Tween decks” the part of the ship that had the highest mortality on that ill-fated night.)

Thankfully, as history now shows, my great grandmother was determined that the family should go together, and she also believed that less was better, when it comes to spending money on what you need.  It wasn’t that she was cheap;  she was frugal, meaning that she would rather pay a lower price for something that accomplished the same thing, than spend extra simply for added luxury.

What a difference their decision to take the “less is better” approach to my family’s history!  If they had decided to wait for the luxuries of the Titanic, you would not be reading this now, because there would have been a very different ending to the story, and it’s very likely that I would not be here.

My granddad  was four years old when they moved to Canada.  His stories of their family’s crossing of the Atlantic were somewhat coloured by romance and childish memories, but my great aunt Anne, his older sister, was born in 1900.  She lived to be just a few months short of 106 years old!

It was Aunt Anne who told me about this, filling in the blanks and straightening out the romantic rabbit trails my grandfather took in his version.  She remembered sitting on the floor of their little flat in Toronto, several weeks after arriving in Canada, hearing the quiet voices of her parents as they sat at the table and talked, and seeing the huge headlines and black and white photos about the sinking of the Titanic in the newspaper lying on the floor beside them.  Less is Better

Why would I share this with you on New Year’s Day, 2014, one hundred and two years after the Titanic sank on that icy cold night in the darkness of the North Atlantic?

The man who was a little four year old at the time of those events went on to become my grandfather.  He never accepted the idea that any race, religion or station made one person better than another, and he helped people throughout his life wherever and whenever he could.

Oftentimes, when I worked with him in his shop in Port Carling, Ontario, though many of his clients were some of the wealthiest people in Canada, I would hear him say that he couldn’t charge someone the time it took to get some rusted out, seized up part off an antique engine from a collector’s boat, because it wasn’t their fault it was stuck so hard.

less is better

The steamboat, RMS Sagamo, at the locks in Port Carling, Ontario

In those days, it infuriated me that he would give these ultra wealthy clients a break they didn’t need for something that was most assuredly not my grandfather’s fault, and something they would have paid for without blinking, fully expecting to.

But my grandfather, while he made his very living fixing things that were broken, never stopped helping people, from those who couldn’t help themselves, to those too wealthy to see that they needed help, to those who were broken worse than their toys.  He never bought a new car in his life, yet he was always very pleased with the car he drove.  (The very first of his cars that I rode in when I was five years old, I’ve never forgotten, because it was SO plush, shiny and fancy with the poshest powder blue velvet interior you could image, high gloss black and chrome exterior and power windows!   He was very, very happy with that car, a simply gorgeous limousine-style Cadillac from the late forties.  It was a used Hearse!)

My grandfather always practiced “less is better,” yet he was never in debt personally, paid of his business mortgage in half the time required, and when he died, had a NET worth of almost two million dollars.

Financial wealth came to my grandfather, but it was never his goal.  His goal was to live his live well, love the folks around him unconditionally, and do what he did with the highest excellency, all the time.

When Grandad, as we affectionately called him, died;  cards and letters came in from all over the world!  I had NO idea this man with the turned up train man’s cap the big,  clunky hearing aid in his pocket was so well known and respected.  I know he never expected to be, or at least never had that as a goal.  He lived his life well, every moment of it, enjoyed it greatly, and died peacefully in his sleep of lung cancer at 80.  The last thing he did before he went to bed that night, the only time he hallucinated in the time leading up to his painless death, was sit in his chair and explain to the invisible apprentice sitting there with him how to get the grind right on a valve job to get the maximum efficiency and smoothest power out of an engine.

Less is better;  Grandad and the family he started here in Canada are proof of that.   When you are content with what you have, not jealous of your neighbor or wanting more and more stuff to stuff your life with, you become surprised by just how wealthy you are.

As we enter the new year, 2014, set realistic goals for yourself and for your business.  Most importantly, set an ongoing goal of enjoying every minute of it as you work toward these time-posts on your lifeline.   Make the time and take the time to show your love to your family and friends, and if you find yourself not love by many,  choose then to love many, and more will love you back.

Life is an ongoing experience, not an accumulation of stuff or the accomplishment of goals.

Those things can be enjoyed, too, and goals are important tools to give your life a sense of direction, but make sure you live and love with all your might along the way.

Happy new year!  May 2014 be a year of great blessing to you and yours, and may you be a great blessing to others.

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8 comments

  • i loved, Loved, LOVED your post, David and I think it goes without saying you know how much I related. Another thing Paul said is “Whatever state I am in, therewith will I be content” I have tried to make that a motto. Sometimes I forget — thank you for the reminder. In my office, on the wall, it says LESS IS MORE. :)
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  • Great story Dave,

    It is a nice example of one life fulfillment without entering the money game.

    Happy New Year and let’s it be the year of our dreams, whatever those dreams are.

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  • This may always sound mundane, but it has benefited my peace and tranquility for many decades.
    The more you give the more you receive….
    Because of that Top of Mind Awareness I have never had the need to chase and always been Content….
    YES content with what arrived.
    And the way, both my parents and my wife’s instill REAL value we have never needed MUCH to be happy.
    We deceived to BE AT HOME, so all of our income has been generated from our home business, from Farming to Consulting……
    Life is very rewarding without so many possession dictated by society!
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    • So very true, Chuck. There is nothing at all wrong with wealth; in fact, it can be very useful and can be used for wonderful purposes. There is nothing wrong with enjoying wealth, and in fact, it would be crazy not to. Even in the Bible, in one of the most mournful sounding books, the book of Eccliastes, Solomon says that it’s good to enjoy the things of this world, including wealth, just as long as we don’t make that our primary focus.
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      • You are right Dave,
        Society NEEDS the successes of those who apply action to provide many services, such as Jobs, education and Charity, for those truly in need.
        My point was focused on the fact our simple experiences have shown not scrambling for things, rather apply skill to that which we enjoy…money follows.
        BUT that does NOT mean we have to spend it all.
        Many successful people lead simple, uncluttered lives.
        I also feel that that privileged lifestyle of simplicity can be enjoyed regardless the Income level.
        Happy New Year!
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        • Well put, Chuck. My grandfather proved that. He lived a very plain and simple life, yet he had everything he wanted and was content. It was kind of funny… we found out when he passed away that he didn’t know what to do with all the money he had, so he kept buying houses and renting them out so that his kids would have something when he passed. He was a man who loved life and could have bought pretty much whatever he wanted, yet he lived in a simple brick bungalow in a small Ontario village with a row of cars in various stages of usable to junk in his driveway.
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