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Stop working, stop spending and start living


I read a chapter by Tom Hodgkinson in “Do good lives have to cost the earth” last night. He wrote one of my favourite books of the last few years – “How to be idle.” His article is a variation on that theme – ending with the suggestion that in order to save the planet we should “stop working, stop spending and start living.”

I have huge sympathy with this idea and in our own small way I think this is what my wife and I have been trying to do for some years. I try to work as little as possible (although I fail lots of the time), and we have also down-shifted quite a bit.

Making this step is about attitude as much as anything else. And often my attitude is less than the best. I am still plagued by the same socially driven desires as most other people (Hodgkinson is clearly a saint). Security drives me, sometimes status drives me, and the desire for the easy, perfect, TV-like-life drives me.

But I agree with Hodgkinson, it’s worth the effort. Maybe I am getting better at it too. There really is more life with less spending and less work.

But what does that mean for businesses? Hodgkinson rails at business because he believes the whole system depends on greed. That 0 percent growth means death to business. And that “business” therefore drives us to work and spend.

I think he is talking about big business. I don’t see why small business (and he is the owner and operator of a couple of small businesses: publishing a magazine, writing books) has to be just about growth in terms of scale. It’s also about growing in strength. Perhaps it is easier to grow your small business if the economy is booming. But I don’t see why it has to be that way.

For example, a small business can get stronger by changing from a dependence on one large account to a larger number of smaller accounts. The latter business is stronger and more resilient. But its income (and profitability) may not change at all.

A small company can get stronger when one of the team learns some new sales skills. And then finds it easier and simpler to close a piece of business – using less time and less effort. If that sales person spends more time playing and doing nothing (and definitely not shopping) revenue won’t rise. The company won’t grow in conventional terms. But it is stronger and more resilient. So it has grown in that sense – like a piece of bamboo.

Author: Pete Burden

New ways to organise and lead - for people with 'purpose' #leadership #inquiry #noticing #complexity #communication

2 thoughts on “Stop working, stop spending and start living

  1. I like that idea, Pete.

    Other options for improvements in a company could also include ways to make the company and its customers, suppliers and partners feel better about itself. For me this would be:

    1. Improve the quality of the product
    2. Improve the quality or nature of the service to the customers, suppliers and others.
    3. Select and develop products which make you feel good about their worth.
    4. Position your company so that it contributes better to a greater goal, which for example, maybe to help reduce damage to the environment.

    I’m sure directions like these would put a broader smile on people’s faces and be attractive. I would guess that financial performance would improve also as a by-product of this.

    The happiest companies I have been involved in have been the ones where there has been a new product being developed, which the people in the company were very proud of and thought it would be a worthy addition to the marketplace.

    A problem we came up against was when the new product was handed over to a different part of the company for a broader scaled up distribution. The nature of the product changed as different measures of success were placed upon it and also different people had different views of what was good for the market and what should be the interface.

  2. Pete
    If you haven’t seen it, you may also enjoy Dr Paddi Lund’s charming and compelling story of Creating the Happiness Centred Business. He’s a ‘crazy dentist’ in Australia who does simple things that chime with much of the Idler approach. (

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