Challenge of N+1

May 30, 2024

Hope you had a nice holiday weekend! If you’re like me, you may be shocked at how quickly this shortened week flew by! Market participants likely feel the same way as it was a relatively light week in terms of market-moving news and economic data releases. I thought we’d take advantage of that break and talk about something other than inflation and interest rates! Let’s look at a concept that is elusive to many of us – the concept of “enough”

This is something I think about often – and my loyal readers will remember that I wrote a column on this back in 2022 (it was a good one if I do say so myself, you can find it here). The concept was once again brought to the front of my mind late last week as I read my daily email from Seth Godin entitled the “Challenge of N+1”. You can find it on his site but I’m reposting it below for your reading convenience.

“Just a little more,” might be a useful way to self motivate, until it isn’t.

N + 1 pushes us to win every race, every argument, every bank balance competition. Sometimes this is simply a self challenge, not designed to hurt others, but the problem with never being satisfied is that the loser is also going to be you.

“Enough” is often attainable and always useful.

In today’s fast pace world, where many of us are inundated with 24/7 news, endless posts, idealized social media images, incessant “fear of missing out” emotions, and more, it is exceptionally easy (almost instinctual) to constantly be searching out “N+1.”

It comes into play in many areas of life but I see it quite often in financial discussions with clients. It can be subtle things like comparison to friends regarding type of car or location of last vacation. It can be related to inaction (I wish I would have bought xyz stock) or actions taken (I wish I wouldn’t have sold when I did). Or it can be bigger items such as wishing they’d saved more for retirement or comments concerning how much easier life would be with more money.

I tend to agree with Seth that some striving and motivation is worthwhile, and if you need to obtain that via a quest for more than you already have, so be it. But his observation that by not being satisfied in your current state, the loser is always going to be you, is something worth keeping front of mind.

Happiness and satisfaction are not in limited supply. We can all achieve them at any time we put our minds to it. One could say there is more than “enough” of both for all of us.

Wishing you a wonderful summer weekend, filled with feelings of enough,

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