What Terry Pratchett taught me about “enough”

Since my last newsletter went out I’ve had a few conversations about the book I mentioned; Company of One, and specifically about the contrast between ‘I have enough’ and ‘I need more’.

Author Paul Jarvis talks about this concept for small business owners but it also applies to individuals… and, since I work with both small business owners AND individuals, I’d love to share a little more about the conversations I’ve been having.

I first came across this idea of horizontal vs vertical tendencies reading about Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction collection ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ (he was writing specifically about wealth but I believe it applies to mindset too). It totally made sense to me, and might explain partly why some people seem so comfortable in their lives whilst others hustle uncomfortably for always-more.

So what is a horizontal versus vertical mindset?

Vertical mindset…

The theory goes that those with vertical tendencies will, with each pay-rise / bonus / new commission, continue to increase what they have and change how they live – this might look like

  • trading up the car every two years, regardless of need;
  • trading work-life balance for burnout en-route to the next promotion… and then the next after that;
  • comparing with others to out-do parties, holidays and front-garden Christmas light extravaganzas…

Business owners do this too; here it looks like…

  • overstaffing in response to one new client;
  • advertising everywhere because that’s what your competitors are doing;
  • trading the passion-that-got-them-into-this for managing people, fire-fighting and…. 
  • meetings…

There will always be the desire for more money, more stuff; a pressure to keep up, to always be hustling. There is a real energy here and for some this will bring the challenge and the buzz that they need. For most though, it will bring overwhelm, stress and feelings of inadequacy.

Horizontal mindset…

Those with horizontal tendencies, on the other hand, will continue to lead the same lifestyle regardless of their bank balance;

  • finding pleasure in what they already have;
  • staying in the house where the neighbours are friends;
  • keeping the familiar old car until it needs replacing;
  • trading a cash bonus for an extra week off with the family…

In business this might look like

  • being content with a profit of ‘enough’;
  • working smarter or outsourcing in order to keep the team doing what they are passionate about. (Paul Jarvis shares a great example of a in-demand cartoonist who could choose to bring in a team of staff, trade drawing for managing, and thereby grow the business; instead he keeps his home-studio, the joy of creating, and spends loads of time with his kids)

Here, in this horizontal space, I feel there is contentment, fulfilment, and a real clarity about what is important. There is also presence and joy.

So, why am I talking about these horizontal and vertical tendencies?

Because always wanting more is a great way to find overwhelm in your life.

And overwhelm is really really good at causing inertia.

And who doesn’t want to find themselves inert, stuck, on-pause?!

Seriously though, I believe we a ll have a blend within us, contentment and discontent, staying comfortable and pushing the boundaries. And I think we can use both, if we keep them in balance.

So, I invite you to notice, without judgement, where you do want more in your life and where you are content. How does each feel? And does the wanting, or the contentment, serve you right now? If not, what would serve you better, today?

I’d love to chat more about this – do get in touch if it resonates!

And, hey, if you want to talk to me about how I can help you reduce the overwhelm and get un-paused (because I really can, it’s my superpower!) please do hit reply or book an intro call – I’d love to hear from you.