More isn’t always more

Sometimes less is better


Yesterday was a travel day. I cranked out a copious amount of work on the plane. And I consumed a copious amount of coffee while doing so.

This comes after a month-long experiment of switching to green tea in order to regulate my ever-escalating caffeine consumption. As I’ve previously mentioned, caffeine & I have a love-hate relationship. I love to love this productivity-inducing, mood-elevating wonder, while at the same time caffeine loves to hate my circadian rhythm.

I’m writing this as I lie wide awake at 3AM, after staying up until 1AM, then dozing through what I know will be classified as a couple hours of “light sleep,” all while awaiting my biometric sleep score of “Dude what the hell happened?”

I’ll wake up defensive, feeling the need to explain myself to the inanimate object that tracks my vitals. Then, after braving my bed’s headshake of disappointment, I’ll bend the knee, beg for mercy, and offer an oath that “tonight will be different.”

Fast-forward to the mid-morning, where my battle with "early onset fatigue & fog" will draw me to the sweet, sweet nectar of the the sacred coffee bean. The spark coming from that first sip would indeed move me to tears if I wasn’t too busy already soaring above my body.

Eventually this first cup elation will fade and the fatigue will come creeping back. So, I’ll reach for cup #2.

As I prepare to produce the sequel, I’ll face the debate of whether to go for the cold brew, a green tea, or (gasp!) nothing. It feels like my Present Self, who wants energy & productivity, is at war with my Future Self, who just wants to get a good night’s sleep. My only hope for brokering a treaty between these two factions is to repeat a simple phrase:

More isn’t always more

If I can remember to utter this phrase to myself in this exact moment, then I can guarantee two things:

  1. I'll test the barista’s last (“16 or 20”) ounce of patience as I hold up the line at Blue Bottle while pondering this all-important decision of mine. I know she wants to say, “The menu hasn’t changed since yesterday when you put on the exact same display! This isn’t Final Jeopardy, dude.” And she’d have every right to throw the flag for Excessive Contemplation, but she doesn’t, because her years of experience in that job have granted her a level of patience that I’ll never be able to fathom.

  2. I'll take a pause to consider the desires of my Future Self. Doing so might prevent mindlessly grasping at a caffeine-packed nuclear energy bomb set to destroy my upcoming nighttime routine. Instead, I might take a moment to take stock of how I truly feel. I’ll evaluate the proper dose needed to accomplish my present state tasks without leveraging my future state peace.

Despite an oh-so glorious initial caffeine injection, I’ll attempt to remember that more isn’t always better.

“More isn’t always more” serves to remind me of what I’m actually solving for.

Have you ever heard that inner voice saying, “Maybe the 3rd margarita won’t be as fun as the last two”? I have. And I’ve also ignored it, thinking, “We’re having so much fun! Another round will make this even more enjoyable. We haven’t peaked yet! Let’s gooooo!”

Eventually I realize that the peak was most definitely at margarita #1.5 and I’m certainly riding full-speed, downhill towards being wasted away again in Mr. Buffett-ville.
In this case, More tequila More fun

On the other end of the health spectrum, sometimes I obsess over working out. As a routine junky, I can ignore the signs that my body needs rest, especially if it doesn’t align with my preset workout plan. However, if I’m solving for long-term fitness, then pausing might help me see that mixing in a rest day will get me closer to my goals.
In this case, More pain More gain

Of all these examples, the most consistent culprit is my tendency to eat beyond what I naturally need. Yes, our natural instincts for scarcity leads us all to stockpile calories even when we don’t need them. However, my check on whether I actually want seconds (or thirds if Mom is cooking) is to repeat the phrase to myself. Then, I become aware that I care about my Future Self, the one who awaits me 20 minutes from now. It helps me see that what I choose in this moment determines whether that guy is sitting in a state of satisfying satiation or in desperate need of a Bismol to settle his bursting belly.
Once again, More food More satisfaction

Health, health, health… but what about wealth?

Well, in the wise words of late 20th century philosopher, The Notorious B.I.G.:

Maybe more homes means more rooms to clean?
Maybe more notoriety means less peace in public?
Maybe buying more furniture means less space in my apartment? (Top-of-mind right now)

In any of these instances, repeating the phrase helps me weigh whether the marginal benefit outweighs the total cost of ownership. And ultimately, I'm the only one who can answer that. Because what looks like “excess” from your point of view might be “alignment” for me. This isn’t a social comparison game, it’s an honest assessment of n=1.

Your jam-packed social schedule might look like reckless redlining to me. But, to you, it feels like flow.
Some enjoy a red eye with an extra shot. Others get jittery from tea.
Some of us can’t touch tequila, others are fine at margarita #5.
Some might forego the extra house to avoid the extra hassle. Others might welcome the opportunity to have more rooms to clean, if it means having more space to host friends & family.

All this to say, in a world full of opportunity, one of the hardest questions to ask is:

Just because I can, does it mean I should?

Or more precisely:

Just because I can, does it mean I want to?

Sometimes, the honest answer is “yes.”
Other times, it’s a surprising “no.”
Regardless, muttering the phrase helps evoke the reflection. And the reflection gives me the chance to move forward aligned.

A self-aware moment: I realize that when writing, I can get rambly. Sometimes I over-explain to the point of an inhumane assault on an already-deceased stallion. Sometimes I write until the ink runs out and eyes glaze over. So, I’ll stop there for now!

But before I go, I’ll leave you with these two questions:

Where in your life is excess leading to distress?

Where do you need to say “no” to the metaphorical 3rd margarita?

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