Of Albatrosses and Octopi

April 23, 2008

From Grant McCracken’s 2008 PSFK talk:

“Paul Allen, the Microsoft cofounder, has a yacht that is 416 feet long.  It cost something like a quarter of a billion dollars.  It carries two helicopters.  It’s so large it cannot dock anywhere on the French Riviera.  (That’s why it needs those helicopters.  They are the only way to get to port.)  The “Octopus” seems to be a perfect example of way-too-much.  Possessions of this kind act like barnacles that slow movement and limit freedom.  “Going for a sail” must seem to Allen like something that requires him to mobilize a third-world country, an event so wearying that it must seem better, most of the time, just to leave the thing be.  Allen’s Octopus is really an Albatross.”

There’s more to the idea than just a Fight-Club-esque sentiment – it’s the notion that “just enough” is actually just about perfect; that it is better to be small, mobile, and independent than anything else.

“In the case of an entrepreneur, “just enough” is about control.  Staying small(ish), staying private, supplying your own capital, all these mean calling your own shots.  Venture capitalists and Wall Street can drive someone else crazy.  The just enough entrepreneur can take his or her own chances.  When it comes time to choose between interesting and profitable, you can go with interesting.  Just enough in this case is about control.”

In fact, this applies to me (as well as many other writers and entrepreneurs I’m acquainted with) – by keeping my lifestyle streamlined I can work with the people and companies I find interesting/valuable/challenging.  Also, as one of the commenters on the original post pointed out, small firms (perhaps ones that focused on local goods and services) and the whole concept of striving for “just enough” – as opposed to aiming for billions and worldwide acclaim – seems much more sustainable and environmentally friendly in the long run. 

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