Olson’s Observations

Technology. Innovation. Science. VC. Media. :: by Eric Olson

Book Review: Simple Prosperity by David Wann

with 2 comments

Simple ProsperityI recently finished up a book entitled Simple Prosperity that was written by David Wann, one of the co-authors of Affluenza (in fact, it was so interesting I blew through it in two sittings). In Affluenza, David and his co-authors diagnosed the debilitating disease of over-consumption that is effecting America and other parts of the world. Simple Prosperity picks up where Affluenza left off and shows us how we can make a change for the better and increase our quality of life.

In fact, as another reviewer put it, Simple Prosperity will take you through a lot of what researchers have learned about stress, happiness, community, etc. The one thing it won’t do is show you how to make more money. It’ll show you that the money you have may already enough.

In the book Wann relates a lot of personal stories that tie into his message of consuming less and being happy with what you have. There are a lot of interesting points in the book relating to happiness which is one of the main themes. Specifically Wann tells us, and backs it up with studies and other anecdotes, that the things that make us happy are the things we always knew made us happy. Those things being friends, family, a sense of community, healthy food to eat, civic work and purpose.

One piece of information that I found interesting was a study referenced by Wann in the book that mentioned that any incremental money we earn over $50,000 per year doesn’t necessarily make us any more happy. In fact, it most likely lowers our happiness level since we need to spend more time working to make each additional dollar rather than spending that time with friends, family, doing civic work and doing the things we love, our hobbies.

Of course I am sure you need to adjust that dollar amount for certain cities (NYC is super expensive for example) but you get the idea.

Another main theme of the book was our throw away culture. Wann wonders why we spend so much time and money buying cheaply made goods that end up owning us through continued maintenance, etc. Then, at the end of a short life span we just throw them away. He suggests we would be better off to spend a bit more and purchase quality goods that last. This hearkens back to my previous post on Etsy and handmade goods. If Etsy’s success is a barometer for the rest of the nation then it would seem a lot of other people feel the same as Wann. This idea also extends to produce and other foods.

Wann argues that spending a bit more for organic produce is worth it since it tastes better, provides more nutrients and isn’t covered in poisonous pesticides. I agree with him on that one. It hurts the wallet sometimes but I always feel better after a good piece of fruit or an outstanding veggie. What always stunns me when I think about it is that 100 years ago - and further back from there - we always ate organic. It has only been in the last 100 years that things have changed so drastically.

Even though there is a lot more to this book I want finish this post up by touching on Wann’s thoughts on the internet (figured I would try to tie this into the blog’s subject matter!).

Good news, he loves the internet and sees it (rightly I would say) as an unprecedented platform for spreading ideas and connecting the world.

However, one thing I found interesting was the fact that Wann mentions multiple times in the book that he really dislikes advertising. In fact, he tends to blame advertising for a lot of the over-consumption in America (not sure I can disagree 100% with him there although I would suggest we all have free will).

Why is that interesting to me you ask? Mainly because he loves the internet - and even specifically mentions that he loves Google - but most of the internet, including Google, is paid for via advertising. It seems like there is a little misalignment there. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Update: In thinking about it more and speaking with the publisher it seems that what Wann was really getting at with advertising is that he didn’t like the execution of most ads (i.e. he’s not against advertising in general). He is upset that many ads share fear-driven, consumptive messages urging you to buy things to fill holes in your life rather than being informative and creative. I would agree with that which is why I joined BuzzFeed. We’re looking to change ads to be more about other people talking about the products they love rather than the companies touting themselves (plug!).

That said, I really enjoyed the book and Wann’s vision on what we could do for the environment and our society if we all just put in a little more thought and effort. Wann has done a lot to further the cause of sustainability over his career and his efforts should be commended.

Now is a crucial time for our society and for the planet. It’s time to start thinking about sustainability and about what makes us truly happy. We can make a change for the better. I have no doubt in that.

Side Note: This book is being released in January but you can pre-order - and even get an earlier release date of December 26th - on Amazon. Check it out and get some ideas on how you can make a difference for yourself and for the world.

Written by Eric Olson

December 16th, 2007 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Books, Environment

2 Responses to 'Book Review: Simple Prosperity by David Wann'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Book Review: Simple Prosperity by David Wann'.

  1. [...] Book Review: Simple Prosperity by David Wann - I met Eric this past week in NYC, where he runs Business Development for BuzzFeed. He is one of those guys that I know I want to figure out a way to work together more often. [...]

  2. [...] which she thought I would like based on my environmental interests and my love of the book Simple Prosperity. Well, she was right. I loved the video and I think some of you may as well. Check out the excerpt [...]

Leave a Reply