I am not easily satisfied. I always want the “best”; “good enough” never satisfies me.
I’ve always been interested in gadgets and technology ever since I was young. I was an idealist; I was excited how technology could unleash human potential, and help us be more creative, innovative, and to be an enabler of self-expression.
However over the years, I’ve been perpetually let down and dissatisfied with technology. My smartphone was never good enough; either the screen was too small (or too big); my laptop wasn’t powerful (or light enough); and my camera never has good enough image quality (while also being small and compact).
Why are we so dissatisfied?
We live in an amazing world. We have the entire cumulative knowledge of humanity inside our pockets, which can be easily accessible with sub-$300 smartphones. We no longer need to worry about satisfying our basic needs (food, water, and shelter…at least those of us in the western world).
Yet we are perpetually dissatisfied. The new iPhone isn’t as exciting as we expected. The new digital camera doesn’t have enough megapixels, isn’t full-frame, or the battery life isn’t good enough.
We spend so much time on Yelp looking for the next good “foodie” experience; we refuse to go to a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop with less than 4-stars.
A grateful society?
But what if we lived in a society where we were grateful for what we had (instead of what we didn’t have) and in which “good enough” was really “good enough”?
I’ve been inspired by the Japanese brand MUJI recently; as their simple (non branded goods) have an ability to satisfy the consumer. Their goods aren’t cheaply made, but not ostentatious. They are reasonably priced, and one of my favorite toiletry carrier has lasted me over 5 years.
What I love about their design philosophy is that they don’t seek to make goods which entice desire and a “need” to have the product (unlike Apple, who tries to evoke desire for their products). They seek to make products which are “good enough” and don’t leave their users with a “nagging feeling of dissatisfaction”.
Too many choices
How often has this happened to you: you bought a new camera (after reading a million reviews of cameras, and having 20+ Chrome tabs open), yet the camera doesn’t feel quite “good enough”. You feel “buyers remorse” u which you felt like you should have bought that other camera.
Then you return the camera (thank God for 30-day return policies), and trade it in for another. But still; you don’t feel satisfied. Then you go on a treadmill of constantly trading in, replacing, and trying to either “upgrade” (or sometimes “downgrade”) to another product.
The big problem? There are too many consumer choices; and not only do we get overwhelmed, but we are also confused, frustrated, and wish we should have got the other thing. Kind of how when you’re at a restaurant, order a dish, and immediately regret it (you should have ordered that other dish that the couple across from you ordered).
As a side note: the problem that Apple has nowadays is there are too many choices for their products. Do you want a 4” iPhone (The new iPhone SE), a 4.7” (iPhone6), a 5.5” (iPhone 6+), iPad mini, iPad Air, iPad ‘Pro’, 12” Macbook, 13” Macbook pro (or air), 15” Macbook pro, 21” iMac, or 27” iMac?
The same with digital cameras: crop sensor? Full frame? Compact? DSLR? Micro 4/3rds? Rangefinder?
What lens? Zoom or prime? 28, 35, 50mm?
Digital or film? Black and white or color? Which film?
The solution to discontentment
A simple solution to this nagging feeling of dissatisfaction is to be happy and grateful for “good enough”.
Trust me; easier said than done.
I’m the worst; I constantly want the best laptop (trade in a 11” Macbook air, 13” Macbook air, and 13” Macbook pro which I eventually settled on). Yet sometimes the 13” Retina Macbook pro feels too heavy and I wonder: should I have got the 12” Retina Macbook? But then it wouldn’t be powerful enough or have a good enough battery, which then turns me to become dissatisfied (again).
However I always try my best to “practice an attitude of gratitude.” For example, whenever I go to sleep, me and Cindy do “pillow talk” and I will always ask her, “Cindy, what was your favorite thing from today?” No matter how shitty either of our days were, we always have at least one thing to be grateful for.
I’ve been keeping a paper diary, and every day I try to write at least 3 things I’m grateful for.
Even when looking at all my possessions and tools; rather than criticize them and seek to “upgrade” my gadgets I try to say what I’m grateful for.
For example, for my Ricoh GR, I’m grateful for the size, the price, compactness, how easy it is carry with me, and the fact that it has an Aps-c sensor. I try not to count the things I’m dissatisfied with it; the slow RAW buffering speed, the fact that it isn’t full frame, or that the colors that come out of it isn’t great.
Same with my laptop: instead of trying to optimize and have the “ultimate” device; I’m satisfied with how it has enabled me to write pdf ebooks, design stuff on InDesign, how grateful I am to afford an Apple product, the battery life and screen; rather than critique how heavy and cumbersome it can feel at times.
You can extend your sense of gratitude to all other aspects of your life; count your blessings for your job, your clothes, your friends, family, neighborhood you live in, the fact that you don’t have to go to sleep hungry, the miracle of coffee.
Be grateful of the internet, modern infrastructure, Uber, smartphones, free apps, Google services, Amazon 2-day (or now even 2-hour delivery), YouTube for learning, Code Academy and Khan Academy for education, free public schools and libraries, electricity, and freedom.
I feel that if we lived a life where “good enough” satisfied our (limited) wants and needs; we would be so much happier.
As photographers, honestly, we can probably do 90% of our photography, editing and post processing, and publishing from our smartphones. For better image quality, compact cameras with Aps-c sensors are a Godsend (in 2016, Ricoh GR and Fujifilm x70). If you prefer a Mac, you can even get an 11” MacBook Air for only $899. You can get the new iPhone SE for only $399. Sure, not “cheap”, but “affordable” for most people (once again, for us privileged people in the modern or Western world).
Even with social media: how many followers are “good enough” for us? How many likes do we really “need” versus “want”?
Are the apps we have on our phone “good enough”? How about our homes and cars, clothes, and food?
Let us embrace gratitude, simplicity, and then happiness is quite easy to get.
So think to yourself: what are you grateful for in your life? The world is an amazing place; and thank God you’re a part of it.
3:34pm, East Village NYC, Tuesday March 22, 2016. Typed on IA writer on my smartphone; it’s insane how you can really blog on any device nowadays. The world rocks.