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Anti Maximization Thinking

In life, let us seek to “satisfice” (80% good enough) with our possessions, tools, and lifestyle. Let us instead focus on maximizing our self-development and pushing our personal limits!

Anti maximization thinking

What prevents us from living a good life? I think the “maximization” mindset is inimical to us.

What is “maximization”?

The idea of maximization is simple:

To seek only the best, and to constantly seek to maximize or “improve” things.

To be clear, I think focusing on self-development and to improve things in the world is a good thing. However, I think maximization when it comes to lifestyle and material things is bad.

Will the new iPhone be 10x better?

For example, let us say you own a one-year old iPhone. The new iPhone comes out.

Now, you look at your old iPhone, and it looks old, it feels slow, and you feel like you need an “upgrade”. Yet, at best — the newer iPhone might only be 5-10% “better”. But in order to upgrade, you will waste hundreds of dollars just for that tiny percentage gain.


Same happens with cars. We always over-estimate the amount of joy that our cars give us.

For example, many of us fantasize that buying a new car will bring us so much joy and happiness in our lives. Yet, this is the truth:

Having a car is probably preferable to having no car (especially if you live in the suburbs of LA). However, “upgrading” your 3-year old car to a new car will not make any meaningful change to your personal happiness.


A lot of us fantasize of owning our own home, or perhaps dream of “upgrading” our homes— by either moving into a “better” neighborhood, by making our homes bigger, by “upgrading” the furnishings in our homes, in thinking that this will make us “happier”.

Personally speaking, I’ve lived in a many many different living scenarios (nomadic living, on couches, in my own apartment, sharing a bedroom, living solo, living at a family home, etc) and this is what I’ve discovered:

Your home or living conditions don’t affect your personal happiness as much as you think it would.

But what does affect your personal happiness?

  • The degree of friction or drama you have with your roommates or family members.
  • How expensive (or affordable) your home is.
  • Distance from places you like to go, or distance from your work place.
  • Feeling of safety: Obviously living in deep East-Oakland is stressful and scary, if you’re walking alone at night, if you’re fearful of getting robbed, shot, stabbed, or killed.

Thus when it comes to your home, perhaps we shouldn’t be trying to “maximize” our homes themselves. Rather, the simple things we should do:

  1. Have roommates we actually like.
  2. Don’t spend a lot of money on your rent or mortgage.
  3. Don’t live too far from work.

Besides this, we shouldn’t get too concerned about our homes or living conditions.


I know for myself, my personal Achilles heel is always wanting better tools. I always want the best laptop, the best phone, the best camera, the best tablet, etc.

But this is the simple heuristic I’ve given myself:

Is this thing I want to buy at least 10x better than what I already own?


Is this device or tool going to simplify my life, or complicate my life?

Almost all tools are never 10x better than the previous version. Furthermore, most digital tools and devices we buy simply complicates our lives — more stuff to charge, more stuff to maintain, and more stuff to organize.

I have a box of old electronics I don’t use at home, and for a lot of these devices I remember when I thought buying it would revolutionize my life. But frankly speaking, the only real essential digital tool to have in today’s modern world is a very good laptop (I always purchase a maxed out MacBook laptop). Almost everything else is optional.

Just do it.

Another example is working out. A lot of us are seeking the “perfect” workout routine; to maximize our muscular gains, to maximize our fat loss, with the minimum amount of time commitment. Thus silly notions like “6 minute abs”, diet pills, and hyped up food or drink “nutrition”.

Rather than seeking the “maximally best” workout, just seek to find the simplest, most enjoyable, and most fun workout! And to be frank, because there is no such thing as a perfect workout regimen, better to find a workout regimen which works 80% “good enough”, and just do it everyday!

Often trying to maximize our workouts lead us to becoming paralyzed; and we just end up not working out (paralysis by analysis).

A simple suggestion I have with working out is this:

Go to the gym everyday, and just focus on deadlift, dumbbell press, chin-ups, and squats.

Switch things up to avoid boredom, and whenever you workout, try to increase the weight by a little. Always attempt heavier weights, and always attempt to push your limits!


The secret weapon we have is “satisficing” (satisfy+suffice), which is once again — aiming for 80% “good enough”, and devoting our mental power to just doing it!

For example, seek a camera that is 80% “good enough”, and just go out and shoot photos! Let us not waste any time going to camera review websites and rumor sites waiting for the next new thing.

If your phone is 80% good enough, don’t seek an upgrade.

With physical possessions, seek 80% good enough — but with our personal self development, our personal ambitions — let us seek to maximize these things by constantly pushing our limits!


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