The Discipline Of Less


Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

When I was growing up, I collected stamps and baseball cards.  I still have my stamp collection, and I inherited part of my Grandpa Stolpe’s stamp collection.  I also still have my baseball card collection.  In all, I have over 30,000 baseball cards.  I haven’t added to either collection in years.  I’ve lost interest, and my spending priorities have dramatically changed since getting married and having children.

I remember doing everything I could to get more baseball cards.  I bought bubblegum packs at the local 7-Eleven store at the edge of my neighborhood in Lumberton, NJ.  I bought triple packs at Woolworth’s in Mt. Holly, NJ.  I traded cards with friends, and I worked hard to accumulate more and more cards to complete the set of cards for the year.

An annual Topps baseball card set consisted of 792 cards when I was growing up.  I opened each pack, and looked at each card hoping to find a star player or a card I needed to complete my set.  I turned over the card and read the information about the baseball player pictured on the front of the card.  Then I sorted the cards.  First, I’d sort the cards into hundreds.  Then I would take each stack of hundreds and sort them into piles of tens.  I would insert the cards I still needed into my set, and I’d add any doubles into another box which I would use to trade with my friends.

My obsession with gathering more and more baseball cards for my collection grew and grew through high school.  In college, this obsession began to shift as I focused more on my studies and the next stage of my life.

I stopped gathering baseball cards, and I started gathering CDs (these are the round metal things that used to contain music for playing in a compact disc player).  I wanted to keep up with my brother, my college friends, and others who were also collecting CDs.  For a while, I couldn’t get enough CDs.  I had to have the latest album from U2, R.E.M., Billy Joel, They Might Be Giants, DC Talk, Stephen Curtis Chapman, The Kry, and others.  I remember visiting the local music store with my friend, John Kosydar, as we both searched for the next set of CDs to add to our collections.  One CD was not enough.  I had to have more.

Eventually, I outgrew this obsession, and I switched to bigger, more expensive pursuits like cars, houses, and vacations.

More!  More!  More!

After pursuing these things, I have come to realize these things don’t really satisfy.  In fact, they leave me feeling empty.  My baseball cards sit in my house gathering dust.  My CDs are filed away rarely getting played.  My cars and house wear out.

My pursuit of more is clearly misdirected.  And I’m sure I’m not alone.

What are you pursing?  What obsession has your attention?

In considering disciplines worth following, I think it’s time we start looking at the discipline of less.

My friend, Dan Erickson, writes about the simple life on his blog –  After his own failed efforts to find happiness by pursuing stuff, he has made a shift.  Dan has decided to simplify his life by becoming a minimalist.  Instead of accumulating stuff, Dan is accumulating relationships with his daughter, with his students, with his neighbors, and with his friends in the blog world.  Dan seems to be practicing the discipline of less, and I think we could all learn a thing or two by taking a page out of his book.

The discipline of less actually provides more time, energy, and resources for the things that matter.

They say “Less is more.”  There’s only one way to find out if it’s true.  I challenge you to find out for yourself by taking up the discipline of less starting TODAY!

What are you holding onto that needs to go?

How would your life change if you practiced the discipline of less?  What is one thing you can do TODAY to shed the weight of things that don’t matter in the end?

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Matthew 16:26