The joy of less | Kim Coupounas | TEDxBoulder


Translator: Nadine Hennig
Reviewer: Mile Živković I want to take you back
to the winter of 1993. My husband and I are living in Boston. We’re newly married,
and we’re kind of early on in our A-type high-octane
business careers. So we were working all the time. We didn’t have much time for fun, and as avid backpackers and climbers,
we longed for time in nature. So hallelujah, we managed to escape
for a long weekend-backpacking trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We were enchanted
by the notion of meandering into this frozen wintry wonderland, breathing in the smell of the pines, feeling the crunch! crunch! crunch!
of the snow beneath our snowshoes, and snuggling up
next to a campfire at night. So, in preparation for this trip, we bought every winter
camping gizmo and doodad our young wallets could afford. So there we were, in this beautiful,
pristine winter wonderland with 80 pounds each on our backs. (Laughter) Now, our dream vacation backpacking trip – probably the only one
we were going to get that year – turned into a nightmare. We had welts on our shoulders,
blisters on our feet, sweat-soaked base layers. We were seduced by the allure of more, and we didn’t just have more on our backs, you might say that we were
“more-on” backpackers. So after a bunch of trips like that,
we took all of those learnings, and my husband and I
founded an outdoor company on the basic notion
that when it comes to connection in the outdoors and your gear,
less really is more. We really had found the key
to fun and freedom in the outdoors, and it was simple: go light. So let’s talk about the culture of more. When we think about the word ‘more,’
we think more money, more sex, more friends, more respect,
more success, more power, right? So where does all this fascination
with more come from? From the rise of industrial capitalism
at the turn of the 20th century. Suddenly, mass-produced products
were available to everyone, life-enhancing products
that raised the standard of living. Suddenly, we had more freedom,
more education, more wealth, higher wages and more democracy. But let’s talk about some of the things
that also came with that. Suddenly, we filled our days
from morning to night with no time to breathe,
and we had so many choices. As a society, we were consumed
with the consumption of things. Now, tell me, why do we need
24 flavors of ranch dressing? (Laughter) So is it any wonder what this obsession with more
has brought on a global basis? Folks, we’re gobbling up the planet, and well, we’re not having a heck
of a lot of fun while we’re doing it. Capitalism is a good thing, but it has lost its way, and so have we. I get the allure of more. I know the power of the dark side. I think to myself how I look
so hot, so powerful, and so sexy in those shoes. I’ve got to have them. So I plunk down my credit card, and I have that immediate rush
of gratification. And I take them home
in their fancy packaging and I stand in front
of the full length mirror. I put them on my feet, and I have that sickening realization of just how much I put on my credit card, and that they freaking hurt my feet! (Laughter) And what’s left after that initial rush, but emptiness and pain? Fast forward to 2002, my husband and I are building
an awesome company. We have product awards and media hits
coming out of our ears, we are rowing internationally, and we are riding this huge wave
of traditional business success, but we’re working more
than 100 hours a week. We’re pouring capital in. We’re buying ad-buys for a single page
that cost more than 20,000 dollars each. We’re buying trade show booths
that cost more than a house. And you know, all of that
was in the pursuit of more: more market share, more growth,
more recognition, more success. Can you see the irony
of building a company all about less but living all
of your time in the land of more? And what did it really get us? It got us less time with each other,
less time with the family, less time with friends,
less time in spiritual pursuit, less time working out,
and ironically, less time in nature. We were running our business
like the “more-on” backpacker. I want to be honest and tell you that the seduction of more
led me personally down a very, very dark path. I was emotionally,
spiritually, and physically so worn out and so out of balance that I spent the next eight years
having five miscarriages, three failed in-vitro fertilization rounds and spending a fortune
in Western and Eastern medical treatments. Can you imagine seeing
your baby’s heartbeat at 12 weeks via ultrasound only to find out a few weeks later
that the baby had died in your belly? Why are we so afraid of the word ‘less’? We think we’ll have lack.
We think we’ll be judged. We think we won’t have enough. We think we’re worried
what other people will say. And all of that is rooted in fear. But good people,
what the heck are we afraid of? We are living in a civilization with so much prosperity,
and abundance, and wealth. Happiness, when it comes from buying
things and stuff, is fleeting, and therefore, an illusion. Let’s reframe the word ‘less,’ ‘less’ doesn’t mean lack. ‘Less’ doesn’t mean lack. ‘Less’ means less stress,
less anxiety, less anger, less worry, and more happiness, joy, connection, and abundance. So, after eight years of fertility
treatments and trying everything, everything to try and have a child, I was brought to my knees, and everything in me screamed, “Stop!” So I did. I got quiet. I stopped being the CEO
of the company that I cofounded. I stepped off boards,
I eliminated commitments. I stopped chasing every notion
I’d been told was my ticket to happiness, and I stopped with the attachments, and all of those things
that weren’t serving me like self-judgment, and blame,
and stress, and worry. And after I cleared out
the clutter of my life, and I spent time in nature, and I reconnected
with my family and my friends, I started to sing again,
and I spent time in prayer. This was the result. (Applause) Let’s be honest, I have trained and worshipped
at the high altars of more, but I know in my bones the abundance
and joy that comes from less. Make no doubt, we all have
the power to turn away from the dark side
to choose a different path, to change the rules of the game,
to reverse the destructive forces we have wrought on humanity
and our biosphere. I’m in the business
of selling you things, but what if, imagine, what if we all
bought fewer things? And when we did buy things, we bought from brands and companies
that were aligned with our values? What if we trusted and had faith
that on the other side of this wall, this illusion, this falsehood of more, is a life of abundance and joy
just waiting for us? I want to leave you with a question: What is that abundance, that joy
that your heart aches for, and what can you have
less of to make room for it? (Applause)

100 Replies to “The joy of less | Kim Coupounas | TEDxBoulder

  1. Backpacking is exactly what brought me to a minimalist life style. My first backpacking trip was to an island. When getting off the boat you had to line up and pass the packs down the line as they were being taken off the boat. When your pack got to you, you would place it behind you and keep passing. Well everyone know right away who the new guys were because our packs weighted twice as much as everyone else's. I learned on that trip what things were really necessary and what were not. From their I found the beauty of going lighter and lighter and getting by with less and less and started to apply that to my whole life. Anyway I just thought it was weird I got to the same place the same way.

  2. 4:07 did we really need to see a picture of a wave?  I can't wait to build my own Mega Company so I can be a slave to it instead of "stuff".  Life is about love, not stuff.  LEO BUSCAGLIA taught about LOVE – I hope you check out his videos.  It's all 100% free!

  3. This is ridiculous, Boulder keeps popping up for me- and Im from Austria so its so weird.. What is it about Boulder??

  4. Thanks so much for your honest talk about less of more. Everyone should watch it before we burn out our planet soon.

  5. Hmmm… Money is crucial to obtain happiness. If you don’t have enough money to eat… to do basic things.. you’re going to be really miserable..

  6. I am moving to minimalism. But I don't understand why 2 TED talks on this subject (including this talk) have pointed to lots of choices in the supermarket as somehow  indicating that we are obsessed with consumption. I could not agree less. Having more choices is not about having "more." It's about honoring different points of view, different identities, and different needs- solutions that are tailor made to individual people. I have autoimmune disease and need my dressing to be gluten free, soy free, and dairy free or my immune system will overreact to it and start attacking my body. In the old days, there was nothing I could do but make everything at home, while individuals with less sensitive immune systems got to go to the store for items that I couldn't buy. I have to avoid too much salt, because this too can trigger my autoimmune issues. Thankfully these days, with 40 or so dressing "choices" I might find 1 or 2 to choose from that I can actually eat. I can also now find 1 or 2 "choices" that might be organic, which reflects my value system on how agribusiness is treating the soil on our planet. I might find 1 or 2 "choices" which do not have animal products in them and are therefore cruelty free. To live healthfully and ethically may put me in the minority, but at least in the world of today, there is a place for me at the table, where I can be authentic to my needs and values when I consume. I do not consider this confusing or a symptom of conspicuous consumption. Frankly, I am offended by that assumption asserted here, which was made as part of a glossed over message, unthinkingly. So there you are- there is a reason we need "24 flavors of ranch dressing" unless you are suggesting we go back to a society where people with problems like mine should just have to stay at home 24/7 and make everything from scratch while everyone else gets to buy time saving prepared foods at the grocery store. I think your joke was appalling. In addition to my issues, there are people who need to keep their sugar low because of diabetes, so they would choose a different dressing. Some need to keep fat intake low for other reasons, and would choose a different dressing. Some want the cheapest option possible, so their choice might be the lowest price point because they are less well off. Some people have food allergies that might make their choices different. Your joke made it sound like you think we should all be identical clones who get the exact same thing, and if we aren't well, too bad. Appalling. We don't all have the same values or needs, and this is why there are so many different kinds of options.

  7. So funny to listen to people who preaches less is more, more time for fun, inner searches. Yea, if you leave a successful company and got money. Try to tell the person to do this with no money and we would call it homeless.

  8. I think to sum it up, get your priorities right, because time is precious. Don't waste your time which is essentially your life.

  9. Trust me it's true there are people who even cannot comment genuinely as they thought how would they be valued of commenting these //I myself thought so in the same way

  10. This is my year to declutter, get rid of things I don't use that are in boxes in the back of the closet, clean out the basement, and stop shopping! There is not one single thing I need to buy. Your video was very inspirational and helpful!

  11. It's actually wonderful to hear "buy less stuff" from a business woman who owns a company which sells stuff.

  12. you spent MORE time because you wanted MORE money. you were GREEDY. a little 5 year old child can figure that out and you couldn't at your grown up age? i always tell people i am happy with very little stuff and very lot of time for myself. people get angry because they become jealous i am always content and happy. the goal of everything is happiness, not to collect more money or toys. stuff brings you stress. research has proven this.

  13. Oh but you have to have a car….and how can you live without that smart phone? You say don't buy much, but you need Netflix account, and a comfy couch to sit on while you watch. Your Arcteriyx jacket has a little stain and the colour is out of style, maybe the new one is a better idea? Maybe you should just have a little look on Ebay tonight, just for fun…..

  14. thank you so much for this speech… wish one day we all will understand that that less is more – konsumerism kills 🙁

  15. One of the best and most powerful Ted talks I have ever had the privilege of viewing.
    And I noticed that not once did she say the name of her business.
    Respect for her courage to share her most painful experience.
    I will be sharing this video with a select few of my family and friends

  16. Was listening as I worked on decluttering. I had to sit down and watch/listen… twice. Thank you for such a beautiful and inspirational presentation.

  17. I like her message and deeply sorry to hear about her babies. The awkward moment of silence after referring to them weird me out…just sayin

  18. The single most important skill a masterful salesperson possesses is the ability to sell when it appears he/she is not. This is done by identifying and targeting specific emotional responses associated with the demographic being "sold," as it were. "I'm in the business of selling you things but what if… imagine… what if we all bought fewer things. And when we did buy things, we bought from brands and companies that were aligned with our values." As in… her company.

  19. Thank you for sharing your personal story. You have a lot of wisdom & strength. I am SO HAPPY you are a mom. Life is a GIFT especially a BABY 🙂 God Bless you & your family 🙂

  20. Behold the age of Aquarius. This woman had a spiritual awakening and discovered tarot and listened to her personal guides. We are the ones holding ourselves back from our own blessings from the universe.

  21. What a treat and blessing to run across this TedxBoulder and see you Kim. This is Sherri, your sweet angel's Guide for a season there in Boulder!! So wonderful to hear your story that testifies to the power we receive when we let go of chasing emptiness. I don't remember if I shared my favorite phrase with you during our conversations "Less is more…" but now I know it totally resonated with you! I particularly loved the photo of your sweet family!! Bless you guys!!

  22. This was so compelling. It’s my desire to get to this point. I run a pediatric therapy clinic which does great things, however it can be very stressful. My husband and I are not on the same page with “less” and I think it is all rooted in fear. Great talk!

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