The Perfect Thing: What Is Your Little Obsession?

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I’ve been thinking about another excerpt from investor Charlie Munger’s biography about his father Al Munger:

Though he could not be described as a lavish spender, Al Munger savored just the perfect thing, whatever it was he needed. Al had learned the joy of artful living from his mother. She shopped for the very best coffee beans, then took great pleasure each morning in grinding them for fresh coffee. It was a Tao philosophy, Midwestern style. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tse urged seekers to regard the small as important and to make much of the little. “The little obsessions,” Charlie called them.

This is an appealing idea. Only a select few can afford a Ferrari or Bentley, but most people reading this can afford a great cup of coffee. Instead of focusing your energy on the crazy-stupid-expensive “bests” like an Hermes leather handbag or Patek Philippe watch, why not enjoy the best cheesecake in the city?

Personally, I’m not sure I connect with this philosophy. I like good coffee, but I just buy whatever is cheap and nearby on the days that I need it. I like craft beer, but will drink Bud Light happily. Maybe I have to work on this artful living thing. 🙂

On the other hand, I did buy what may be the world’s best nail clipper for under $16. Also, my wife makes what I truly think is the world’s best roast chicken based on a really simple recipe by famous chef Thomas Keller. Follow the directions carefully, and it will turn out amazing. Bake some root vegetables alongside it, and you have a perfect meal for under $10.

Do you have an example of something that you enjoy the best of, but it still costs say under $25?

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  1. Alexandria says

    I think the point is just to have something to look forward to every day. Someone said to me the other day, “I just need something to look forward to, like a big vacation.” I just wasn’t relating. I feel like I personally take time to look forward to “something” every day or week. It’s easier to look forward to a nice meal, or a favorite snack (I am a bit of a foodie – so maybe that is my pleasure). I personally don’t *get* the joy of looking forward to that one week out of the entire year (“vacation”). I understand the psychology on some level, but I personally need a lot of little things to look forward on a more ongoing basis. Sometimes it is as simple as a cold soda after a long day. (For others, maybe a coffee or a beer). Watching a favorite TV show. Savoring the things that are often taken for granted.

  2. Mine is the $17 Victorinox kitchen knife you recommended!

  3. I agree with this philosophy wholeheartedly. There’s actually a website for finding “the best” of the little things:

    After years of annoying ice cube trays, I found these. It’s so easy to break the ice out, I wonder why no one else has stolen their design:

  4. I tell my family often we can’t afford everything you may want. But we can probably afford any (one) thing. Passion and excellence are important in life.

    I don’t like watching videos at work, but this is my fav/staple whole chicken recipe. Love it!

  5. Angela M. says

    I am known as the penny pincher in my family but I do have an affinity for good design. I don’t particularly care for large designer brands but I like products that are artfully designed and I am a sucker for nice packaging. I’d rather have one very well designed product than a bunch of cheap “made in china” versions of the same thing. I like etsy for these types of things.

  6. First of all, how can you not relate to looking forward to vacation? That is my big motivation- of course were saving lots by traveling on points 🙂

    On a daily / weekly basis, it’s looking forward to my long run on the weekends. And having a couple really good (craft!) beers a couple times a week.

  7. I have a friend who was feeling really sad one day and I said to him “let’s make it a mission to find 2 good things every day” and it could be just the littlest things like an article about someone doing something good. Or getting an email for a free item. Or finding a great sale on something you need. A rebate arrives for something you bought. And it really works. We are trying to be really grateful for the little things that might come our way. If you can share it with someone, more the better.

    p/s: I make my own pork potstickers. They have no preservatives and I make a batch of about 150 and freeze them on cookie sheets before putting them in freezer storage bags. They are better than any restaurant and I don’t fry them up in oil – I use cooking spray. Great for quick lunches/dinner – throw them in with some noodles, chicken broth and a bag of spinach – YUMMMMM!

  8. I agree with Alexandria… having something really nice in each day is important to our overall happiness, especially when your time is constrained like when you have a new baby! I set myself little mini projects. One month I tried to drink a cup of coffee from all the best coffee shops in our city. I don’t drink coffee regularly, but it was a fun project, and now I have two awesome coffee shops that I go to when I do need a cup. Seriously, I’d never heard about pour over coffee before this project. Then one month I tried all the Japanese restaurants on a particular street (there were 4) and now I visit my favorite quite regularly. I found a tea shop near me and my next goal is to try all of their herbal teas. I find these projects are a bit more fun than just randomly going out to a coffee shop or restaurant e.g., either because it’s fun to check things off a list, or it’s fun to know that you are at a really special place.

  9. Thanks Morty for this website…I’m very intrigued about “all the best things!” And thanks Jonathan for sharing as always. I’m going to pick up those magical nail clippers and I’ve already made the roasted chicken and it turned out great!

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