Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

The Benefits of NOT Having

This week I had a Starbuck’s frappuccino. Java mocha chip. It was cold, caffeinated, chocolate-covered goodness.

A few years ago, this would be nothing to write about. I had one or two a week during a daily pilgrimage beneath the green sign. But now, after two years living in a country without Starbucks, it is kind of a big deal.

In Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where we live, we are in no way “deprived.” We have a great apartment, plenty of food to eat, all of the basic necessities, and many enjoyable additions that are unnecessary. Our life is good.

Now, that said, there are somethings we don’t have access to. Starbucks in one of them.

Three days ago we drove up to Budapest, Hungary. My wife is due to give birth in three weeks and we found a great hospital outside of Budapest that takes our insurance. The morning after we arrived we had an appointment with the obstetrician, whose office happens to be right across the street from a Starbucks. We celebrated the baby’s confirmed health with a frozen treat.

While we were sitting there sipping away at our plastic cup of calories, I noticed how much better the frappuccino tasted than the ones in America. Same drink. Same recipe. Same green sign. Different taste. Then I realized that it wasn’t the contents that made it taste better, it was the “Starbucks deprivation.” Not having Starbucks made Starbucks taste better.

In light of the Law of Diminishing Returns, this makes sense.

The Law of Diminishing Returns:


The tendency for a continuing application of effort or skill toward a particular project or goal to decline in effectiveness after a certain level of result has been achieved.

In short, there comes a point when more is no longer more (e.g. the first donut tastes much better than the twentieth). Or, in more practical terms, our endless quest to have everything we want all the time is killing our ability to enjoy what we have.

This is the benefit of NOT having. As for me, I am glad that there is no Starbucks in Sarajevo. Not because I hate their coffee, but because it helps me enjoy it.

If you want to test this out, pick something you enjoy, deprive yourself of it for a period of time, then try it again. Perhaps you will find that less is more.

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