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Book Review: Work Less & Play More


Book Review: Work Less & Play More,

by Steven Catlin

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This article was posted on July 1, 2004.

I don't know what it is about the Houston oil & gas industry that spawns this kind of genius. Petroleum geologist Steven Catlin's Work Less & Play More covers all the high points of how to retire early (or at least work less) in a humorous and entertaining way. It's a book I could have written myself if it didn't seem too much like work.

Catlin's describes his Four Cornerstones strategy that covers some principles common to many early retirement stories:

  • minimize possessions
  • accept no dependents (if you're married, make sure your spouse works)
  • don't own a home
  • defend yourself against those that covet your time and money
  • Much of the Four Cornerstones strategy is simply "living below your means". Developing some sales resistence to our widespread consumer culture is an essential part of any early retirement plan. It's also necessary if you are going to accumulate the capital required to fund your "work less, play more" plan.

    Types of Purchases

    Catlin spends a good bit of time categorizing how folks spend their money -- all the better to reduce comsumption.

  • need purchases
  • investment purchases
  • pleasure purchases
  • convenience purchases
  • ego purchases
  • tradition purchases
  • guilt purchases
  • Need purchases are obvious like food and minimal shelter. The list progresses in order of undesirablility to ego purchases, tradition purchases (e.g., buying china and flatware, even though you prefer pizza and beer in front of the TV) and guilt purchases. Catlin obviously tapped in to a lot of consumer psychology in preparing the list.

    Work Less & Play More

    by Steven A. Catlin

    Kimberlite Publishing
    March 1998, 200 pages.

    Click here to order Work Less & Play More Today!

    Retire Early rating:

    An other interesting part of the book is Catlin's chapter on "Simplicity in the Extreme - Minimalism". A friend who attended the University of California at San Diego told the story of "The Van Man". He saved the cost of a dorm room by sleeping in a van parked on campus. He showered in the gym and ate sandwiches or went to restaurants. Because "The Van Man" was on partial scholarship, his tuition was paid and he left that elite instituition of higher learning debt-free. I imagine many of his classmates graduated with tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

    Catlin summarizes Minimalism as follows.


  • keep possessions to a minimum -- just needs and favorite toys
  • are either single or have independent, Minimalist spouses
  • have no dependent children
  • have no burdensome pets
  • rent thir living quarters
  • avoid activities and associations they don't need or enjoy
  • as a result of the six items above, Minimalists

  • have fat Personal Treasuries, which help remedy day-to-day problems
  • have great freedom of schedule
  • enjoy extensive leisure time
  • work at jobs of their choosing (if they have to work at all)
  • work with people of their choosing
  • Throughout the book, the author tells us a number of amusing stories about his path to minimalism and less work, more play. The story about buying a $250 canoe and spending hours assembling it for an outing with girlfriend "Nasty" was particularly funny -- especially since a fully-equiped canoe could be rented at the East Texas lake for $2 an hour.

    Catlin closes with the story of "The Old Man in the Campground", a gentleman he met along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway that runs through Virginia and North Carolina. The old man used to work at a country club and observed that "those people were the unhappiest people I ever knew. All they care about was who had the most money."

    And who were the happiest people he'd ever met?

    "No doubt about it. The campers. And most of all, the tenters."

    In other words, the Minimalists

    Steven Catlin's Work Less, Play More is thought provoking and funny. It's highly recommended.

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    Copyright 2004 John P. Greaney, All rights reserved.

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