Here is an article I wrote awhile ago but never got around to publishing. I call it the failure of man because we are always striving after “something” – yet what we don’t truly understand is that we already have everything we truly want or need. Enjoy.

This post is going to be a little different from my normal ones. Namely this isn’t about gear or specifically about hiking. It is simply about the philosophy and meaning of life. Small subject I know. I think about this question a lot, it’s one of those priviledges in life where I have a lot of free time and this allows my brain to focus on other things than work and paying bills. I think about this as I have lived my life fairly materialistic, there has never been anything I truly wanted that I haven’t been able to just go out and buy, and more often than not, I do just go out and buy with very little oversight or thought.

However over the years I have also been accutely aware of my materialism: I know I buy an amazing amount of gear, stuff and many times just garbage that sits in my closet. One of my mental phases or perhaps coping mechanisms with this insane materialism is that I sell just as much as I buy, I rarely lose money on the things I sell, but the fact remains: I am addicted to buying shit.

This leads me to the strong belief that owning and buying shit is not equivelant to a happy and content life. In fact I would say quite the opposite. The more I own, the less I do, the less I feel satisfied and the less motivated I am in life. I often ask myself a simple question “If I had a billion dollars on my bank account, what would i do?” I always come back to the same answer: I would travel with my family (probably live in southern california to be closer to my family), I would do more hiking, I would keep writing in this blog and books, and I would spend more time doing street photography. With the 999.999 million dollars left I would probably donate or help other people attain their own goals.

The obvious question remains: What is stopping me from doing more of what I love now? The answer: I keep buying more shit that creates an endless cycle of anxiety. The more I buy, the more I feel I have to use the shit I have, I am addicted to learning new things, instead of becoming an expert on what I have. I rarely allow myself to get “in the zone”. When I am in the zone I am truly happy and productive. A good example is when I sat down to write my latest book “Ultralight and comfortable: The politically incorrect guide to becoming an ultralight bad-ass”. I was in the zone for three weeks solid and loved every second of it.

For three weeks solid I didn’t plopp down in the evening in front of my ipad and TV and just “surf” the internet. I wrote constantly and consistantly and felt true happiness, as I always do when I write or hike or take pictures. When I look back at my life, I can’t remember half the things I bought, and certainly nothing I look back on and think “that was one of the greatest moments of my life”. The greatest parts of my life, the big moments are all experiences and accomplishments – I could give a shit about the things I’ve purchased. They mean nothing to me other than the productive value they give me.

This is especially true when it comes to photography: Before I learned what worked for me and what hasn’t, I always thought I had to have the best most expensive camera gear to be successful and take good pictures. Nothing could be further from the truth. The shittiest photographers on the planet usually have the most expensive, biggest, heaviest camera gear available. It took me a while, but I know what works for me when it comes to photography. I prefer one camera, one lens (one focal length). For street and city photography I am perfectly happy with a simple point and shoot film camera and a 28mm focal length lens. For everything else I find a digital mirrorless and one focal length to be perfectly fine.

In backpacking I have a major case of GAS (gear accusation syndrom) – I love buying new gear, trying it out and selling it on if I don’t like it. While it’s awesome buying new gear, it’s also expensive and time consuming. Instead of spending $400 on a new backpack, I could spend that same money on a week long trip to Iceland. When I buy new gear I long for it to show up in the mail. The weeks or months of longing sometimes permits me from going out and enjoying what I already have. It’s an interesting complex. Maybe I think this way only because I have already tried and tested so much gear?

The failure:

There is a saying that goes something like this:

A business man from the USA travelled to a small fishing village and started talking with one of the local fisherman, he said to the fisherman

“you should take out a loan, buy more fishing boats, hire a fleet of fisherman and then you would be rich when you get older and can do anything you want”

The fisherman replied

“I do everything I want right now, why wait until I am older?”

The fisherman just wanted to fish and drink beer with his buddies.. He didn’t want to have to work his entire life inorder to do what he loved later when he was old.

So where is the failure? To me it is the fact that we work and slave in order to have free time to go out and enjoy life. We die everyday in order to live a few weeks out of the year.





Posted by Kenneth Shaw

Blogger, photographer and backpacker. If you like my writing or my site don't be afraid to follow me, like or share my posts here on the site. Thanks and enjoy!


  1. Very deep and a real eye opener
    I read most of it twice 👌👌


  2. Hi Kenneth, what you write is so true. I realized that “having” things is satisfying for one moment but “not having” things maybe for a lifetime. Maybe because I still have to learn how to do so. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  3. Now that you have figured out the key to true happiness, being grateful for what you already have, what are you going to do about it?


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