Doing More with Less
An Essay on Freedom and Fate
We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly.
—Benjamin Franklin, The Way to Wealth
I have been lucky in life. Born poor, I learned the skills of doing more with less early on. I saw firsthand how close invention and creativity and diplomacy sit near frugality. These choices sat in my head like competing family members.
I learned from my mother to act with the spirit of frugality and to mimic the older sisters of invention and diplomacy. After my father died when I was three years old, my mother, Lillian Anna Piasecki, took in foster children from New York City foundling homes to make ends meet. From Lillian, I learned how painfully accurate Franklin’s warnings about folly, pride, and idleness prove to lives with little margin of protection.
I grew up in suburban Long Island without a car or the money to eat out. This scarcity of means actually gave me the time and opportunity to explore my interests and shape my own way. We finished meals rapidly, and the days were long with discovery. Those who are born into a shortage of wealth are not surrounded by activities and obligations or the rules of professional expectations. We start early with direct action and risk taking. And the warring articulate sisters of fate inside our heads are always judging, always evaluating what works and what does not work, as they outline a faint path in the sand for us to ...