Book review: The Art of Enough, by Becky Hall

I was surprised when Tom Greenwood at Wholegrain Digital asked me to review this book, because I’d not actually read it. Let me explain.

It was early in 2022, at our first in-person meeting. Tom and I had known each other for a while but we’d only met remotely. Our discussion was wide-ranging and touched on the challenges of running a business and the question of growth. There are classically two options for UK small businesses: ‘scale’, because bigger is better, obviously, or run a ‘lifestyle’ business – which has always felt unambitious and a cop-out to me. Until recently.

Why should bigger be better? And when does it stop? The quest for continual growth has come under the microscope in recent years, not least because our finite planet is showing alarming signs of stress from the constant gobbling of its resources.

I mentioned Becky’s book to Tom because the premise felt relevant. I knew about it because she’s a friend and we’d chatted about it. But then Tom called my bluff and asked if I’d like to review it. So here we are. I have now read it…

With 25-years’ experience coaching public sector CEOs and top-teams, Becky Hall knows a thing or two about people struggling to ‘be enough’, ‘have enough’ and ‘do enough’. She brings her book to life with some poignant case studies and energises it with practical tips and exercises.

‘Enough’ is a mid-point between Scarcity – fear, lack, anxiety – and Excess – overwhelm, addiction, desire. The model offers seven ‘Arts’ for finding Enough. And although you may not think all of them relevant to you, I’ll bet a few of them will resonate.

Whilst this book speaks mainly to individuals rather than organisations, there are lessons for both. ‘Art 6 – Enough Growth’ was particularly relevant to my discussion with Tom. Becky contends that growth should be just one stage in a cycle of transformation. It’s about letting go of an old state to make room for something new. She illustrates this charmingly with a reference to Eric Carle’s children’s book ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ in which the caterpillar eats, and eats, and eats, eventually transforming into a chrysalis and then into a butterfly.

She makes a poignant comparison between executive burn-out (from always needing to do more) and environmental burnout. Both come from a depletion of resources. And both need to be left to regenerate and to re-find the cyclical nature of replenishment.

‘The Art of Enough’ is available from Waterstones, Blackwells and WH Smiths, £14.99 (paperback)