The human quest and pursuit for material things and possessions are insatiable; we are always striving for more money, a high-paying job, vacation, a bigger home, and a different lifestyle. We believe that when we get to the destination, whatever we think it is, we would be happy, but the reality of life is that those things would not make you happy, and the zeal for more would always be there. We see many supposed rich people not living a happy life, and they even tell us that it would not make us happy, but we want to find out ourselves.
John C. Bogle, the late founder of Vanguard Mutual Fund Group and creator of the first index mutual fund, begins his 2008 book, Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life with a story that buttresses the point of never enough. He writes:
At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch-22 over its whole history. Heller responds, “Yes, but I have something he will never have . . . enough.
“ The great game of life is not about money; it is about doing your best to join the battle to build anew ourselves, our communities, our nation, and our world.”
The above story is so true; it does not matter how much you have; what matters is how content you are with what you have presently. No matter how rich you are, someone else is richer than you are; no matter how famous you think you are, others are more famous. Most of us lead a life of quiet desperation, as noted by Henry David Thoreau:
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.
The Begging Bowl
In his insightful book The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, American Entrepreneur and Best-Selling Author Gary Keller share the story of the begging bowl, a parable for the insatiability of human wants and desires. He writes:
Upon coming out of his palace one morning and encountering a beggar, a king asks, “What do you want?” The beggar laughingly says, “You ask as though you can fulfill my desire!” Offended, the king replies, “Of course I can. What is it?” The beggar warns, “Think twice before you promise anything.”
Now, the beggar was no ordinary beggar but the king’s past-life master, who had promised in their former life, “I will come to try and wake you in our next life. This life you have missed, but I will come again to help you.”
The king, not recognizing his old friend, insisted, “I will fulfill anything you ask, for I am a very powerful king who can fulfill any desire.” The beggar said, “It is a very simple desire. Can you fill this begging bowl?” “Of course!” said the king, and he instructed his vizier to “fill the man’s begging bowl with money.”
The vizier did, but when the money was poured into the bowl, it disappeared. So he poured more and more, but the moment he did, it would disappear.”
“The begging bowl remained empty.”
Word spread throughout the kingdom, and a huge crowd gathered. The prestige and power of the king were at stake, so he told his vizier, “If my kingdom is to be lost, I am ready to lose it, but I cannot be defeated by this beggar.” He continued to empty his wealth into the bowl. Diamonds, pearls, emeralds. His treasury was becoming empty.
And yet the begging bowl seemed bottomless. Everything put into it immediately disappeared!
Finally, as the crowd stood in utter silence, the king dropped at the beggars feet and admitted defeat. “You are victorious, but before you go, fulfill my curiosity. What is the secret of this begging bowl?”
The beggar humbly replied, “There is no secret. It is simply made up of human desire.”
“One of our biggest challenges is making sure our life’s purpose doesn’t become a beggar’s bowl, a bottomless pit of desire continually searching for the next thing that will make us happy. That’s a losing proposition.
Acquiring money and obtaining things are pretty much all done for the pleasure we expect them to bring. On one hand, this actually works. Securing money or something we want can spike our happiness meter—for a moment. Then it goes back down.
Over the ages, our greatest minds have pondered happiness, and their conclusions are much the same: having money and things won’t automatically lead to lasting happiness.
How circumstances affect us depends on how we interpret them as they relate to our life. If we lack a “big picture” view, we can easily fall into serial success seeking. Why? Once we get what we want, our happiness sooner or later wanes because we quickly become accustomed to what we acquire.
This happens to everyone and eventually leaves us bored, seeking something new to get or do. Worse, we may not even stop or slow down to enjoy what we’ve got because we automatically get up and go for something else. If we’re not careful, we wind up ricocheting from achieving and acquiring to acquiring and achieving without ever taking time to fully enjoy any of it. This is a good way to remain a beggar, and the day we realize this is the day our life changes forever. So how do we find enduring happiness?
Money is not evil by itself, it’s just paper with perceived value to obtain other things we value in other ways.
There is a great video online narrated by Actor Morgan Freeman titled “More was never enough”, it is a very inspiring and thought-provoking soliloquy written by Your Strategy Coach, Brian Cimins.
You will always be able to make more money, but you cannot make more time.
Author Patrick Rhone writes in his book titled “Enough”:
What is Enough?
Enough is a very personal metric. Like our center of gravity, each of us must find what is enough by swaying from less to more until a comfortable medium is found. The goal, then, is not to find what is, or will be, enough forever. That is impossible. The goal is to discover the tools and strategies you need to find what is enough for you right now and provide the flexibility to adjust as the conditions change.
“Enough comes from trying things out. It comes from challenging your preconceptions. It comes from having less, trying more, then reducing to find out what is just right. It comes from letting go of your fear of less. It comes from letting go of the false security of more. It also comes from having more, losing it all, and finding out what need really is. Enough is hard work.”
“To get there, one must let go of what-ifs, conjecture, assumptions, guesses, and half-truths. One must overcome fear, gluttony, self-doubt, and thoughts of grandeur. One must ask hard questions to find harder answers. One must let go of those fears that aim to knock us off balance and send us running towards more or less”.
It comes from being forever curious. It comes from asking questions.
How can this be easier?
Can I be satisfied with less?
How much do I really need?
What if I did not have this?
What is the worst that could happen (and is that so bad)?
Is there a better way?
Is this enough for me?
Do I have what I need?
Would having more make it easier?
Would having less make it easier?
What is too much and how do I know when it is?
All of these questions and more will help you discover the answer to what constitutes enough for you.
Gratitude is the Key
We tiptoe throughout our brief stay here, and we do not follow our bliss because of fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of judgment, and criticism. Still, in the end, when we eventually get what it is, we slaved our life to get, we finally realize that it does not make us happy. The young slave their lives to acquire more wealth and status, always in a hurry to acquire more, while the older people wished they had the courage to live life on their own terms and not on others’ opinions.
Gratitude is the feeling that embodies the phrase “Thank You”. It is the unexpected reward of a kind deed that is magically produced by your brain. It is the cute, tingly feeling in your body that makes you smile at strangers.
The key to worthwhile happiness is always to give gratitude no matter where you find yourself. Do not let success get into your head, and do not let failure get into your heart. One of the best tools I have found for maintaining gratitude is using a Five Minute Gratitude Journal. Each page on the gratitude Journal contains the following questions: “An inspiring quote,” “I am grateful for….”, “What would make today great?”, “Daily Affirmations. I am….” “3 Amazing things that happened today…” “How would I have made today even better?”. Answering the questions and noting what you are grateful for makes you pay attention to what is working in your life right now. The more you give gratitude for what you have, you start your day with a healthy mindset and contentment.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.