May 25 • 10M

The Beauty of Enough

How to fight back against the perpetual desire for more

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The Beauty of Enough

“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

My son was born one week ago—it feels like one of those fabled weeks where decades happen.

I spent the first three decades of my life trying to find the meaning and purpose of all of this—then one week, it all came into view.

On Monday morning, I was with him in bed and had this profound sensation: For the first time in my life, I have enough.

I’ve always been extremely driven—I’ve always been in this constant cycle of wanting more.

But I feel…different.

Really, what more could I want?

This profound feeling prompted today’s piece—on our perpetual desire for more, and more importantly, on the beauty of enough.

My hope is for you to come away from it feeling empowered to think clearly and deeply about finding your “enough” amidst the constant search for more.


The Fisherman & The Banker

There’s a beautiful parable that I think about quite often…

A wealthy investment banker goes on vacation to a tropical fishing village. As he walks along the docks one afternoon, he comes upon a small, run-down fishing boat with several large fish on its deck.

"How long did it take you to catch those fish?" he asks.

The fisherman looks up from his work and smiles at his new visitor.

"Only a little while."

The investment banker is caught off guard by this response. He likes the fisherman and wants to help.

"Why don't you fish for longer so you can catch more fish?"

The fisherman shrugs and explains to his new friend that he has all he needs.

"Each day, I sleep late, fish a little, and spend time with my children and beautiful wife. In the evening, I go into town, drink wine, play the guitar, and sing and laugh with my friends."

The investment banker is puzzled. He wants to help his new friend, who he recognizes is clearly confused. The investment banker has helped many businesses and has an MBA and other fancy credentials to his name. So he lays out a plan for the fisherman...

"First, you spend more time fishing, so you can catch and sell more fish. You use the proceeds to buy a bigger boat, which allows you to catch and sell even more fish. Then you buy a fleet of boats. You hire a team. Vertically integrate! As CEO of a large, growing enterprise, you could move to the big city. You would take your company public and make millions!"

The fisherman looks confused, but smiles.

"And then what?" he asks.

The investment banker laughs at the silly question.

"Well, then you could retire to a quiet town! You could sleep late, fish a little, and spend time with your children and beautiful wife. In the evening, you could go into town, drink wine, play the guitar, and sing and laugh with your friends."

The fisherman smiles broadly, thanks his new friend for the advice, and wanders off slowly into the warm afternoon sun.


More vs. Enough

This parable illustrates the importance of perspective.

The story isn’t about the fisherman or the banker being “right”—it’s about personally identifying what success and purpose looks like to you, and then building a life that meets that definition.

Fundamentally, it’s about a dichotomy that rules our lives: More vs. Enough.

The Hedonic Treadmill

Hedonic adaptation is the tendency of humans to revert to a happiness baseline shortly after new positive or negative events.

It (probably) developed as a survival mechanism of sorts—in the wild, you needed to stay on an even keel in order to survive to reproductive age. After a big hunt and kill, the thrill of the victory had to wear off quickly so that you didn’t let your guard down and get eaten by a lion. That seems…good.

But in the modern age, hedonic adaptation has a darker side.

It becomes a treadmill—the Hedonic Treadmill—a perpetual motion machine that keeps us running in search of the next thing.

We create this magical universe in our minds where that one next thing will be exactly what makes us permanently, sustainably happier.

The harsh reality? We get to that next thing, appreciate it for a moment, and then turn our gaze to the next, next thing, with no marked improvement in our happiness.

You’ve undoubtedly seen this general dynamic play out:

  • We can finally buy the second home in Florida we’ve always dreamed of. Two weeks later, we’re complaining about maintaining it and thinking that a third home in Sedona sounds nice.

  • We buy that fancy car—we ride around smiling broadly with the music blasting, and then see someone in the newer model and start thinking about the next one.

We are like the modern equivalent of Sisyphus—a figure from Greek mythology who is sentenced by Zeus to an eternity of futile struggle. Sisyphus must roll a massive boulder up a steep hill, but as soon as he nears the top, the boulder rolls back down to the bottom, forcing him to start anew.

We all strive for growth, but our outsized focus on progress can result in an inability to feel gratitude for the present.

Finding Your “Enough”

So how do we step off the treadmill?

To me, this is about finding your version of “enough”—about balancing your natural desire for more with a deep appreciation for the beauty of the present.

A few strategies that have worked for me:

  • Develop a Gratitude Practice: Make it a daily practice to write down your gratitude. Either right when you wake up or right before bed, write down three things you are grateful for. They can be big (a healthy family) or small (a good meal in front of your favorite TV show)—the only thing that matters is that you make note of them. The practice forces gratitude for the present into the front of our minds and works wonders for your daily contentment and happiness.

  • Identify Your Happiness Triggers: Using your gratitude lists, identify what makes you happy. Not what you think makes you happy or what society says should make you happy—but what truly makes YOU happy. Maybe it’s as simple as a cold beer at the end of a hard day of work or listening to smooth jazz by yourself when everyone has gone to sleep. Whatever it is, find those triggers and prioritize them in your life.

  • End the Comparisons: We all have a horrible tendency to compare ourselves to others. Comparison is like gas on your “more” fire—it tears away the enjoyment of the present and tells you that it’s not enough. When you notice yourself falling into the comparison trap, reset and focus on yourself. “If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, and that is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.” - Montesquieu.

Give these strategies a try. They will all bring the present into a clear, brilliant focus.


Conclusion

For most of my life, I would have characterized myself as the investment banker from the parable above.

The quest for more dominated my headspace.

But this morning, lying in bed with my newborn son, I feel different.

"Each day, I sleep late, fish a little, and spend time with my children and beautiful wife. In the evening, I go into town, drink wine, play the guitar, and sing and laugh with my friends."

This sounds pretty damn good to me.

I don’t think I’ll ever be the fisherman—I’m still wired to strive for growth—but I do think we can all see a little bit of the fisherman in ourselves.

And I know that letting that inner fisherman shine through from time to time will lead to all of us living happier, more fulfilled lives.

If I can leave you with one lesson, it’s this:

Never let your quest for more distract you from the beauty of enough.


Where It Happens Podcast

Why You Need a Digital Detox with Andrew Wilkinson

Watch it on YouTube and listen to it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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