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November 1, 2017

What Is Enough And How Will You Know?

History is littered with stories of people that make it way beyond all expectations, who have more than enough — and then crash.

We make the mistake of identifying money, power, fame, and status as marks of success; rather than as resources. If we identify the things we want and use money, power, fame, and status to get them, we are in control. We know when we have reached our goal. But when money, power, fame, and status become the goals, how much is enough? After we make a million dollars, the natural impulse is to make ten million. When do we stop wanting?

The people I know who are satisfied with their income and position understand. They are people who treat money and power as resources — not as goals. They know how much is enough because for them, money or power has instrumental value. Do you have enough money? Enough for what? To maintain a certain lifestyle? To provide security — freedom from worry about the future? Those objectives have price tags. Although the prices are different for different people.

An ancient philosopher might have said, “Desires make good servants — but bad masters.”

Seneca, a roman orator, lawyer, and stoic philosopher lived during one of the periods of greatest excess in human history. Seneca amassed a fortune and achieved fame in Rome as an adviser to the young emperor Nero. But he urged anyone who’d listen to him to spend one day a month living on bread and water and sleeping on the floor.

Why? Because by doing those things, you realize how little it takes to survive. Seneca wanted people to distinguish their needs from their desires. You don’t have to sleep on the floor once a month, but that distinction is crucial for getting at the heart of “enoughness”.

Success should never be confused with wealth or power. Rather, success should be linked to excellence and fulfillment. Success is about who you are, not what you have. Successful people work to discover their talents, to develop those talents, and then to use those talents to benefit other as well as themselves.

The goal is not to create a good image or a good appearance. The goal is to create good character. Heraclitus said, “Character is destiny.” We don’t need to develop our personality; we need to cultivate our character.

One of the most interesting philosophers in the ancient world was the Greek think Diogenes the cynic. Diogenes uttered some profound wisdom. “He who has the most, is most content with the least.”

One day, Alexander the great visited Diogenes. Alexander was Diogenes’ biggest fans and had dropped by to pay his respects. At the end of the visit, Diogenes asked Alexander what his plans were. Alexander answered that he planned to conquer and subjugate Greece. “Then what?” Diogenes asked. Alexander said that he planned to conquer and subjugate Asia Minor. “And then?” Alexander said that he planned to conquer and subjugate the world.

Diogenes, who was not easily dissuaded from a line of inquiry posed the question again: “What next?” Alexander the great told Diogenes that after all that conquering and subjugation, he planned to relax and enjoy himself. Diogenes responded, “Why not save yourself a lot of trouble by relaxing and enjoying yourself now?”

Alexander the great never really got the point. Our lives are made for success — and not just for enjoying it, but also for seeking it as well.. As a matter of fact, the people who are most likely to enjoy success are those who most enjoy seeking it. Those people are able to find satisfaction in the journey, not just at the end of the road.

So, how much is enough?

If you learned to be satisfied, you will always have enough.

Your friend,

Stu

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