What Is Enough?

At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, author Kurt Vonnegut and his equally famous pal Joseph Heller were wandering around the back rooms of a giant mansion. When Joseph died, Kurt wrote this obituary/poem for The New Yorker in May of 2005.


True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!”

— Kurt Vonnegut


Such a poignant insight. What is enough? How much is enough? What does it take to be happy?

Harvard researchers questioned 4,000 multi-millionaires on how much money they needed to be happy; the answer averaged out to about 3 times more than they already had – no matter how much they currently had!

The Hedonic Treadmill says that our baseline happiness will return to normal fairly quickly after a positive (or negative) experience yet we’re always chasing the next big achievement in order to finally be happy.

All this adds up to the over-arching question – When will I have enough to be happy?

Happiness often seems like a destination we’re constantly trying to reach by adding more to our lives. But, what if real contentment comes from realising we already have enough? The idea of ‘enough’ isn’t about giving up on growth or ambition. It’s about recognising that endlessly chasing might not be the answer.

From a philosophical standpoint, ‘enough’ is where our desires and our realities meet. It’s not about stopping our dreams but about being okay with where we are in the moment. Psychologically, it means finding a balance. It’s about understanding that while it’s okay to want more, our happiness isn’t just around the corner; it’s also in what we have right now.

In a society that often tells us we need more to be happy (Hi, Capitalism!), deciding that what we have is enough can be an extremely bold move. It’s about realising that happiness isn’t tied to the next big purchase or life milestone; it’s right here, in appreciating what’s already in front of us.

Maybe happiness doesn’t start with getting more, but with recognising that what we have is already “enough”.

Much love,

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