I have been scouring through some books and articles about stoicism recently. I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up a book by Marcus Aurelius called, "Meditations." The method of translation has it read like a stream of consciousness of tidbits of wisdom and lessons from various individuals and reflections on life from the esteemed Roman Emperor. It's good shit. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday morning.
While I was there I searched for a book by John (Jack) Bogle, the founder of Vanguard (the mutual fund behemoth). A few weeks ago, I read something related to why he cares so much about keeping fees and costs to a minimum...the answer to that, is because he believes the investor should keep most of the growth and earnings resulting from the principle, not the institutions. To which a normal person would likely reply, "Big fucking deal. That seems pretty obvious." And I agree. But Bogle and his wealthy cohorts do not stand to benefit from a reduced fee structure so I found this notable and a bit magnanimous considering all the pricks and prawns involved in Wall Street who want your dinero.
Anway, Jack's book is titled, "Enough" followed by a bunch of other words, but the essence is just that...enough. It's not a title of exasperation, but related to a mentality - specifically greed. What is enough? When do we know we've hit that point? How much money is enough?
Ahhhhh, now the wheels are turning, eh?
The most miserable I've ever been is when I've been totally fixated on making money. We all think about money multiple times a day, but it was the period when I was thinking about it every time in between too where I was truly depressed. Because no matter how much I was making or planning on making, it's never enough. And for me, it was not very much in the first place.
Most of us are no different. Each time we get a raise/promotion we increase our lifestyle to keep pace so we're never really getting ahead, we're just keeping pace with faster fish. Instead of driving a Toyota we're now driving the Lexus. Instead of 1500 square feet we now want 3000. Instead of HD TV we want 4k. This is a defeating mentality as we can see.
At a certain point, we must relent and be content with what we have, or we will always be disappointed by the relativity of money and material pleasures and the unlimited amount that we can potentially get our hands on.
Of course this mentality can be transferred to other things as well. Triathlon for example. When am I fast enough? When I ran 8 minute miles? 7? 6? Same can be said for collecting stamps or reading books or what have you.
Do we ever reach enough? On the other hand, is our insatiability actually a positive? I would say to a certain extent, it is indeed. What's the alternative, never seek to improve? Set your sights low and be complacent?
Ahhhh, we reach that illustrious grey area I always talk about. That middle area is the sweet spot that ultimate satisfaction resides.
Part of it begins with being grateful and appreciative for all that we do have. This should be our priority more than attaining that which we lack. It's difficult to enjoy the moment when we're busy day-dreaming about the future. There's also a distinction to be made between complacency and contentment. We can be content and still seek to improve. I would recommend this approach. There's another part of this that I think is related that I will write about in Part II the next couple days. It has to do with a conversation I had with my brother on the way back from our ski trip to West Virginia - a smashing success by the way.
Let me know if this piques your interest at all and any preliminary thoughts you'd like to share...