At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, the late Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, the author 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 ambition or desire to want more is probably a uniquely human trait. That trait has driven so much of my own behaviour over my lifetime, and caused both great fortunes and misfortunes. If I’d have kept an honest account, it’s likely to have caused more of the latter.
In my observations of the people around me, most of them ordinary folks, and from the writings of some philosophers/writers, contentment is a trait more closely aligned with happiness than ambition or achievement. The more pickled I am by the years, happiness is by far the most preferred feeling. Know when or what is enough, and being okay with saying it to myself, is a skill I’m only just beginning to learn. It’s a liberating feeling.