Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Making an "Enough List"

This weekend, I wrote the first version what I'm calling my "Enough List."

The exercise is simple. I started with a list of things that I believe I need to have a well-rounded life. Then, I asked myself a simple question, "how much is enough?", and wrote down what I thought.

The "Enough List" from my notebook.

Two surprising things happened. First, it was surprisingly easy to jot some guidelines for how much "enough" really is. Second, I was shocked at how close to "enough" we are already. Granted, we've had a blessed life and that's not a luxury everyone has, but still. I immediately felt a sense of relief because I realized that much of my anxiety about career, money, meaning, etc. is unfounded, because we have enough. I realized that I've been sweating over the cherry on top of a sundae, even though I've got more than enough ice cream in my bowl.

I've been gnawing on the notion of enough for months - when my friend Jeff shared about some reading he had done about personal finance (he enjoys personal finance blogs, and lucky shares the interesting ideas with me). What he suggested was figuring out the number (literally, a dollar amount that could be written on a note card) which accounted for enough money. Most people, he said, don't benchmark how much money they really need. As a result, they're constantly just chasing the next raise, promotion, or job and trying to make more. For most people, he added, research is starting to suggest that number is somewhere around $75,000 / year.

The problem is, when you don't set a benchmark up front, it's likely that the next milestone - whether it be about money, love, respect, food, or whatever - will never feel like enough. Without a benchmark, my default mindset was to maximize how much money I made. In a maximization mindset, I was always falling short because what I had never was what I could theoretically have, and certainly not as much as someone else I knew had.

Once I made this list and realized that I was really lucky to have darn near enough at age 29, I started to wonder - why do I feel so much anxiety about the items on my Enough List? So I made another list of things that make me believe I don't have enough:

  • Advertising
  • Greedy, exploitative organizations (that are better off when their workers feel compelled to work more)
  • People I associate with who are motivated by power, social status, or grandstanding
  • The fear of big, cataclysmic events (e.g., Black Swans)
  • Economists and MBA types, who are wired to maximize things, who propagate narratives about maximization in other domains
  • Being exposed to all of the above on social media exacerbates their effects

I hope that by being more conscious of these polluting influences prevents them from being so destructive.


If you're an audio person, you can also catch these posts (with a little extra discussion) by subscribing to my podcast via the iTunes store. Happy listening!

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