In a speech in Quincy, Illinois on Wednesday, President Obama said: "We’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money, but you know, part of the American way is, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product."
Fox News’ Sean Hannity pounced on the quote, playing it for guest and political consultant Frank Luntz, who declared: "He’s outed himself."
Outed himself as what? A socialist? Or perhaps a person who has considered the idea that there is such a thing as "enough" on an individual level? This didn't sound like a remark about policy, but about personal belief.
Is it so threatening to the American way that the president might hint at the notion that we are all challenged to strike a balance between making money and the other experiences, people and virtues that make life worth living? Even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett arrived at the place of making enough, and chose to give away their fortunes in pursuit of a better world for everyone.
In my view, taking the time to define "enough" for yourself is not an issue of setting limitations or boundaries but of consciously recognizing abundance when you see it. It's about choosing not to be controlled or defined by externalities such as status. It goes hand in hand with the notion of stewardship — a word that carries religious overtones, but is simply a generous, accountable way of life rooted in your deepest values.
People in touch with their values are intimately familiar with the notion of enough, because they understand we’re given one life, and just 24 hours in a day. They set goals and priorities for their energy and attention that may encompass money-making, family, friends, health, spiritual activities, hobbies or community service. They feel called to a fuller sense of purpose and accountability for the gifts they’ve received. They appreciate the daily work of striking a balance. If anything, the financial crisis has been an object lesson in how important it is not to let the time spent making money shortchange those other priorities.
It’s crucial to think seriously about how much money you want to earn, but just as important to meditate on what "enough" looks like. Where and how do you want to live? How do you want to spend your time? Who do you want in your life? At your funeral, what do you want people to say about how your time in the world made a difference? They are questions worth revisiting on a regular basis, because if we don't, we can blow through decades of life chasing a vague and possibly meaningless notion of enough — that remains just out of reach.
How do you define "enough"?