Can Enough Be Enough?

I’ve been eating a lot of Asian food lately. And along with the soups, rice, thinly cut meat and tea, comes the fortune cookie. Most are left behind on the table, but occasionally they find their way to my wallet or posted in my office. Perhaps it’s karma or luck, but it seems that certain restaurants produce better fortunes the same way that certain convenience stores sell more winning lottery tickets than others.

I finished enjoying some pork vermicelli the afternoon of this past December 22nd before heading off for winter vacation and cracked open the fortune below:


He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

I realize that this is a statement and not necessarily a fortune, but it is a keeper nonetheless. And purposeful timing heading into Christmas and a season of excess. But enough doesn’t necessarily refer to material things or even emotions we perceive as negative. The idea of enough is much more complex. The ability to recognize happiness and know when self-satisfaction, aka enough, is reached must be liberating.

The idea relates to our work life: When have I prepared enough for the speech I’m delivering next week? When do I have enough commitment from my team before moving forward with a decision? When have I interviewed enough people to be confident I’m hiring the best person?

The idea relates to our personal life: How much money is enough? How much is enough free time? When have I spent enough time with my kids?

The idea relates to our health: When is my diet clean enough? When am I happy enough? When do I know enough about a certain topic?

The real question though is knowing when we are successful or happy. I suppose it all comes back to Coach Wooden’s definition of success:


The hard part is keeping that self-satisfaction even if events following our decision that enough was enough do not play out the way we expected. When someone else tells us either directly or through their interpretation of a situation, that our enough was not enough do we let them control our happiness? It’s in those moments where we must remember that success does not necessarily depend on the outcome, but rather on our own perception of the outcome. We define our success and happiness, not the scoreboard, societal norms, or even our parents.

Finally, our fortune under focus is actually the final line in a longer stanza from the Father of Taoism, Lao Tsu in his ancient Chinese text Tao Te Ching:

There is no greater sin than desire,
No greater curse than discontent,
No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.
Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.

A lofty goal from Mr. Tsu for sure! Perhaps a first step is simply recognizing which current desires are causing discontent. Then ask ourselves, “Why is enough not enough?” And so it goes.

Hungry? The best fortunes lately have been coming from Hao Hao in Round Rock, Texas. Enjoy the Hot and Sour soup.