Recently while on a coaching trip to San Francisco, I had the good fortune to meet with one of the old guard of the private equity community, a gentleman I’ll call Bob with whom I had worked on a successful transaction back in the mid-90s. I see him on occasion, but far too infrequently, so I was looking forward to our meeting. I was certain that I would learn something new or that he would offer a unique perspective on whatever we discussed. Sure enough, he did not disappoint.
In the midst of a wide-ranging conversation of over 1.5 hours, we discussed an article that had recently been published in The Atlantic Monthly regarding the behaviors and attitudes among the super-rich about their wealth. Based on a study by Boston College’s Center on Wealth and Philanthropy of 165 households with an average net worth of $78 million, the survey noted that substantially more than half of the respondents acknowledged that they did not consider themselves financially secure. Furthermore, that to feel financially secure they would need an average of 25% more wealth. While this fact in and of itself was interesting, Bob tilted his head, thought for a moment and said, “Isn’t that interesting? For all these people, it would not take a huge increase in their net worth to create a feeling of financial security. It would only take an additional 25%, just a little bit more.” We batted this notion back and forth for a while, also noting that the amount of wealth seemed to have no bearing on the relative feelings of financial security. It did not matter if a family had a $50 million or a $1B net worth. They still felt financially insecure.
While driving back to the airport later that day, I kept coming back to this notion of “just 25% more” and thought about it in the broader context of how many of us choose to live our lives. Rather than being content with our present situation, whether that is our financial situation or even more broadly our career, our home, our satisfaction, for many of us, we always want a bit more. For many of us, we choose to put off contentment for now to some uncertain point in the future when we have “just a little bit more.” And just like the families in the survey, who by all objective measures of wealth have enough to feel financially secure, contentment is available to us right now, right in this moment. The feeling of contentment is a choice*. For surely, when we get to that place where we have that additional 25% more – “just a little bit” – we will still want more, unless we make the choice to be content. (I am not making value judgments about “wanting more.” There is nothing wrong with wanting more. The challenge is to hold both viewpoints simultaneously, that of wanting more while also being content with one’s present state.)
One further related point: When we are stuck in the perspective of “lack” with regard to our personal self-worth, it undermines our confidence. Whenever we feel that we are currently “not good enough” in our professional and personal lives, we shy away from taking bold risks and we delay starting challenging endeavors that would further our growth and development.
Where is a feeling of lack sabotaging your efforts at personal and professional breakthrough? How is wanting “just a little bit more” preventing you from feeling content in the present moment?
* One way to help maintain this feeling of contentment is to adopt a daily practice of gratitude. Please contact me if you have an interest in learning more about such a practice.