Having Enough and Wanting More

I have everything I could possibly need. I have a really cool house-on-wheels, enough good food to keep me healthy and full, great friends and family, enough money to travel around a bit, computer, etc. By any reasonable definition, I have enough.

Yet I want more. The background of my computer is a Piper Malibu, a really cool six-seater airplane that has a pressurized cabin and a pretty decent range for a small plane. I’m a little bit sick of looking at it, but I told myself I was leaving it as my wallpaper until I owned one. I want it.

I get emails about this, once in a while. Aren’t we supposed to be content with what we have and not desire anything? Aren’t we supposed to go go go and conquer the worldd and become fabulously wealthy? Which one is it?

I’ve thought a lot about this, about what the optimal mindset to have is, and I’ve worked on adopting that mindset myself. I think that it is best to be fully content with everything you have, to really appreciate it and realize how lucky you are to have ANYTHING, yet alone everything you have, and to be fully ready for it to disappear in a moment without affecting your happiness. At the same time, I think that it’s healthy to want everything, knowing that you’ll have no attachment to it.

I don’t think I’ve ever written about this before, but back when I was a professional gambler, I kept all of my money in an offshore paypal-like service. I did this because I only had to pay taxes on it when I pulled it into the US. If I kept it offshore I could use it as bankroll for gambling and grow it tax-free.

I loved making money gambling. I bought all sorts of cool stuff like my first Rolex, three Mercedes, tons of expensive clothes, and four robotic lawn mowers. I wanted more money.

One day I woke up and all of my money was gone. Six figures. The offshore service had confiscated it all and essentially made it impossible to get back. This was the first time I experienced a huge loss like this. What surprised me is that I didn’t care at all. I just thought, “Oh, that’s too bad. My money’s gone.” That night I went to dinner with my friends and didn’t even mention it.

We should appreciate money and the things that it buys because by doing so we’re enabled to appreciate the acheivements of our society. When I buy my plane, I will marvel at how amazing it is that humans have built flying machines, and that someone like me could actually own and control one. I’ll appreciate all the places it will take me. These will be positive things in my life, so of course I will enjoy them when I have them and seek them out before I do.

At the same time, if my plane gets hit by a rocket while I’m parked somewhere, I won’t really care, because there’s plenty of good things in my life and in this world. I could never have so little happiness in my life that it was significantly impacted by owning or not owning a plane.

And while it’s a good thing to work with visions of planes and cars and travel in your head, there has to be something else going on, too. I hope that some day SETT is successful enough that I can use my earnings from it and buy a plane. But if a spammer said, “Hey Tynan, give me all the emails of people who have signed up for your site and I will give you a plane,” I would never take it. That’s the sort of material lust that is bad, not just for the people being spammed, but for my own psyche.

The material possessions you collect through life will represent something. They can represent the value you brought to other people’s lives (writing, SETT, working) or what you’ve taken from others (spam, robbery, etc.). Having reminders of the positive things is perfectly fine, but when those reminders are lost or stolen or broken, the underlying aspects of your life still remain.

Don’t feel bad if you want things or experiences that you can’t afford now. This is part of what has fueled expansion forever. But when you get those things, never become attached to them. They’re the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.


Recently ditched the Suunto since my phone now does everything it does, and went back to Rolex. Bought the one on the right first and then got excellent deals consecutively on left and middle ones within a week, so now I have to sell the first two. Might do a post on why buying a Rolex is a pretty reasonable thing to do if there’s interest. My stance on other people caring if you wear a Rolex remains the same.

BTW, definitely check out Maneesh’s guest post on Zen Habits, How to Learn a Language in 90 days. Really solid practical advice for something people think is impossible.


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