By Kevin Paul Scott
May 26, 2020
In Rice University’s 1998 commencement address, Vonnegut shared a story about what he learned from Heller and repeated it after Heller’s death in an article in the New Yorker. Here is what he wrote:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer now dead, and I were at a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island.
I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch-22 has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Heller is the exception. Most people never get enough. They are more like John D. Rockefeller, the founder and president of Standard Oil. In his day, he was the richest man in the world, and when asked, “Mr. Rockefeller, how much money is enough money?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.”
Wealth, fame, beauty, and power are all moving targets. Because at the end of the day, somebody will always have more. Sure, it feels good when we get the big pay raise, gain more followers, reach our fitness goal, or earn the promotion. But only for a short while. These things quickly lose their luster, and we’re back to the ladder, reaching for the next rung.
Making and reaching goals is not a bad thing—but a lack of contentment is.
Though we’d never admit it, many of us buy the lie that acquiring more will someday bring true fulfillment. But it can’t. It won’t. And if we keep chasing it, we’ll run out of steam. We won’t have anything left to pursue what satisfies.
My challenge to you this week is to answer this question honestly: Are you chasing a moving target? The executive position, a certain figure salary, the nicest clothes, the bigger house, the next degree, the luxury car?
Set your eyes on a fixed target—one that doesn’t fade. And spend your life chasing a purpose that leads to true and lasting fulfillment.