How Much is Enough?


In the final episode of the past season of Breaking Bad, Brian Cranston’s character walks into a storage locker where his wife has stacked so much cash she has no idea how much money they have earned from making and selling crystal meth.  It’s literally uncountable, there are so many packets of bills, in so many different denominations. As they stand there looking at more money than they ever dreamed of being able to spend, the question arises: how much is enough? As it turns out, Walt, the central character, decides that this enormous sum of money is, in fact, enough. Or so he tells his wife.

People, more often than not, fall into evil for the simple reason that they can’t recognize what’s enough. Temptation always arises over something more than what one’s current situation provides: sex, money, drugs, alcohol, possessions. More more more is the mantra behind so much behavior that ends up being destructive for the one chanting it and often for everyone else around him or her. I’ve seen it in people I know well and in my career in marketing communications.

When it comes to making good choices, sometimes it’s a matter of settling for less. Less for oneself, more for the other person. Less than you would get by going too far. In Breaking Bad, the only real choice was between nothing and everything: not becoming involved in the drug trade at all would have been the only moral choice. The nightmare of ill-gotten wealth that follows from the first batch of meth he cooks could only have been avoided by earning nothing at all from making and selling the drug. But most choices in life fall on a spectrum where the word enough is the measure of what’s right. Bottom line: we are creatures genetically designed to squirrel away more than we need against the harsh winter we imagine will someday arrive. Evil behavior metastasizes from survival behavior built into our DNA.

Where in your own life have you said enough is enough and made a choice to settle for what you have rather than go too far in pursuit of something more? Where have you found yourself chasing excess because whatever you’ve been blessed with just doesn’t feel as if it’s enough to keep up with what someone else is doing or owning or somehow can’t serve as a sufficient buffer against future loss?