A better side of envy

For a long time, I struggled with envy. People with money, people who took cool trips, people who did Ironman triathlons…color me jealous.

Along the way, I (slowly) realized something: those people either carried baggage or made tradeoffs to achieve those things. Plus, as Joseph Epstein said, “Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.

Identifying those helped me unwind the knot and recenter:

  • A rich college friend had a terrible relationship with his dad. Later, friends with the big house and fancy car worked nonstop.
  • Taking far-flung, expensive trips meant not investing or saving as much money for a house, which I wanted.
  • Training for an Ironman required untold hours per week of panting along at a low heart rate to build a huge fitness base, eschewing other hobbies or relationships along the way.

But how do we deal with envy?!

I love the idea from James Altucher for dealing with it: simply envision trading lives with the person. ALL of it, not just the positives.

Are they famous? Well, you also get the pain of never going anywhere without being bothered. (Better to be rich than famous!)

Do they have a rippling 12-pack and beach ball biceps? You gotta get up at 5:30 am to work out and never eat dessert. Sad face.

Brilliant musician? Hours upon hours of solitary, monotonous practice. (Damn you, Chopin.)

For me, the act of mentally flipping the Success Coin to the other side is a potent cure against envy. Nothing fantastic, be it wealth, fitness, fame, or skills, is handed to us without tradeoffs.

A better side of envy

Forget envy. Practice compersion! (Say what? Did you just misspell comparison, Dakota?)



Compersion is our wholehearted participation in the happiness of others. It is the sympathetic joy we feel for somebody else, even when their positive experience does not involve or benefit us directly.

In other words, awesomeness isn’t a zero-sum game: when friends, colleagues, and others around us experience success or have amazing experiences, we can CELEBRATE them. Yep, even if it doesn’t benefit us!

Rising tides lift all boats, but swamp the captains tied to the Pier of Envy.

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