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> Humans are happy if they are relatively well off compared to what they know.

This is super true. I've been congratulating myself all month on my new job, paying me BIG BUCKS, compared to my friends. Well, just found out an old friend of mine also found a new job, getting payed literally twice as much as me. Now I'm in a funk and it's irrational and stupid but I can't help but look at the same number in a totally different way.




Age fixes that. Used to feel much the same. Now (approaching 50) I just couldn't give a shit anymore. A friend I've grown distant from over the last 4 years or so bought a 911 GT3 RS last year. And suddenly I hear from him. And I marvel at the waste. Purchases like that are meaningful on only two days - the day you buy it, and the day you sell it. I think a mid-20's me might've liked a car like that for the sex it could get me.

Making more money than me is great. Really. If making more money than me is important to you I KNOW I'm having more fun than you are. Somehow, somewhere in the last 5 years or so I've become content. I scratch-build model cars now in my spare time, and that's where I compete - with myself. Crazy fulfilling.


Age can both help fix the problem of feeling well-off and exacerbate it.

It's easy to be among the top in something in the little group that a kid in high school is exposed to. Even in a big district, there are enough things to be good at that you can be the best at something esoteric. Then you go to a good college for that thing, and come in thinking you're all that, and suddenly realize that you're average. But college exposes you to the fact that there are innumerable niches in that thing, and you can pick one and be among the best at that niche from your graduating class. You then go off to work, thinking you're hot stuff with your new top-of-the-line special credentials, and think you know more than everyone else in your field. Surprise: You don't. You meet someone who's been in the field for 30 years and can solve the special problems that you're uniquely good at in their sleep. And that guy has someone he calls when he can't figure something out.

It's sort of like looking for records in a baseball game: There are so many possible records to set and precedents to break, that there's something new for the announcers to go on about in most every game. There's a lot of room to be unique, special, and valuable.


This is one reason I think training kids in any 'classical' discipline is really beneficial.

You will almost certainly never be as good a composer as Mozart, as good a pianist as Horowitz, as good at dancing as any company you can see on TV or as good at singing as even a mediocre performer in a talent show. But you can learn from the best and always get better through hard work.

Being exposed to the idea that 'no, you're not the best and probably never will be, but the real reward is seeing yourself improve step by step through hard work' is invaluable.


One looks for nothing but safety and happiness. Being No. 1 is a lonely business. There is so much one must sacrifice to stand on that narrow peak. I'd rather take someone's hands and brave that world together, creating the happiness and bearing the bitterness. The thought of being No. 1 never crossed my mind again.

I think Ip Man said that. Not sure.


I'd argue that a 911 GT3 RS is not a waste. I would love to own a GT3, let alone a GT3 RS. Most GT3 RS owners are motorsport lovers, and use their GT3 RS for its true purpose. Motorsport and track events are also a great place to make new friends, as are organized road trips to incredible places in the world such as the PetrolHead tours.


The social aspect is true. I made a lot of friends when i took my lotus Elise to track events and other outings.


I've done the motorsport thing. Drove a '79 M1 around the Nordschleife once. And yes, that experience has value to me, but knowing I did and another hasn't doesn't make me better, or them worse. It just... is. And I'm glad the M1 wasn't mine.


I was at the Nurburgring this summer! I loved it so much I’m going to go back next summer.

Of course, owners are entitled to do whatever they please with their cars - but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to see a GT3 RS, or any other track car, spend it’s life in start stop traffic in London.


I am very envious of the healthcare my friends have and age is not able to fix that. Only money can buy you a great insurance in our current setup. My point is that we have a problem with very fundamental things in our society that needs fixing.


It's better to rent a supercar unless you like doing a lot of maintenance work yourself all the time.


Yes and no. Sure, I'm no longer envious of, say, that friends who makes a ton of money; I now know what goes into that and I don't want to have any part of working like a hyper-caffeinated beaver.

On the other hand, when I was younger, seeing someone drastically less competent making more money didn't bother me. I thought it would catch up to them, and besides, I want in it just for the money.

Now, I know incompetence won't necessarily have consequences and that those other things don't mean anything, didn't happen, or whatever, and all I got out of the work was money.

Watching those people gets galling.


What happend and you started to feel content was it only age or something else?


I don't know about the person you replied to, but at 33 I've seen enough people rise and fall on new incomes to not be impressed. And more importantly, I've seen enough people find fulfillment in simple things at all income levels and professions to know money is not important past a point.

These days, I enjoy fiddling with knobs on a synthesizer for an hour or watching an old movie with a friend more than I ever did material things. Money can't buy being deep in a conversation where "So it's like Japanese vaporwave?" is a reasonable thing to say.


I became a father.


>Age fixes that. Used to feel much the same. Now (approaching 50) I just couldn't give a shit anymore.

Oh I don't know. If I'm 50 and am making enough to retire at 65, and my friend retires at 52, I think it will still get to me.


The most effective way to be unhappy - comparing yourself to others. Its far more satisfying to 'impress yourself', ie do better than you did before. I also like to remember that such comparisons are usually between your every day existance and their 'highlight reel'.


This. That’s why browsing Facebook and Instagram are basically the worst thing you can do when you have self-esteem problems.


Correction: Browsing Facebook and Instagram are basically the worst things you can do.


If you are trying to be precise, no, there are worse things. Poke out your own eye with a finger, for example.


I don't think most people can actually do that. In theory people can do all kinds of things, but each person in this universe is constrained by all kinds of things like instinct, resources, and what they actually experience etc.

So, among the things 75% of the people alive today might actually do, browsing Facebook might actually be the worst. Depending on your value system.


You're kidding, right? How about smoking? Alcoholism? Sexual harassment? Stealing? Lying? Cheating? I can keep going.

Facebook is waaaay down the list.


Well under 1/2 the worlds population cheats at any point in their lives, that number is not going to change any time soon.

The number of possible Alcoholics don't add up to 75% of the global population. Sexual harassment while bad is not really a temptation for most people. Stealing, is again not things most people even consider.

EX: I may not be average, but I am not in a relationship so I can't exactly cheat. I don't like Alcohol so I am not going to become an Alcoholic. I could go on, but things are really not in my realm of possibility right now.


> Well under 1/2 the worlds population cheats at any point in their lives, that number is not going to change any time soon.

And how did you arrive at this number?

> The number of possible Alcoholics don't add up to 75% of the global population.

True, but the impact is still significant: alcoholism is among the top causes of death, at least in the US.


Studies have a wide range for men and women across different cultures. But, using high estimates for both sexes you get less than 50% globally.

~25% to 60% of married people in the US cheet, but only 80% get married. Global data similar, but a significant number never get married which keeps things under 50%.


I don't find Instagram to be that bad. It definitely depends on who you follow though. Personally I use it to post cool pictures, photography, I take with my phone, and I tend to follow people who do the same.

People who start posting excessive "Look at my life" posts tend to get unfollowed pretty quickly.


>Its far more satisfying to 'impress yourself'

I find that this is something that sometimes sort of just happens to me, when I get aware of something I'm doing better now than, say, a year before.

But, I never really consciously decide to do that, because then I find it just doesn't work. Like the cliché of standing in front of a mirror and saying to yourself "today is gonna be a good day" (Has that ever worked for anybody? Where is this meme coming from?)


It works, but no, it won't turn night into day.

It's about making sure you take a moment to appreciate the good things you experience. It's about making an effort to not assume malice when there's a plausible positive or neutral explanation for someones behaviour. It's about the fact that if you smile at people and say good morning, they'll return the favour more often than if you frown and don't. It's about making peace with the things you can't change. It's about not dismissing this stuff as happy-clappy bullshit, but about giving you energy to address the things that actually matter, rather than just going around being angry at the world.


Okay, I can see that. That's what I try to do too. Altough I see these thinking habits as more of a short-term happiness boost than a tool for feeling satisfied with my life (which I would categorize as a more longer-lasting feeling, independent of my normal up/down mood-cycles).


The value is that when you don't spend your life being angry at Mondays or the weather or the fortunes of your favourite sportsteam (never main all the things people are casually angry at their bosses for, but doesn't actually warrant anger), you have a lot more energy to identify and engage with the things that actually make a lasting difference in your life.


That's certainly true, but I would argue that there's some things that really don't warrant wasting your time / energy with (like you said, mainly inter-personal and superficial stuff like appearances, money, etc.) and others that you should listen to if it's something that continues to bother you.

Weather is a good example: If you find yourself constantly annoyed at the weather and it's possible for you to do so, why not go to somewhere with a climate that might better suit you?

I guess my point is, I agree, it's not worth it getting constantly worked up over stuff, but also one shouldn't ignore one's feelings towards certain things for a prolonged time.


> more of a short-term happiness boost than a tool for feeling satisfied with my life

The former can have quite an effect on the latter though. To take it to one extreme, if you're never happy you're not going to be satisfied with life. But more realistically if these habits often help you feel happy when otherwise you would've been less happy, then that's going to have a positive impact on how satisfied you are with life.


Manipulating ones self is surprisingly easy in some ways. This is because emotion is a biofeedback thing. We always seem to think of it as purely a brain-oriented thing, but that's simply factually incorrect. To be happy, you have to be able to smile. To be angry, you have to flare your nostrils and furrow your brow and grit your teeth. People with total facial paralysis, for example, rapidly lose almost all emotional capacity. Eventually they are unable to even recall what having those emotions felt like. Experiments having people hold a pencil in their mouth (which forces your lips into a smile) showed that they experienced less negative emotion and more positive emotion when watching upsetting and funny videos respectively. This is why you won't see an AGI with emotions that lacks a body any time soon. What emotions are is fundamentally tied into the body. And through manipulating the body, one can significantly influence the subjective emotions felt.



As pointed out on the most recent Hilarious World of Depression podcast episode, the positive affirmation in front of a mirror seems like it would never work, and many more people have realized that telling themselves really negative things about themselves works great--so why not give the opposite a shot?


I think this gets the causality wrong. I'd say you tell yourself negative things about you because you're already in a negative mindset. Similarly you're more likely to think positive thoughts when you are happy.

So I'd say rather than simply saying nice things, one should be conscious of when one is thinking negative thoughts and then try to see where they come from and then what can be done about it. Being honest with yourself is a big part of that and I think that's what many people have a hard time with. And of course: If you're happy, also try to notice and cherish that. (If you look in the discussion I've had with another poster in this comment-thread, we've talked a bit about this too)


> Its far more satisfying to 'impress yourself', ie do better than you did before.

The converse of this is why stagnation feels bad long term (you don't tend to notice short term, that is just a break taking things easy for a while). Knowing you have not learned/done anything new in a long time can be depressing, and fuels many a mid-life crisis.


But that's completely fixable, right? It'w quite easy to start learning something new, or start doing something new.


Completely. But not always easily. If you let the spiral go too far before reacting it can be hard work climbing out of the rut you've dug for yourself. Someone who becomes properly depressed by the matter is going to have a hard time - it can be a difficult mindset to alter because there isn't often a quick win.


On the other hand... How ever shitty my life is, it's not as bad as being a paralyzed, blind Indian beggar. So by comparing, I can actually feel better about myself!


This is not unique to humans.

Check out: https://youtu.be/meiU6TxysCg

It takes a lot of effort to learn not to resent accomplishments of people you’re “competing” with even if they’re friends and you’re not directly competing with them. It’s a learned behavior to feel good for them instead.

There’s probably a selected reason for this, but it’s possible to overcome it (or at least be aware of its affect).

It’s better to frame life success on something else - like what you want to learn or the type of person you want to be.


I have this strange dichotomy where I am happy if my friends succeed, but I am also kind of happy if they don‘t.

Seems like I learned to feel good for other people‘s accomplishments, but I haven‘t unlearned comparing myself to them, and feeling good if I accomplish something they do not.


I suppose it's better than feeling unhappy if they do succeed and unhappy if they don't.


In addition to what others have already said, noticing this is a step in a good direction. Having a clear idea of just how strange and arbitrary our emotions can be is a great antidote.


This might be my inner Canadian speaking but in my experience, it is much easier to feel joy when a friend of mine succeeds than envy him.

I feel much happier when people in my social circle are well off and living a great life.

I have also found that helping those around me succeed, whether financially, or personally, usually improves my own quality of life in someway (not always of course).

I also fully agree that one should only compare self to oneself.

After all we are all unique

IMHO happiness is truly achieved when shared :)


> This might be my inner Canadian speaking but in my experience, it is much easier to feel joy when a friend of mine succeeds than envy him.

In my personal experience, I'd say this is a very unique quality to have. Not all friends and family members can be like this.


It's not irrational or stupid. It's human. We've evolved to be not merely effective but also competitive.


The one doesn't preclude the other, though. It's also highly contextual, i.e. behaviors we've evolved (for some reason or another) aren't necessarily useful in another context. Humans are irrational and stupid.


Isn't competitiveness at the core of biological evolution and not something we have "evolved to"?


I think the confusion here is due to the semantic ambiguity of "competitiveness".

A tournament can be called competitive and a participant can be called competitive, but these don't mean quite the same thing.

Evolution is inherently competitive, but humans become competitive by evolution.


>Isn't competitiveness at the core of biological evolution and not something we have "evolved to"?

In short? No. Fitness is.


I don't understand the distinction. Competition is at the core of biological evolution and so we, like all living creatures, have evolved to be competitive.


Many living creatures have evolved to be co-operative (including humans). Some (like humans) are often individually competitive within a larger co-operative social system. Others (like ants, bees, mole rats, some shrimps, etc.) are individually altruistic and collectively eusocial or hypersocial. Evolution is competitive at a systematic, somewhat abstract level: traits that promote perpetuation of themselves given the environmental constrains tend to prosper, and if the pool of resources is limited, the prospering of some traits will probably be detrimental to the prospering of others.

The distinction is between competition in the sense of individuals or groups competing, over things that are often irrelevant with respect to evolution, vs the fundamental principle that given a set of environmental constraints and a limited pool of resources, an entity that can repeatedly propagate more effectively than others will tend towards a greater relative abundance.

The fact that many extremely successful species are not individually competitive proves that evolution does not require all winners to be individually competitive.


competition is not at the core of evolution, survival is. competition emerges when the survival of one requires another not to survive. is that relatively rare or commonplace? i think it's rare but it's down to ideology.


I'm not sure that these tendencies are entirely effective in the modern era.


I think this and many other problems are just too new.

It's not that we can't cope - human beings have amazing mechanisms to adapt to harsh situations - but rather so many problems are new enough that there is little prior societal understanding and defense for it.

When a problem is widespread enough to affect many members of society, the practices and solutions to that problem eventually enter the social vocabulary and become common knowledge. Social culture is filled with antibodies to past problems - college, seat belts, smoking, fitness - just to name a few things ingrained in society that passively guards our well being.

It's when new problems that affect entire generations emerge too quickly, there's not yet good common advice for how to deal.


Oh the many ways in which one can make themselves unhappy. For me it's not about how much I earn, but the kind of things I get to do.

The other day I've seen a trailer of a series on Netflix - Mars Generation, I think? I couldn't even finish it, because when I saw those kids doing the things I always wanted, it made me think about all similar realizations - that e.g. my university started doing things with rockets and satellites just after I graduated, that left and right I see cool spacetech opportunities offered to students only, etc. I'm having a hard time dealing with the fact I was just born few years too early. It's a stupid, irrational jealousy.


It's not stupid and it's not irrational. What you're feeling is normal - the unfairness of other people given the chance to do what you would've liked to do. It's not their fault, but still.


"Every time my friends succeed, I die a little."

- Gore Vidal


> irrational and stupid

Is it irrational and stupid? In a society at the limits of of its resources and stuck in a Malthusian trap, there is often zero-sum competition between members of the society.

Until the modern period and real technological growth, most humans lived in societies that were approaching local research constraints. Famine was common. If your neighbor had a bit more, it's likely because you had a bit less.

In that sort of a situation, learning that your peer makes twice as much as you thought is revealing quite a few things: e.g. you could have found a way to get paid much more and society is less equal or 'fair' than you thought.


I often have it the other way around with a friend.

Somehow only in the things he cares about. He has a car and a much better PC, still he envies my money.


Well, with your money he could buy an even better car and PC than he has!


When things like that happen to me I look at my 401k and other savings and remember that someday in the future I will get to enjoy things in life they will never be able to afford.


I'm sorry it is not about that topic in hand; but I just read 'BIG BUCKS' like Frank did in Scarface.




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