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Ask HN: How do you deal with professional envy?
314 points by cneurotic on July 14, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 281 comments
I think everyone feels envious of a high-flying peer once in a while. Or at least, I definitely do.

When someone younger than me, in my field, is making more money / getting more acclaim / winning praise from people I respect, it makes me seethe. Sometimes I even waste my time looking for a way to invalidate them, to put an asterisk* on their success, so I can feel better about myself.

Does this happen to anyone else? What do you do about it?

I think there's a process everyone has to go through in life of working out what truly makes them happy.

When you're in your early 20s everyone has similar goals - you're going to be a goddamn giant success, no matter what your field is. As the years go on you realise that's not going to happen and you have to re-evaluate. It's not always easy.

For me personally, I know I do good work. I know my coworkers can rely on me to deliver. Maybe I could be out there giving more conference talks and raising my profile, but I've learned to accept that isn't my forte, and that's ok. As engineers most of us are extremely lucky that even with very little public recognition we still earn the kind of money most people can only dream of.

When I'm at work, I do the best I can do. Then I get out of the door at a good time, go home to my family and have a blast with them. I'm happy, though my 21 year old self might recoil in horror to see it.

FWIW no one aspires to be Scottie Pippen or Dennis Rodman, we all wanna Be Like Mike.

But Pippen had the most rebounds and Rodman the most assists during that time. That’s what made the team win, you want to win as a team and there is no I in team. Then you retire from engineering, never making the next Facebook or revolutionary Operating System, instead going onto lead the next generation stars to the promised land even though you were never an individual superstar during your career (see Steve Kerr for reference).

Update: also Rodman talked Kim Il down from nuclear disaster, so there is plenty of opportunity to stay relevant as your career progresses

Not that it matters to the point you're making but Rodman was the one known for the rebounds.

Steve Kerr is the best 3 point shooter by percentage in NBA history. He was definitely a super star even though not recognized for it. Certain positions and teams really highlight a player I think. He also has transitioned into becoming one of the best NBA coaches.

"There may be no 'i' in team but there is definitely one in 'Win'", Michael Jordan is said to have told Phil Jackson, when criticized. "If the team is not doing it then it is up to me to score 55 points", he added! (more than the rest of the team combined).

As for Rodman, he had become irrelevant and unmarketable and all he did was suck up to Kim Jong Un. There was a WSJ article about this. He was not in a position to talk him out of anything.

What I've seen happen is that people find cognitive-dissonance coping strategies like you describe and just find solace in that.

They change their goals "I didn't want that anyway" "It wasn't my destiny to do that" "I'm much happier with this than if I had done that" etc...

At the end of the day you either realize your goal, or you change it. You can either pretend like it was the plan all along, admit defeat and try something new, or wallow in defeat.

Only one of those is sustainable.

Wow. Your appraisal is bleak and, fortunately, disconnected from reality. Cognitive dissonance, indeed!

Think about any life goal that requires significant work, such as "I'd like to be a superstar engineer" or "I've got no savings, but I want to save up and buy a house" or "I'd like to become a black-belt martial artist" or "I'd like to publish a successful novel."

How long does it take to achieve something like that?

There are a lot of goals in life that take five, ten, or even more years to achieve.

Now here's the thing...

If you're doing this life thing correctly, you will gain a significant amount of wisdom and perspective in any five- or ten-year span.

And with that wisdom and perspective comes the realization that some of your old goals weren't worth achieving. Or perhaps you will simply find other goals you like better. Or a different path to the same goal. That's not cognitive dissonance. That's learning and growing.

> That's not cognitive dissonance. That's learning and growing.

This is committing the straw-man fallacy. The poster that this is responding to did not elaborate on what cognitive-dissonance they are referring to.

In this case "learning and growing" is an optimistic, ego-stroking spin on "admitting defeat". I believe that AndrewKemendo has chosen his words carefully because being able to lose and fail graciously is more virtuous than trying to preserve the ego and pretend that it was a win.

But "lose" and "fail," as well as "win," are subjective. What counted as "losing" when you started may become "winning" by the time 5 years have passed, due to the change in perspective.


As a kid I wanted to make video games and (like many) this lead me to pursue software development as a career.

By the time I made it through college in the 90s I'd learned more and more about the games industry and learned that it's generally not a very happy place to work. Certainly not a place for me. So I chose a different path.

With several decades of following the game industry under my belt I feel I can very, very conclusively decide that this was the right call for me. Look at all the articles about game devs working insane crunch time and then being laid off as soon as the game ships, etc. I'm sure some enjoy it but it's very close to my idea of hell.

Simply avoiding that fate is something I count as a minor victory, and I've gone on to do other things.

It's madness for the parent poster to dismiss this sort of thing as either "failure" or "cognitive dissonance." I simply decided my original goal was not worth pursuing.

You set a goal (make video games) then gave up on it (didn't make video games), thus failing that goal. It isn't madness, nor is it rocket surgery. It's pure semantics.

I guess you have chosen a path that is not mentioned, "give up and try something new, but then pretend that isn't what you did"? "I don't call it giving up... I call it learning."

If you walked into your kitchen with the goal of making a sandwich and decided you wanted some oatmeal instead, would you call that a "failure?" Did you experience a "defeat?"

Most wouldn't say that you "failed" at making a sandwich unless you truly attempted to assemble a sandwich and were unable to do so.

Most would not consider me to have "failed" to become a game developer unless I'd made a true attempt at doing so: applying for jobs and failing to obtain one, or perhaps obtaining jobs and failing at those. Just as very few would consider me to have failed at becoming an astronaut or a professional hockey player, two other things I wanted to be as a child.

Strict definitions of "failure" aside, though, what I found really bizarre and bleak was the parent poster's claim that enjoying one's newly chosen goal+outcome to require an act of willful cognitive dissonance.

My post's not straw man. I responded to precisely what the parent poster said. They were very specific about the cognitive dissonance they perceived.

If we're pointing out actual logical fallacies...

    to lose and fail graciously is more virtuous than 
    trying to preserve the ego and pretend that it was a win
In a universe where those are the only two possibilities? Sure.

You and OP are presenting a false dichotomy. Parent poster claimed that unachieved goals can have only two outcomes: (1) cognitive dissonance where the subject "pretends" to be satisfied with the outcome (2) the subject admits failure.

It's absolutely bizarre to deny that a person could, for example, actually shift their goals over a period of time, and conclude that they are engaging in cognitive dissonance if they decided on a different path.

I think the point they were driving at was not that nobody can change their goals. It is just inconceivable to them that that is not failure. To set a different goal, you must first fail at the last one (if you did not achieve it).

That is of course a way to look at your life that is perfectly okay, but it certainly wouldn't be my preference.

What an unfortunate way for them to view life. It's a bit heartbreaking to think about people viewing life in those terms. If I walk into the store intending to buy a shirt and decide I'd rather buy some pants instead, it would be very odd to consider that "a failure" to buy a shirt.

And even odder for somebody to accuse me of "cognitive dissonance" to be happy with my pants instead of admitting "defeat."

Failure is such a normal thing that I cannot see how it would be heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking to think that some see all failure as a dark thing that must be avoided. Holding failure in low esteem is a path of fear and egomania.

It sure is possible to rebrand every failure we make as success in some thing else. "I failed to win the tennis match, but I succeeded in hitting the ball into the net!".

There is a reason "fail fast" is a mantra: it's through looking at our errors we have chances to do better.

    There is a reason "fail fast" is a mantra: it's through looking 
    at our errors we have chances to do better. 
I'd agree, though that's not what this discussion was originally about.

    It sure is possible to rebrand every failure we make as
    success in some thing else. "I failed to win the tennis
    match, but I succeeded in hitting the ball into the net!".
I agree, though nobody (at least not in this discussion) is endorsing that sort of cognitive gymnastics. There are no reasonable upsides to hitting the ball into the net, and it is not merely a "different" way of succeeding at the game others call tennis.

Let's go back to the original parent poster, untog's, claim.

    When I'm at work, I do the best I can do. Then I get 
    out of the door at a good time, go home to my family 
    and have a blast with them. I'm happy, though my 21 
    year old self might recoil in horror to see it. 
To which AndrewKemendo replied,

    What I've seen happen is that people find 
    cognitive-dissonance coping strategies like you describe
Working reasonable hours and enjoying one's family is certainly not the life equivalent of hitting the tennis ball into the net, and it's awfully bleak to think that somebody's engaging in cognitive dissonance because their goals changed and they found happiness in a different way than they originally intended to.

To be clearer "Cognitive Dissonance" is the feeling, it's not an activity that someone engages in. So the OP has the feeling of cognitive dissonance between their "21 year old self" and where they are today.

My statement was meant to say that a common way people cope with this, in my experience, is to convince themselves to satisfice [1] instead of continuing to pursue their original goal.

It could be claimed that for certain things, this could be considered "growing up" or "maturing", which in many cases might be true. The child who gives up their dream to be a superhero is truly maturing because superhero was never really an option.

However falling into a stable local minima because you didn't become the CEO of a F500 company or become a championship tennis player etc...and convincing yourself that being a regional VP or a high school tennis coach is just as good because [reasons] seems to be how people cope with this dissonance.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satisficing

    To be clearer "Cognitive Dissonance" is the feeling, 
    it's not an activity that someone engages in. 
That's correct. Cognitive dissonance is a result of conscious actions (the act of holding two mutually exclusive beliefs) and not the actions themselves. My posts would have been clearer if I'd correctly used the term.

    However falling into a stable local minima because you didn't 
    become the CEO of a F500 company or become a championship tennis 
    player etc...and convincing yourself that being a regional VP 
    or a high school tennis coach is just as good because [reasons] 
    seems to be how people cope with this dissonance.
I think this is a very dark worldview.

Finding happiness in a "stable local minima" does not require a delusional belief that this situation is equivalent to some other, grander achievement. I'm sure it happens, but frankly I've never known anybody to really hold that particular delusion.

I doubt it was anybody's grand ambition to be a high school tennis coach, but it's actually a pretty cool job if you like that kind of thing, and it's awfully dark to think that all ~25,000 high school tennis coaches in America engage in conscious acts of delusional thinking in order to fool themselves into making it through their day. I know a few, and they just... enjoy tennis, teaching, and children? Plus tennis isn't the only thing in their lives?

I also know folks who've briefly played pro sports, and while they didn't achieve all they hoped, they're proud of what they did accomplish. No self-deception required.

Things I have seen a lot of, though not from athletes or coaches:

- Folks who get somewhat close to some goal and decide it's not for them once they have a more realistic picture of the day-to-day reality of that goal. Example: a rising executive who realizes that CEO life for company XYZ requires being on the road 300 days a year and not being around for her kids while they grow up.

- Folks who are delusional about the reasons why they didn't achieve some goal

Ultimately, people choose goals like "become a CEO of a F500 company" or "become a championship tennis player" because they imagine those things will make them happy. That is the true goal. And many times, people simply find different ways to be happy. No cognitive dissonance required.

More to the point, it's absolutely normal for people to shift their perspective, it's called growing as a person, part of said growth is learning more about yourself, and getting better at life in general.

I know it sounds dismissive, but I get the strong impression these other posters are young.

Yeah. I feel a mixture of jealousy and sympathy for those those perspectives never change.

Thanks for saying this. Sometimes you just hope someone will come out and give the reply you can't quite find the words for yourself.

Too cynical for me.

I've met quite a few wealthy people during my career and the only ones who seemed happy had a stoical detachment from their winnings. For the rest I would say their drive was verging on a mental illness.

I agree with all of this except the final sentence. All of these options seem sustainable, although some more desirable than others. But which did you mean to suggest was the sustainable one?

Admit defeat and try something new

> When you're in your early 20s everyone has similar goals - you're going to be a goddamn giant success, no matter what your field is

That sounds very American. Of course there are also people like that in European countries, but it's far from being the usual thing. Most people grow out of wanting to become a superstar or huge success during their teens.

I have a variety of ways to analyse this:

0) Remember that social media and the press shows the best parts of people's lives and rarely the crappy parts that everyone has.

1) You can't have it all. Often people sacrifice other parts of their lives to achieve in one area. My old boss that got promoted to a very high position never found a partner or children. Other tech friends who have earned a lot have worked thier whole lives and never went backpacking around the world like I did.

2) Some people have advantages. Eg Bill Gates was a millionaire before he even started college, many famous people had privileged upbringings.

3) Some people are just lucky. Maybe they were in the right place in the right time. I had a very wealthy friend who I never figured out why they spent so much or how they could afford such a big house and expensive vacations. Later I found out their father literally won the lottery, $50Mil - at the same time her sister has severe deformities from birth. Which brings to

4) Money and "Success" doesn't equal happiness. My wealthy friend would easily give it up to have a healthy happy sister. Taleb talks a lot about how suburbs filled with huge multi-million dollar houses are filled with bored lonely people.

5) You're probably much wealthier and have a better life than most people already. Remember >2Billion people don't have clean tap water they can drink. People are risking their lives so they can come to the US or Europe to work in construction or cook your meals in a restaurant.

> 0) Remember that social media and the press shows the best parts of people's lives and rarely the crappy parts that everyone has.

When I take a picture on camera, I sometimes realize that a person looking at the picture will probably imagine something much better than reality.

For example, an entire day spent with my kids who try to be as annoying as possible; then for five minutes they act cute, and I make a nice photo. A person looking at the photo will probably imagine that the whole day was fun. Or we take a trip somewhere, take a nice photo in front of a local historical building, then the kids get really annoying and we have to cancel the trip and go home. Again, a person looking at the photo will probably be impressed by what kind of trips we can make with the kids.

So when I look at someone else's photo, I can do the reverse reasoning. The smiling guy on the photo? Maybe the whole day was actually quite bad, and he only had 5 minutes of fun. A photo taken on a ship? Seems nice, but maybe the trip was slow and boring, and the weather mostly bad. An attractive girl next to him? Maybe he spent five minutes talking with her, and the rest of the day traveling or siting at various meetings. Or maybe not; the point is that the nicest possible scenario is only one of the possibilities.

Have you read Knausgaard, by chance? Something about your writing evoked him for me in a good way.

It's sort of off-topic, but reading his books in my early 20s was a huge revelation for me; something like "Oh, it actually doesn't get much 'easier' when you grow up. You still deal with things as they arise, and continue to sort of meander your way between the present moment and nostalgia, between joy and pain."

In a way, it was rather calming to know that "Adults" with "Kids" are just Us with 5-10 more years of good and bad decisions. Relaxing to know that we wouldn't suddenly be expected to miraculously do everything correctly. :)

It had made me more aware of the fakeness you describe, but it also compels me to marvel at those older people I meet who have consistently invested in their life’s garden: pruning and fertilizing, sowing and reaping, apparently against our natural inclinations to let it all grow wild.

"When I take a picture on camera, I sometimes realize that a person looking at the picture will probably imagine something much better than reality."

I'm a parent and I think you raise a good point but I think most parents see right through that. :)

Most photos and even YouTube videos are completely fake and doctored. The filters amplify this even more. Although my pics with my children were not filled with happiness the entire time, they are the happiest and proudest moments of my life (some of them, not all).

I've played the entrepreneurial game for a long time. I found success and won awards along the way. The time spent with my children is more important than all of that. It's a fine balance though. Nobody wants to be a loser, so we're forced to work harder than the next guy/girl.

Three of these methods are effectively, "My life is probably better than theirs anyway," and two are, "It wasn't a fair fight anyway."

This might work on a surface level, but you're just plastering over the problem, not rising above it.

Not OP, but I thought that response was very good. Rising above the problem first requires an accurate assessment of what the problem really is. 'Seething' over the success of others is an emotional problem, and it is likely that the root cause is fear that someone else is getting more (of whatever) than I am.

If that's true, then examining what it is that you think someone else is getting is worthwhile, as is examining what you actually already have. Comparisons are appropriate to make sure your expectations are calibrated to something more realistic than feelings.

I think you're missing that there are options besides "their life is better than mine" and "my life is better than theirs."

2) Some people have advantages. Eg Bill Gates was a millionaire before he ever finished college, many famous people had privileged upbringings.

Bill Gates was a billioniare multiple times over before he finished college, considering that he never received a degree.

Harvard did grant him an honorary law degree in 2007, but not before he acquired his wealth.

agreed. changed it to was a millionaire before he started college

I think the point is, Bill Gates was already privileged before he got rich.

I'm reminded of an apocryphal story I read somewhere about an exchange between Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller that was supposed to have taken place at a fancy party hosted by a successful hedge fund manager.

Google reveals various versions and sources of the exchange. Here's mine:

Vonnegut: Can you believe this guy? He makes more money in a single day than we'll make in our entire lives. And you wrote Catch-22!

Heller: Sure, but I have something he'll never have.

Vonnegut: Yeah, Joe? What's that?

Heller: Enough.

Conversely, there's a humble brag my grandfather loved to tell:

"I'm working on my second million!"

(pause for people to act impressed, while secretly loathing you)

"I gave up on my first."

+1 for Vonnegut

It is nice to get to that place where you have enough.

I'm at the spot in my career, where I don't want any advancement or promotions. I'm happy doing what I'm doing. I've got a nice nest egg saved up, so money isn't that big of a motivator.. Really at this point my career is on cruise control, just biding time until I can retire. I'm still learning new technologies, but it is because I want to, not because I have to. Really takes the stress off.

If you don't mind my asking, how do you plan for your retirement? How much money etc. needed?

Basically I know what my costs are today. I take that number and adjust for inflation. I use 3% for that number. I know that some costs will go down, for example my house will be paid off. I know some such as health care will go up. I figure it will be a wash budget wise. That gives me a future number I need to adjust for.

I then take the current value of my savings, plus future planed savings and estimate their future value using several different rates of return. That gives me a savings rate that I need to shoot for, which I generally try to exceed that rate.

Not OP but I believe he is referring to the concept of Financial Independence. There is an excellent reddit community and wiki on the topic [1]. [1] https://www.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/wiki/faq

"The poor lacks much, the greedy everything." [Publilius Syrus]

Being content and being able to say that you have enough is probably one of the best thing you can do for your mental health. And happiness.

I've yet to meet someone I would trade places with. If they're smarter than me, maybe they make less money. If they're richer than me, and smarter, maybe I don't care for their spouse. Or they're in bad physical shape, or they're neurotic and difficult to be around. If all else fails, you can consider how many people have it worse than you, and how, even if you had it worse, it would still be ok.

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

Hiro used to feel this way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this was liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken. ... Which is okay. Sometimes it's all right just to be a little bad. To know your limitations. Make do with what you've got.

“I've yet to meet someone I would trade places with.”

Maybe because I agree, but this is one of my favorite statements written by anyone ever.

That’s an interesting thought that I’ve never personally had. I know dozens of people whose lives I’d rather have.

Are you 100% sure? Maybe they have a downside that you wouldn't be willing to accept.

Though to be fair, that quote is from the worlds greatest cyber samurai, perhaps only unremarkable because being a cyber samurai isn’t all that important in that universe.

>I've yet to meet someone I would trade places with. If they're smarter than me, maybe they make less money. If they're richer than me, and smarter, maybe I don't care for their spouse. Or they're in bad physical shape, or they're neurotic and difficult to be around.

aka 'sour grapes'

In what novel is that excerpt from?

It's from Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow crash

You’re already halfway there by recognizing that mentally bringing someone down is a waste of time, and that the only point is to feel better about yourself.

Both being jealous and mentally knocking people down are pretty normal human things to do. If you listen, you’ll notice lots of people say things out loud that have the undertone of here’s why you’re not that great or here’s why I’m better than you. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s not.

The main thing I tend to think about is how I’m not in competition with anyone but myself. I can improve, or not improve, and I can affect my own situation. But either way, it doesn’t affect anyone else, and their lot doesn’t affect me. It won’t help me make more money or get more attention if I bring someone else down, nor will it prevent them from getting attention or money.

Another way to approach this is acknowledging that some people are actually very talented, some people are very focused and work incredibly hard. You have the option to drop the jealousy and join others in respecting someone’s achievements. You can also study them, find out what they’re doing and how they work in order to emulate the behaviors that got them where they are.

Another way to deal with this is meditation. If you study a little meditation, one of the first things you learn is how to identify your talkative and often negative inner voice, and then after you learn how to recognize it, you learn to acknowledge it and let it go, in favor of a more peaceful and positive inner monologue.

I very much agree with this. This approach helped me a lot to turn jealousy into being gratefully inspired by others. Every time a thought of jealousy appears in my head, I make a concious effort to turn it into being grateful that there’s a person who accomplished what I wish to accomplish and who can inspire me or even teach/mentor me. Such first concious steps were a bit strange, but after some time the automata in my head got replaced with a new path and jealousy have virtually disappeared since then.

>Another way to approach this is acknowledging that some people are actually very talented, some people are very focused and work incredibly hard.

It's also worth remembering that these talented, hard working, people didn't author their talents or tendencies for working hard. Their talents and temperaments derive completely from their genes, upbringing and to varying degrees luck. I.e. they can't really - in the ultimate sense - take credit for their success. Nor can I.

>Another way to deal with this is meditation.

I've found meditation a great way to more deeply instill the disposition above. It has helped me celebrate - rather than seethe - with people when they 'achieve' any kind of success.

At the end of the day, it's just a fucking job. If you need the money I understand the envy, and I've been there. But ultimately most of us are working really hard to make other people rich. Being really good at that game (and it's a pretty bitter game) isn't something to be envious of.

I have never seen a high paying job in tech that wasn't ALSO higher stress and generally more hours. I'm sure exceptions exist, but as I've gotten to my mid thirties I've noticed that those in my friend group who make the most are also the most stressed. One of them is very, very good at CS. He works for a FAANG and makes an excellent salary. And he's fucking depressed as hell. But he has exactly the life I thought I wanted ten years ago.

I'm an OK programmer who has no commute, lives in the middle of nowhere crazy cheap, and has almost no overhead. I work 8 hours a day. If I get paged on the weekend (hey, it happens) I work commensurately fewer hours during the week. I see my kid more than most dads I know. He's said (in not so many words) he envies what I have.

There's always someone faster, slower, richer, poorer, healthier, and sicker than you.

This is a solid observation. I made a personal decision sometime in my late 20s to never do anything for money that I wouldn't also be willing to do for free. As a result of this decision I make a lot less money than many of my peers, but I'm always working on projects I'm excited about and I have more free time than most of the people I know. If anything, like you, I feel sorry for the people I see working all the time, always stressed, alienated from their families, and often using unhealthy habits to cope. You can buy a lot of stuff with money, but you can't take it with you when you die. I prefer to optimize for moments of contentment.

> I made a personal decision sometime in my late 20s to never do anything for money that I wouldn't also be willing to do for free

Unfortunately, for me and for a lot of people, I don't think there is an intersection of things I would be willing to do for free and that can make decent money (or livable money, for that matter).

> You can buy a lot of stuff with money, but you can't take it with you when you die.

Well, you can't take anything with you when you die :)

What? I thought there was an exception: that you can take the sources for your compiler with you; just not things like money and cars. Shit!

Money buys freedom from wage slavery.

There was a cool article I saw quite a while ago where a father of 2 and sole provider for his family found that it was next to impossible to survive comfortably in London on half a million GBP per year. He went through all the numbers and showed how it just couldn't be done. Of course he was making 10x what would be considered a good wage in London. It wasn't his salary, it was his minimum standard that was out of whack. The best part of the article was that it wasn't dead pan humour -- he was just clueless.

There is a certain minimum amount of money you need to be comfortable. How much money that is depends a lot on where you live, but it also depends a lot on your values. There isn't one point where you can choose to be free -- there are several and some of them are surprisingly low, monetarily. Most people choose not to be free. It's very interesting.

If you can find back the link, I'd like to read this

Looking for it. BTW... I am never going back to Huffington Post. Wow... the "privacy controls" are sooooo broken....

Sorry. Can't find it. It was really interesting, though. I found a similar article here: $500K and scraping by - https://www.financialsamurai.com/scraping-by-on-500000-a-yea...

It's interesting how they justify $23K a year for food for a family of 4. But the thing is, I know lots of people who spend that kind of money on food and can't imagine being able to spend less.

Food is one of those areas where I definitely spend more, but It's also a conscious decision. I grew up extremely poor, so being able to eat well is something I 100% find worthwhile.

You have the other extreme, Mr Money Moustache who claims to feed a family of 4 on about 300 dollars a month:


of course, that´s a lot of rice, noodles and beans (not that there´s anything bad with those, but I´d get bored).

Healthy though, variety in your food does tend to increase the number of calories you consume.

I live in Japan and my grocery bill, excluding alcohol is about $50 per week for my wife and I. We eat a really wide variety of foods, but actually that variety means that we eat less meat. For breakfast we usually have rice, an egg, natto (fermented soy beans) and miso soup. The soup contains a variety of different ingredients depending on our mood: potatoes, onions, mushrooms (4 or 5 different kinds), daikon (a kind of large, sweet radish), carrot, wakame seaweed, tofu (very soft, grilled or deep fried), etc, etc, etc. I often have some oatmeal in the morning if I'm feeling hungry, or we'l substitute some of the rice for other grains like barley. Once or twice a week, we'll have a small piece of fish: usually grilled, but often prepared in different ways -- dried fish, pickled fish, marianated in sake lees, in a miso sauce, etc, etc.

For lunch it's always a lunch box during the week with the ubiquitous rice. However, there will be Japanese pickles, usually a stir fry, or left over dinner. We always have some meat or fish in the lunch box, but only something like 20 grams or so -- just for flavour and texture. I try to make dashi maki tamago (a rolled omlette). There are lots of preprepared things we add as well (some of which we buy, some of which we make). Things like hash browns/tater tots, potato salad, crunchy vegetables cooking in a sweet soy sauce sauce, etc, etc. The main shape of a Japanese lunch box is 1/2 of the box is rice, 1/4 is some main dish, 1/8 is some accent, and the remaining 1/8 is either fruit or pickles. The sizes are small so it's easy to get variety over the week. On the weekends, we will occasionally go out for lunch, but usually for ramen (which only costs us $5-7 each including tax and no tip -- advantages of living in Japan).

Then for dinner we have tended to adopt a kind of tapas style of eating -- which is common in Japanese izakayas (think pub). So we make 4 or 5 small dishes and nibble on them (usually with some beer or Japanese sake). My wife will spend time in the evening to make some of these dishes ahead for the week. I usually take over the kitchen on the weekends and make European style foods (though, normally "poor" people's foods like stews, etc) We often use the left overs in the lunch boxes.

One thing is that we eat very little meat/fish from a N/A perspective. Even when we eat yaki niku (Korean style barbeque), each of us will eat a maximum of 150 grams of meat each -- and that includes some beef, some pork and either a sausage or a bit of chicken. The rest is vegetables. Sometimes we'll have a piece of fish for dinner, but it's just a small piece and also just one of the 4 or 5 dishes that we have for dinner. Meat is not a main dish, ever. It's just an accent.

We don't often have desert, but when we do it's almost always seasonal fruit. Virtually every month where we live there is a new fruit coming into season. We don't eat fruit out of season -- we only eat local fruit. This means that we really look forward to it coming out and we just to buy it. Cherries are always hard because the season is only about 2 weeks!

When I worked at the high school here, the school nurse told be that the Japanese don't really do the "food pyramid" thing. Instead they recommend that you have 14-15 different foods during the course of the day.

You can see that we don't go out to dinner much: Usually 5 or 6 times a year and it's a really special treat when we do. But it's nice because the food around here is so great that it's a pleasure to cook with it.

I think the money mustache guy has it right: avoid optimising your time for work and instead optimise it for enjoying doing things for yourself. Get your calories from inexpensive things (we're mostly getting calories from rice, veg and fat). Then you can add variety, but the key is to have a lot of variety in small portions.

Just my 2 cents, anyway. There are lots of good ways to live and I don't mean to say that other ways are worse than this. It's just that you can spend a small amount of money, get a large amount of variety and not eat a large number of calories.

I've seen simnilar calculations putting it at £150k and assuming private schools. To be fair, I would probably agree with that number.

I've lived in London (even fairly recently) on 32K :-) No kids, but a non-working wife... I have a bad habit of taking jobs that look like fun rather than pay well :-D I'm not being sarcastic when I say that you can probably draw that line pretty arbitrarily and make a pretty good case that you are giving up something crucial if you go below that level. Even being single, though, I think it would challenge the most frugal person to live on less than 25K in London. For a spouse and 2 kids... a heck of a lot more, to be completely fair.

The average London wage is about £35K, not a huge amount more and probably skewed by the super rich.

Having said that I think London is a terrible place to live on a low wage.

We were quite comfortable on 32K, but it was tight and we couldn't save any money. About 12K for a nice 2 bedroom garden home (in lovely Watford ;-) ), 6K for taxes, 5K for the train, 2K for food, 2K for utilities, clothes, odds and ends and a quick holiday in sunny Bath :-) rounded it out (the tax number may be wrong -- I don't really remember).

Despite the horrible commute, living outside of London and commuting in improves your standard of living pretty dramatically IMHO. If we ever go back, I'm thinking of living even a few stops further out: you pay exactly the same amount of money on housing and transportation (the housing market is efficient), but you get a much nicer house -- at the cost of time...

Although, I say that... This year we stayed in a friends house in Millwall for a month and my commute was worse than from Watford (although a heck of a lot cheaper). So even being in Zone 2 doesn't guarantee you a good commute.

It sure does. Which is why I try to spend it on things I care about, and not things my (landlord, student/car/mortgage debt servicer), etc. cares about.

It's easier to not spend a million bucks than to make a million bucks.

I love cities and fine food, but eventually I realized how much I was paying for the privilege and decided I wanted out. A cheap house and a garden go a long ways.

At a certain point, sure, but statistically you're unlikely to get there through wage slavery. Anyway, there are other ways to gain that freedom.

> Anyway, there are other ways to gain that freedom.

What ways do you have in mind?

In theory, agreed, but just about everyone I know spend their money in a way that multiplies their "wage slavery".

Can you give a few examples of things that companies pay you to do that you would still do if unpaid?

Sure. Right now I manage a hacker space for way less than the "market rate" for my responsibilities. I am also working as a freelancer on a handful of software projects. Currently all of my employers are non-profits so the pay is lower than in the profit-focused sphere, but the projects are ones I support ideologically and the problems I am solving are interesting to me. In the past I've done work as a handyman and I made a point of not accepting jobs that I felt would stress me out or involve a lot of tedium.

To the wayback machine. The year, sometime in the mid 1980's.

Strangely while Facebook, Amazon, Netflix Google haven't been invented, Apple is here. Also strangely me too, but with long dark brown hair instead grey.

Like today Apple and a bunch of other high status companies are highly sought after employers of note. And just like today overwork and burnout their highly skilled workers and then toss them out like yesterdays trash.

Work for Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Intel they said. Make a name for yourself. Work on stuff other people think is exciting they said. Nope I said. And I've been happy enough over the last 35 years doing stuff no one else really cares about for companies and clients no one's ever heard of.

End of the day, No Name Corps money is just as good as Googles and Apples. Sure there is less of it. But the difference you paying for with lack of control and stress.

Edit: There's always someone faster, slower, richer, poorer, healthier, and sicker than you.

If there is one thing growing up in the bay area has taught me it's this.

Amen to that.

Took a job on the basis of "it'll look great on your CV". Most stressful job I've ever endured.

Went back to working for less-well-known, smaller places... night and day difference.

And I'm nowhere near the Bay area ;)

I've worked at FAANGs and places like FAANGs... I don't really understand why so many people seem to think that working for FAANG must necessarily mean no life outside of work, or bad work-life balance. Maybe that is true at Amazon, or Apple, or something but I personally have not had a hard time working 40hr/weeks (90% of the time) while getting good reviews

Really resonated with me. "Seeing the kid more often" is the hardest hitting observation.

"Its just a fucking job" indeed!

>> There's always someone faster, slower, richer, poorer, healthier, and sicker than you.

THIS! made my day!

Well stated. If I could upvote this comment x10 I would. There are always a trade-offs.

My question to people with this attitude is, what is the point of your life?

I've lost a lot of friends and recognize that life is way too short to not be putting as much time as possible toward something you find totally compelling. The stock answer is contentment and "happiness."

The most content person I've ever met was a flower cart man in Belmopan, Belize. Probably made $100 a week at most. He knew all he wanted to do was bring beautiful flowers to people and give them a smile. He had a point in life. Sure he had kids, but he knew that they would move on one day and do their own thing, and he wanted to be known as the best flower man in Belize so he got up early to start and worked late.

This pervasive idea that "it's just a fucking job" is ultimately a milquetoast cop-out. Spend your hours doing something that has impact to you.

> My question to people with this attitude is, what is the point of your life?

> I've lost a lot of friends and recognize that life is way too short to not be putting as much time as possible toward something you find totally compelling. ...

> This pervasive idea that "it's just a fucking job" is ultimately a milquetoast cop-out. Spend your hours doing something that has impact to you.

Why can't "raising a family" be the totally compelling thing you do that has impact on you? The "point of your life"?

I'm not saying that is me, but I think the people that choose that are making a perfectly rational choice.

I mean it's so vague that it doesn't make sense. What is a measurable outcome from "raise a family?" Does that just mean producing offspring or are you requiring a certain outcome for the children and the unit as a whole, in order to feel content?

These are independent autonomous humans who have their own goals - so what happens when they deviate from the things you wanted them to do?

I have three kids and I can tell you right now, there is nothing straightforward that you can plan out with respect to outcomes. It's gonna be a crapshoot, and the best you can do is just do your best and hang on.

“And if any appear never to assume the chair, but always to stand and serve, it is because we do not see the company in a sufficiently long period for the whole rotation of parts to come about. As to what we call the masses, and common men;—there are no common men. All men are at last of a size; and true art is only possible, on the conviction that every talent has its apotheosis somewhere. Fair play, and an open field, and freshest laurels to all who have won them! But heaven reserves an equal scope for every creature. Each is uneasy until he has produced his private ray unto the concave sphere, and beheld his talent also in its last nobility and exaltation.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Representative Men (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/6312/6312-h/6312-h.htm)

It seems to me that no person is in a position to judge whether another has found the thing that they should be shaping their life around. As much as we like to assume they are, humans aren’t rational creatures and activities that appear completely pointless from the outside can be incredibly meaningful to the one doing them.

Solid point, Not OP, but I also want to point out that OP seems to enjoy his working term (no commute and all), but enjoying the work doesn't have to make an impact on you.

It's just a fucking job, yes, we make other people rich, yes, but it's also the kind of job that I wanna do. I also don't commute, and also have more time to meet with my daughter compared to most dads, and I really glad about this term.

what is the point of your life?

Hackernews points mostly.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. "

- Annie Dillard

Life doesn't have a point though, today maybe not even reproduction. We search for meaning ourselves and find it in different things.

Hence why I said you have to do what makes meaning for you.

But you seem to be suggesting that something has to come in the form of paid employment. There's plenty of stuff I find meaning in, people just don't tend to be willing to pay me for it.


I have ~6 years of experience since graduating, so I can give you my experience and what I am currently going through.

Two of us were hired as actuaries at the same time fresh out of college to work in the same department. Immediately, it was clear that he was much more competent, smarter, and and overall better employee than I was. The bosses would consistently praise him, call him smart, etc etc while I got average performance reviews. As someone coming out of college with a degree in mathematics, where I was constantly called 'the smart one' in my friend group, it was brutal. I was not mentally prepared to fall behind a peer like this in such an obvious manner. When I wasn't sulking, I was angry. I was the smart one, or so I had been told.

It took a change in perspective to get myself to a better place. I deleted social media and stopped comparing myself to other people. I started congratulating my coworker when he did well, because honestly, he deserves it. His success does not have to be my failure, working at a company does not have to be a zero-sum game.

Getting to this better place has helped me tremendously in my professional and personal life. I am a very high performer now, have a great girlfriend, great friends, a great job, everything I could ask for. I learned that it does not pay to stress about being the best, because you will never be the best, and if you are, you need to find a different company, friends, whatever.

> Does this happen to anyone else?

This happens to pretty much everyone.

> What do you do about it?

Your options are:

Motivation: "If I learn to do the things s/he does, I can be more successful too."

Rationalization: "Well, if I had had the same opportunities s/he did, I'd have been just as successful. I did the best I could with what I had. And at least I'm still doing better than X, Y, and Z."

Indifference: "X is doing well? That's nice. Wonder what I should have for lunch today?"

I find I gravitate more towards the bottom of the list as I get older.

Mine is more "X clearly loves doing Y - as much as I wish I did too, deep down I know I really don't. What do I actually like to do? I'll have more of that, thank you."

This is where I've landed as well. Earlier in my 20s I thought it was required for me to work on side projects that I have zero real interest in just so that I can keep up with my peers who were clearly better than me, when in reality I despise the idea of working on anything software-related outside of work. This limits me to being an above-average/good engineer rather than an exemplary one, but I'm comfortable with that. It just takes some time for you to figure out what you want out of your career.

Even if we'll never have Paris, we'll always have tacos!

I've found that envy is proportional to our own insecurity, self doubt, unhappiness with our own lives, etc.

The more confident, self assured, and happy I became with my own life, the more the envy went away. The more I became happy for that person's success. Also I've found that there more I know and like a person, the less envy I felt.

At least for me, getting married helped with this big-time.

Absolutely this. Early 20s it was always motivation, and now it's mostly indifference. Whether that's getting older, wiser, being burned out too many times, or learning to appreciate things outside of professional success in life... either way, it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to.

Host a couch surfer from https://couchsurfing.org, especially one a less-than-rich country.

I hosted a person from poor country in my San Francisco apartment. They had traveled here on a paid trip for a tech conference. They asked where they could buy food for less than one dollar per meal. It turned out they only had $6 to pay for their entire stay in San Francisco, including public transit fair for a return to the airport (which costs almost $10). I don't stress about finding money to pay for food or public transit, and occasionally being the one who has more helps me balance out feelings envy when I see people who have more than I do.

In other words, volunteering and helping the needy brings happiness to everyone involved and sets up paths to success for all.

Keep some old shoes or take your restaurant leftovers with you to give to that next homeless guy at the intersection

If you like to be extra generous, buy them a new pair of shoes or a meal of their choosing.

If you have the ability to do so, I agree. However those old pair of shoes in your closet can be quickly dropped in your car for future reference

One way might be to split envy in to:

Covetousness Resentment Sadness (Maybe ambition?)

Covetousness is really, really, bad. It will eat your soul. It is the desire to take what someone else has for yourself. “I want his car.” “I want his girlfriend.”

Resentment can be useful for a short term, but will eat you and cause bitterness if it festers. “I am not paid what I’m worth, I can get better elsewhere.” Is a useful statement if it is accurate and you act on it. But if you are lying to yourself or if you don’t act, it turns bad.

Sadness is a normal human emotion when things just aren’t how you hoped they were.

Ambition is the (mostly healthy within limits) impetus to achieve more. “I want a boyfriend who is nice the way his is.” “I want an even cooler car than anyone I know.” As long as you remain healthy and within your ethical system, ambition is good.

I think maybe taking a frustrating emotion like envy and reframing it with component parts can help you approach it differently?

Just an idea.

I think that’s a really useful breakdown. And I think it lets one attack the problem in a way that’s productive and healthy. If you’re able to be honest with yourself and admit that you are having very human feelings, by feelings that are counter-productive and self-indulgent you’re more likely to be able put on the brakes.

I know that I’m intellectually vain. It’s a personal foible and it can be very unattractive, but I’m always concerned that everyone know how smart I am. But I think being able to admit it, and acknowledging it is a fault, is the first step towards controlling it.

In the Arabic language there are two words for envy:

Ghira - What is known as jealousy or envy. Someone has something you want and you hate them for it. You wish you had it even if you took it from them.

Ghibta - Wishing you had what they had without taking it away. You're happy for their success and wish you had a similar one.

When I was taught the two different words as a young person it really affected how I feel in these situations. When I get a reaction to someone having what I want, I make sure it stays within ghibta. It's a case where my vocabulary shaped my thinking process.

Very good point! Envy has layers! Hard to keep that in mind in the throes of it — but certainly a smart approach.

I am 36, my job title is a Lead Developer (I made it despite fucking up all of my late teens and the entirety of my 20s), and I have been outclassed in some respects by people in their 20s, and I am at peace with this.

You know there is some aspect of jealousy going on here, and being so self-aware in that way is really important and you're half the way there already! So any time you feel that you want to tear apart someone's ideas or someone's code or whatever else, that might just be the jealousy talking. While there's a lot to be said for being an old motherfucker (by tech standards) and lessons that you can teach others, just always use that as a damper on yourself.

Perhaps a good antidote to that mindset is to refocus. Tell people what they are doing right. Look for little moments of genius when you see them. Actively look for things that are done right, and be sure to let the person in question know what they did right! Building people up will make you feel good, and it will definitely feel a lot better than professional jealousy.

I hope this is helpful in some way.

I'd be interested in your take on this as someone slightly older than the cliched tech employee.

To be honest, i'm never usually that impressed with people that are in their mid-20s and working as developers. They can typically produce good output, but in my experience they are unable to state 'why' something works well. They're following best practices laid down by people in their 40s/50s years ago. I think they have the energy to not give up and trawl the forums till they get the answer, not necessarily finding the answer by considering the principles underlying the task

Don't limit it to the younger developers: we're all doing that all the time! Always have all our lives. We learn a lot of things by imitating, then understanding, then building on that. I mean, I learned English from my mother at a very young age (who was following the best practices of the 1950s) without understanding any of the underlying principles. :)

Likewise, some of the "kids these days" (literally what I call the rest of my much younger development team, and they're just as capable about poking me about my age :)) may be doing that in tech in their early-ish careers. I think it'd be underestimating younger devs to apply that too broadly, because I've seen too many little gems of genius from younger devs.

The way I see my role leading a younger team is to help the folks somewhat younger than me learn from some of the lessons I have learned: to spot code that is going to be a nightmare in the long run, to maybe gain my weird knack of being able to tell people what their bug is without even seeing the code. But they also have a valuable role in teaching me to be less conservative (disposition, not politics) when I should not be, or coming up with brilliant solutions that I was blind to.

If I had a point, it's that there's room in the world for all of us, and that both the old motherfuckers and the Kids These Days have a lot to bring to the table to build up each other. I hope this was useful in some way. :)

Louis CK once said "The only time you should look at what's on some else's plate of food is to check if they have enough." That really put things in perspective to me.

If I'm not making enough for the amount of work that I do, I will find another job.

That’s a cool quote. Do you remember where this was said? I would like to hear the rest of the context. Thanks!

It looks like it came from his Louis TV show:


Whenever I feel envy (and I inevitably do) I try to to use it as a guide for what I should work on.

I acknowledge I’m not as good as I could be. And I try to use it as fuel to improve my own life.

I crucify myself with all that I lack in the hopes of a “transformation.”

In practice, that means setting some time aside in the day to read more, workout more, practice more.

But I have to be careful. Sometimes envy can be deceitful. It’s easy to fall for things I don’t actually want.

So I use envy as a guide, an approximate one, to reflect on what I lack and what I can do to change it, if anything at all.

It’s my Elysian mirror.

I know this will get lost in lots of comments. But the medicine to any problem is * Mental Peace *.

Try following steps:

1. Take a deep breath, let all your thoughts flow naturally.

2. See what's happening with your thoughts as a second person's perspective.

3. Know that you aren't your thoughts. It is you who can change any thought.

4. Remind yourself that nothing last forever. Even if you had all the money in world, it would still not be enough, and you won't take a dime after you pass.

5. Realize that you have limited time in this Earth. Do what you always wanted.

6. If in doubt, repeat this cycle.

Number 5 especially. I've beem working towards financial independence to enable this.

I work in software development in the UK. Even good, highly experienced developers working for top employers over here rarely make what a total newbie in their first job makes in a place like SV. In purely financial terms, almost every developer I know is in the position where much younger, much less capable people are earning a lot more than them somewhere else.

The thing is, it doesn't matter. There are sports players in the world who make more money in a week than most of those SV developers make in a year, too. Maybe I could move to the US and make enough to pay off my entire mortgage in a year or two. But I don't want to live and work in the US, so for me personally, that opportunity isn't interesting or relevant.

What matters to me in terms of my professional career is making the most of opportunities when I do want what they offer, and being content that my professional development is OK and I'm doing good work that I enjoy. Obviously better compensation is always welcome, but the reasons I'm glad I went freelance and ultimately started my own businesses are mostly about increased flexibility, diversity, and making my/our own decisions instead of being subordinate to The Boss. You can't put a price on the improvements in quality of life that come from a better work environment and better work/life balance.

Learn to realize exactly where happiness comes from, which is ultimately the people around you that you help or impact in a positive way. One of the hardest things in life is to truly understand what you want - beyond the noise from society, family, and friends.

Material possessions and success are fun, but ultimately only generate fleeting happiness.

I have run my company for almost 20 years now and have seen many of my friends/acquaintances make 10 million+ in a much shorter time. Not that I dont wish I could have more money for less effort (in the same way that I wish I could play the guitar or speak multiple foreign languages). Yet Im very happy with my life as I understand clearly what makes me happy and dont let my happiness be defined by what someone else has done or has.

As others have said, acceptance is a big first step. Next, consider that jealousy comes from a scarcity mindset: There is only x wealth/success/power, and this other person got it.

If you can transition yourself to an abundance mindset, I think you'll find the success of your peers as a collective asset: as your field or group becomes more credible/successful, more opportunities will open up for you. If you can figure out how to use their success to your benefit, you maybe find yourself thankful for them.

If you want something that someone else has got, ask them for it. More often than not, they will give it to you.

If you find someone who is outpacing you, humble yourself for a damn minute and try asking them what they are doing that makes them so effective, then see if you can make it work for you.

If more engineers had this mindset, we'd all be better off.

Could I please have three hundred thousand dollars?

The last time I did that it ended in drama.

I'd buy that book.

Seriously, please elaborate. Would love to read the story!

Good point. I've more often been frustrated because I feel I'm the smartest in the room. I acknowledge this may be because of my own pride, but either way it sucks.

> I've more often been frustrated because I feel I'm the smartest in the room.

Perhaps it's time to change your perspective. No one is ever the smartest in the room. There's always something that can be learned from someone else.

Having more horsepower under the hood is almost always helpful, but driving in the right direction tends to be more important.

Congrats, you’re human.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of being envious. Envy and greed turn into resentment and anger. You need to nip it.

If you know the person, you know what’s a great way to handle this... Give the guy a call or drop by and congratulate them on their good news.

And for yourself, grab a notebook, go sit at the library or wherever and write down the things you want to do. Anything, this is for you. Write that you want to be the president. Channel your inner Office Space and write that you want to have a threesome. Or be the next Zuck. Or catch a fish. Whatever.

Then write down a high level plan of attack to achieve each thing. One thing per page. Then write the list of things you really want to do.

In my personal experience, envy is usually more of a reflection of what I failed to do or dream or plan vs what some other person achieved. Be secure in who you are and what you want, and you will be better for it.

This comic has served as a reasonably effective innoculation against this pattern for me.


This is perfectly apropos!

I enjoyed it, thank you for sharing.

This quote from Naval Ravikant:

“You have to be that person. Do you want to be that person with all of their reactions, their desires, their family, their happiness level, their outlook on life, and their self image? If you’re not willing to do a whole sale, 24/7, 100% swap with who that person is, then there’s no point in being jealous.”

I don't think that quote makes much sense. I can want a specific thing someone has (e.g. praise for work done) without wanting /everything/ they have.

I think his point is that typically the context of all the particular aspects of that person's life feed into the reason why they have that one thing you want.

Not necessarily. The fact that I brush my teeth in a certain way doesn't determine the kind of car I drive or whether I love my wife.

Exactly. Admire traits, but don’t (or, try not to) envy. Admiration, and the motivation that can come with it, can be good! But blind envy or jealousy can overlook the negatives that someone might be dealing with.

Sounds like a recipe for identity theft!

Jordan B. Peterson writes in “12 Rules for Life - an antidote to chaos” that you should “compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today”

Make it your aim to live your whole life without listening to Jordan B. Peterson

Why? Is that quote bad advice?

Perhaps he should take his own excellent advice, and compare himself to who he was when he threatened to slap Pankaj Mishra.


>Why is Jordan Peterson so angry? For someone whose whole routine is based on telling men to “toughen up”, the clinical psychologist and author of the bestseller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, who rose to prominence in the UK after his run-in with Cathy Newman on Channel 4, seems to unravel at the slightest provocation. After a brutal but perfectly polite and clinical takedown in the New York Review of Books by Pankaj Mishra, where the rudest thing said about Peterson is that his latest book is packaged for people who have grown up on BuzzFeed listicles, Peterson had a meltdown. He called Mishra a “sanctimonious prick”, an “arrogant racist son of a bitch”, said he would “slap him” if he was in the room, and rounded it up with a final “fuck you”. Somewhere along the tantrum, he tweeted that Mishra was a “dealer in lies and half-truths”. The responses that followed can only be summarised as a mass sideways look to camera.


>Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism, by Pankaj Mishra.

>Closer examination, however, reveals Peterson’s ageless insights as a typical, if not archetypal, product of our own times: right-wing pieties seductively mythologized for our current lost generations.

I am not a fan, and indeed, I would have preferred never to have heard of the canadian psychotherapist with lots of snake oil to sell.

That being said, giving yourself the job of "going after" someone, hoarding any and all embarrassing public speeches and having people judge him using just that concentrated negativity you've managed to scrape off the walls, isn't that a little bit like the kind of envy this very thread is concerned with?

Doesn't envy require me wanting to be like him?

Running successful business with multiple campaign fronts and ambitious product ideas? That's worthy my envy. Maybe you don't care.

Speak for yourself. You must be envious of a whole lot of shady people if your bar is so low. I don't even know how you keep track of them all, let alone prevent all that envy from eating you up inside! I've got much better things to do with my time and aspirations and stomach lining.

(By the way, every wanna-be Instagram/YouTube/Twitter influencer has "multiple campaign fronts". And "ambitious product ideas" are a dime a dozen and worse than worthless. They distract you from practical product execution.)

Maybe you too should take his excellent advice and "compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today", instead of envying him.

The same Jordan B Peterson who asked "Is it possible that young women are so outraged because they are craving infant contact in a society that makes that very difficult?" -Jordan Peterson, infant craver

Who denies women have been systematically oppressed: "The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory." -Jordan Peterson, history understander

Who claims to be a champion free speech, yet has sued and threatened several of his critics?


>Peterson additionally threatened to file a defamation lawsuit against Kate Manne, who accused him of misogyny in a critical book review of 12 Rules for Life. [212] Following a negative book review of 12 Rules for Life in the New York Times by Pankaj Mishra, Peterson called Mishra an "arrogant racist son of a bitch" and threatened to "slap" Mishra should they ever meet in person.[213]

[212] https://www.thecut.com/2018/09/jordan-peterson-threatened-to...

[213] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/23/jordan...

Can you please not take HN threads further into flamewar?


>The same Jordan B Peterson who asked ...

sure. I'm no big fan, but don't color good advice bad when it comes from the wrong person.

All his quote is advocating for is self-reference and relativity with regards to self improvement.

It's sort of like quoting Mark Twain. 4/5 people will enjoy the quote, that last person will bring up what a tyrannical bigoted racist he was. (opinion theirs)

The reality is that people who aren't necessarily great themselves can bring wisdom to our attention. Just because it was THEM that had the idea, or at least the ability to bring that idea to words, doesn't invalidate the idea.

I didn't reject his advice -- just the opposite: I endorsed it. Notice that in my reply to the question "Is that quote bad advice?", I gave him due credit for his "excellent advice", and helpfully suggested he follow it himself.


I'm not even suggesting you "live your whole life without listening to" him -- just the opposite: I actually quoted his own words, and linked to more quotes and information about him, in case some people hadn't already heard them.

And no, I don't envy him, nor do I want to be like him, nor do I even want to physically assault him by slapping him, like he wants to slap Pankaj Mishra.

Maybe we should all take his other sagely timeless advice and "toughen up", and not be as thin skinned and prone to unraveling and throwing tantrums as he is, or threatening lawsuits and physical violence in response to legitimate criticism, huh?

A friend of mine is a fair few years younger than me and is a much better programmer than me. At first (maybe the first few months) I felt some small measure of envy, but over time I decided to take the attitude of, what can I learn from this person. If this person is outperforming me, what are they doing different, maybe adopting that can help bridge the gap.

I learned a few really good things from this, like, said friend is completely open about the things that he doesn't know. He doesn't hide or bluff his lack of knowledge, he went 'so far' as to google something in front of me that he didn't know. I realised this was a factor to some degree of attitude, upbringing, and socialization. I adopted it and I honestly have learned much more than I would have otherwise.

The other aspect of it is of course, I've taken a different career path than him. We have different sets of knowledge (even though I think if he took the time in about six months he could probably be up to my level in my path).

It's a manner of attitude, rather than anything else

Acknowledging your feelings is a good first step.

The next step is to realize and accept that you can only impact things that are within your sphere of influence. Focus 100% on those things, especially the things that make you happy.

Note that you rarely know the full story behind someone else’s success. It may have been luck, it may have been privilege, it may have been that they are simply able to perform at a level that you are not capable of (at least not yet). All of those things are OK — just focus on what you have influence over.

sometimes ego suspension fixes the problem.

Consider a friend. Now imagine if the friend won a professional lottery of some sorts - one example could be that the startup they slaved at had a huge exit and their stock became worth a couple of million $.

How would you want to respond to the friend?

Personally, I would congratulate the friend on his/her success. I want good things to happen to my friends. It doesn’t take away from my own successes, or change anything about what is going on in my own life, so there is no value in tearing people down.

Hopefully this perspective helps in reorienting one’s mindset.

Just live your life. It goes away with life experience. By getting what you want, you realize it's not what you really want.

By this process of slow elimination, your desires become far less about having more things (envy aka someone is better is about them having more things), and far more about having more time, to go for a walk, to play with your kids, to read a book.

It's hard to be envious of someone going for a walk in the park :)

Western society has a masterful advertising and marketing machine that makes most people feel inadequate about things that make no sense, like a car somebody drives, or a suit they wear, or a number in their bank account?! As if those things are worth missing a kids' birthday party for! They're only worth anything because other sleepwalkers will give you props for them. Comparing yourself to others goes away by the time you're 30 or 40 - you just cease giving a shit, mostly due to being worn out and with that, advertising no longer works on you, much.

Anyhoo, it goes away on its own as you get that girl, get that car, get that job, and realize it's not it. What a hoot :)

As a late professional bloomer in corporate America/megacorp tech and someone without a traditional CS education background I struggle with this a lot.

But in the moment of envy it comes down to what your personal goals are and if you are reaching them. Personally, when I see others flying high I wonder how many long hours and weekends they have put in for that 10-20% extra they might be making. When others get more acclaim I wonder how long the glow of that lasts until they are expected to raise the bar even more to outdo their last accomplishment.

If your goals are acclaim and more money then it would be good to talk to the high flyers and find out what their special sauce is. If your goals lie elsewhere its okay to take a minute to be frustrated, but see how that frustration could be used to fuel your own drive toward your goals. High-flyers only have so many good years anyway until they are eclipsed by someone younger, prettier, more skilled or dynamic.

Just for reference, I realized that I am not cut out to be a high flyer but had specific compensation and work/life balance goals for myself.

> that 10-20% extra

We’re talking about the difference between an engineer approaching forty at an ordinary company earning a little over $100k versus someone ten years younger at a FAANGMI earning $250k+. There are a lot of people in the former group who would happily give up a few weekends and put up with more stress to be a part of the latter group.

Envy is like fear. Everybody has it.

Bravery isn't the absence of fear, it's doing a thing despite the fear. It's overcoming your animal instincts using the power of your cognitive mind.

I don't know a word for handling envy that's the equivalent of bravery...maybe "compersion"? Perhaps in the way one might be brave in the face of fear, one may seek compersion in the face of jealousy.

I'm still deeply affected by this, although my life, having a son and a second on the way, should have taught me better by now.

I didn't grow up very competitive, never played any sports, but I started working very early so that's where I got most of my positive affirmation, so that's one reason why I always put so much focus on the importance of my professional success.

Another is that I grew up relatively poor and tell myself I've fought to attain wealth and happiness at the same time for myself and my family, so seeing someone else achieving these goals before me triggers me to see myself as a failure, doubting and regretting decisions in my past, which is obviously self-destructive and not a good way to live your life.

So far I've managed to use the emotions of envy to focus myself in times of distress or immense pressure, but it's only a stopgap solution until I manage to find contentment with my situation, however the outcome, the road to stoicism can be quite long though.

Pretty sure what you're describing is jealousy and not envy.

I was envious of my friends success and higher pay but I never wanted to deny them or dream of their failure.

It did motivate me and was one of the reason why I quit my public sector job for private sector.

I think everybody have different path and that learning to accept it is maturity. The mindset of being better than them is terrible for me. I focus on what they have that I lack and what can I improve upon. I also accept that I wasn't as good as selling myself as some of my friends are especially coming from an ESL background. But I've come to term with that and focus on building my skill set that I lack and deem important to me.

The people that do better than me are something I use as a road map but I make sure not to waste time day dreaming about being in their position or to over think it. It's a waste of time because there are tons of other things I can be doing right now (improving in many area of my life instead of day dreaming).

> Pretty sure what you're describing is jealousy and not envy.

Homer Simpson and I are both pretty sure it is indeed envy, not jealousy.


No, it's envy. A handy way to remember the distinction is that jealousy requires three parties, envy only two.

Happened to me as well.

But you have to realize there are so many things are going on you might not be aware of eg. relations, background, even luck!

Instead, try to exploit your recognition of their success and ask/learn about their story. That will help you a lot too.

When you think that way: they went through a path instead of you so you can now explore their story and get their experience much faster.

And don't forget: when there are 10 competitors with virtually the same skills and performance its still only one who wins the contest with the prize and goes away with all the chicks. The others seem to be unsuccessful from a bird view, but in reality there might be not much difference in value.

Realizing this made calm, I am totally ok with lottery. Everything is a lottery a bit, except you really nail it: but that requires so much work I won't ever be envy.

FWIW, Buddhism breaks down various mental afflictions, of which Greed is one. Afflictions are pollutants to seeing things as they are, and it helps to allot run-time bandwidth to spotting them and hopefully, discarding them.



The above helps a person to manage their own Kleshas. But if it is the other person's that is bothering you, then it helps to cultivate a mind of acceptance (according to Buddhism, that is).

And to quote the Bard from Othello:

Who steals my purse steals trash;

’tis something, nothing;

’twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;

But he that filches from me my good name Robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.”

If, in your adult life, following some sort of creed is a choice, what makes your choice compelling? Why should a choice be so impactful that it controls every aspect of your life? What convinces you so much that your creed alters the way you think, removing the need for perceived success in any form or shape? I just don't buy it.

When it comes to that, I accept that I am a different person, a person with different past, values and traits. I also like to think (mostly to make myself feel a bit better) that such a person might not be experiencing many other (valuable) things in life that I am or other people are. If that is not true and that high level peer is having a great life outside of work as well, then I simply admire them. If anything, that just shows me how good one can be; it propels me to push harder at least a little bit more.

It all depends on one's state of mind. I've had times when it was difficult for me to face such a fact, and times when I looked at it in a quite positive way.

I always used to compare myself to 'self-made billionaires' 'world shapers' 'rockstars'. Now I am more interested in absorbing the best influences and synthesizing everything into something beautiful and useful.

> When someone younger than me ...

The first thing is, you have to forget the fallacy that it matters where everyone is situated chronologically in human history.

Neither you, nor these ones you envy, will be as good as some historic twenty-year-old who might be 200 if he were alive today. Or as good as some twenty-year-old who won't be born for another fifty years hence.

People are mostly rewarded with money and acclaim by doing things that please others: mainly others who are able to market and sell whatever it is. Money doesn't just fall from the sky onto good engineering alone. For every dollar those people make from their work, someone else gets ten.

I remember the guy two levels above me who was an intern when I was at my previous level. So he was promoted 6 times to my single promotion. I also remember being a manager and having somebody reporting to me but a decade later I was reporting to them.

There's always somebody better than you but there's always somebody better than the person that's better than you. Usually they're younger and smarter but whatever.

I guess in the end I have a job as there's only so many people super smart who are doing what they do. Eventually they need to hire low achievers like myself.

You always have to set your own rubrics(self-critique, self-feedback) for success, from the very beginning. Society will always try to impose some on you, for big things(political platforms) and small(bringing the coolest lunchbox to the schoolyard). But to find any peace the externals have to be decoupled from your inner self, and aligned where it is pragmatically convenient for you. The problem with externals is familiar - it's not just the jealousy, it's the imposter syndrome if you start succeeding, the disinterest in the details from friends and family, the stress of the rat race and the fickleness of trends and fashions, with a whole array of concerns summed into a dollar value. Those things get your emotions going in a negative place.

If you do your own self-critique well, you can build skills and explore topics that nobody else is, and that's the kind of thing that translates to the optics of surpising outlier success. But when you only subscribe to the same feedback loops as the average, you get predictably average results - on average. There will always be people that grasp a thing a little bit easier, are a little bit more numb to the negatives, have better access to resources. You don't want to assume that is you, because it most likely isn't.

And you have to pick and choose what things you will stay average at and what things are going to be your in-depth focus, cause nobody has the time to do it all.

I would recommend reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective People who which I derive the statements below.

If try to think about the world as a growing pie versus a fixed pie. In a fixed pie world, everything is limited so there's only so much success, money, jobs and accalades to go around. So when someone else does well, it's natural to be jealous because they are taking part of the pie that could have been yours and now there is less out there to fight over. It's scarcity mentality and most people thing this way.

If one thinks about the world as a a growing pie, it means that there is plenty to go around and it's possible to work closely with those who are successful to create a bigger pie i.e. there is no longer need to compete but to collaborate. This builds better relationships and generally a more positive, healthy attitude internally as well as lower stress levels. This is what is known as abundance mentality.

I do not know whether this stuff is scientifically proven but from what I understand, this trait is far more prevelant in self-made millionaires. Having made a move in a similar direction, I can report feeling better about myself and having a better attitude.

Further to this, the book also suggests focusing on what you can control and what you can do. So in this case, worrying about others success is a waste of resources.

I found it helpful to spend less time on social media and Linkedin. This helped me to reduce my jealously.

I think once someone has carved out a place for themselves, it seems like it’s something to be attained, like it exists as a thing to envy or a “place”to be. But you are only ever seeing a distinct part of a longer, more complex story, the small part you envy. You see your own path more realistically—as the longer story it actually is. You remember its aspirational beginnings and mundane points along the way. It has its high and low points too.

It’s natural for everyone to want to be at a high point when they’re struggling to get somewhere. And then when someone’s at a really high point, it doesn’t necessarily feel that way to them. “Success” usually feels more like success to its far off audience and often more like work to the person supposedly “enjoying” it.

Focus on finding the joy/inspiration/thrill in what you are doing now. Because it isn’t the wild success that will quell these feelings of envy. The envy is more of a sign that you should be doing something you actually love doing! If you were, you’d be thinking about your own stuff and what cool thing to do with it next, instead of what someone else is accomplishing. If you can’t find the joy in your current thing, then work on what you are truly compelled by. If you are in that zone, you will never envy anyone else, because you will be far too absorbed in doing what you deeply love doing.

The Yoga-Sutras have a couple of nice aphorisms (from http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/yogasutr.htm) for mind training;

"1.33. By cultivating friendliness towards happiness and compassion towards misery, gladness towards virtue and indifference towards vice, the mind becomes pure."

"2.33 When improper thoughts disturb the mind, there should be constant pondering over the opposites."

I’ve gotten this many times from coworkers through the years. I’ve had people target me at all costs. They would try to grow their careers at my expense. It hurt and in the wrong company worked for them. But in the long arc of time it only got them so far and they all left the company before me. But none of them knew my resume and I ultimately moved to much better pastures.

You don’t know what those newer hires have on their resumes nor the conditions under which they were hired. You’re also not likely to make any good impressions for yourself by being identified as a threat or confrontational. Good management doesn’t like that behavior (edit-outside of professions like law, politics, sales/marketing, etc).

Read “Siddhartha“ by Hermann Hesse. Take a deliberate approach to managing your emotions. Mediate. Remember that the world is bigger than one persons seemingly great career - both yours and others careers.

Corporate America has all of this as negative side effects. How you react is your choice. Maybe take the opportunity to reevaluate what you should be learning or working towards to advance your own career. Look for things you can add to your resume. Consider options that make this one particular situation not your only source of money, professional respect and growth, or so on.

1. Thanks to the internet/social media, you will _always_ see people who more successful than you are, sometimes a lot more successful. You need to get used to it and learn to deal with it [1].

2. It may be helpful to think that this is probably also true for the person you're looking ahead to: she's also looking at somebody "ahead" of her. So, even if you get there, not much will change, you'll just keep looking at people ahead (also see "hedonic treadmill" [2]).

3. A lot of the time you're just seeing PR, and they're in fact not ahead of you. For example a recent trend is "winning startup competitions". I had friends who went to these, kept winning them, they got futured in newspapers... but then the product had no traction and they shut down quickly. Don't confuse PR with the real thing. Social media can be misleading.

4. In my experience, a lot of it is down to luck. For example, for our group, if a friend gets a juicy job at a FAANG, it will feel like they're ahead. (And they will be.) But having been at a FAANG and done interviews, believe me, a lot of it is down to luck --- esp. when it comes to getting a juicy job. Same is true for startups, I would say most of it is down to luck.

5. Often, other than luck, there's really something the person has done to get there; a lot of the times the major component is _hustle_. Ask yourself, would you want to do that to get there? For example, some startup founders who achieve initial success (Series A and later) end up working for their own company for 10+ years. Would you want to work for the same company (even your own) for that long? Eg. I had a startup, it failed, and since then I'm "just" an employee, and I switch jobs every 2-3 years, and I'm loving it, because I keep learning new things, meet new people, go to new countries, etc; right now I wouldn't want to trade this to be a Series X co-founder having to explain to my board why we're not growing like I said we would in the pitch deck (most companies don't end up growing like they were "supposed to").

[1] unless you become the next M.Z. (unlikely), this will always be true.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonic_treadmill

I'm not envious of people like that - they are still corporate slaves, working on other people's ideas, trading all their time for a little bit of extra money. The praise/acclaim they are getting is so bosses/society can exploit them better. The difference between $80k or $200k salary makes almost no difference in quality of life. The $200k dev is often more stressed and not as happy as they look on the outside. Most are keeping up a facade.

The only people I would feel envy towards are people who have both time and money, and could do whatever they want (fuck you money).

Especially depressing is reading IndieHackers, because it seems like everyone there just tests out some idea, then suddenly they're making $35k MRR. But even those people I'm not envious. Most of the time I realize that their idea wouldn't be something I'm passionate about, and even when it's a similar product to mine it wouldn't be built how I would choose to build it. Even if I was rich I would be building my projects - and that's what I enjoy, so the journey is more important than the end result.

>The difference between $80k or $200k salary makes almost no difference in quality of life.

I don’t see how this is true for any urban area, where $80k will not let you save any significant amount whereas $200k will provide you a decent cushion in case your incoming cash flow experiences turbulence. The peace of mind resulting from this certainly improves quality of life, especially if you have mouths to feed.

Also, at $200k you can save enough to start investing in equity, and make real wealth gains as opposed to the pittance earned by way of wages for labor.

Hello from Montreal, where everything you said is true for either dollar amount, even in Canadian dollars. And indeed, tech salaries in that range are plenty available here. The low end of tech salaries is below $80k, but the threshold where things start getting tight is also below $80k, so no problem.

(Of course $200k will allow faster growth of savings and investment or a more luxurious lifestyle, but even $80k can work here for comfortable middle-class living.)

I guess I should clarify that my perspective is from US urban areas, and the single biggest risk people in the US face is having a health issue which forces you to not be able to work, and deal with extremely high medical care costs.

For me, comfortable middle class living does not just include the food/shelter you need, but also protection from volatility such as changes in labor market, your family members’ health, and ability to take leave from work. As the US doesn’t provide any of this, you have to pay for it, in the form of savings and investments for yourself.

The other component of it is that in my lifetime, the income/wealth gap has grown and grown. Opportunities for your children decrease if you don’t stay ahead of the curve, so this is also another risk to protect against by earning enough to be able to live in the better school districts and provide your kids with a better shot of income stability for their future.

It sounds to me like you’re assuming that one path to happiness is best and because of that, are missing the fact that many people are happy with their jobs and lives.

I don’t think the journey is more important than the end here. “The end” is being happy. If you can simply exist and be happy, that’s going to be more satisfying than aggressively pursuing the path you believe leads to happiness.

Looking at happy people and telling yourself it’s a facade is a really bad idea.

You're right that some people are genuinely happy with their jobs/lives working for someone else. Actually that might be the vast majority of people.

That's not for me though - like I said if I was rich I'd still be working 60+ hour weeks. I think other people would spend more time with family/friends in that scenario?

As I get older I don’t often feel that I need to find the little things to invalidate them. But, I have to admit that I still feel very reluctant when I am asked to write good promotion feedbacks for them. In the back of my mind, I always have this thought of “not good enough to deserve it”. Jealousy in no doubt had destroyed a few of my good relationships with co-workers I called friends.

I saw this on reddit and liked it enough, I added it to a short list of things I found on the internet that I liked:

> Comparison is the thief of joy.

So, don't compare.

This is great approach for hobbies (comparison with the pros can kill any joy in ex. drawing), or if you're independently rich. Unfortunately, in a job you ARE in a competition against other professionals in your field. If you're not competent enough, you will simply not get hired. So, it absolutely makes sense to compare - if only to find out that you're dangerously behind and maybe need to up your game.

The other person is just a vehicle for existing shame/self loathing. If you want to stop feeling this way I suggest trying therapy and confronting the deeper sources of these feelings.

I and many other people do not ever seethe about the successes of others. I don’t say that to self-aggrandize, but rather to counter some of the other people here saying it’s normal or universal. It’s not.

There are two components here. The obvious one is the hurt ego which can lead to the sentiments you mention. The less obvious is understanding that you can only control your own destiny.

On the second, suggest trying to figure out what skill(s) the other person has that enabled them to achieve that which you are surprised (it didn't just happen by magic). Is it technical? Personal interaction? Networking? Then consider if that may be something you can/should work to improve.

On the ego issue - There was a point in my life when I was a very angry person, apt to bitterness and tirades. I strongly encourage reading a book or two on chan/zen. You need not become a buddhist to benefit from their philosophical teachings and you don't need to meditate every day. But I do think you can become small 'e' enlightened and really improve how you view and interact with others and the ups and downs of daily life.

In the past, I would see peers and think of them and realize wow that's cool they're doing X thing and I'm not. I used to think of how ambitious I used to be and how I wasn't driven anymore.

I may get hate for this because the idea has been touted as a "miracle" by many folks... but I used the framework from the philosophy of Stoicism to approach this problem. At the end of the day, envy alone is a waste of my time. I can't control the world around me but I can control the feelings and perceptions and that in turn can lead to my actions.

I turned that envy into action. I turned to introspection and became very self-aware about my skills, experiences, knowledge gaps, and yes sometimes the privilege peers had that got them ahead of me (like rich family, inherent network, nepotism, etc). By mapping that out, I was able to mirror and compare myself to this ideal version of myself.

Truthfully building and maintaining relationships with those who are more successful can always help you become more successful yourself. I've come to realize many of the people I was "trying to keep up with" have different and potentially complementary objectives in life. Learn from everyone especially those more successful than you instead of trying to tear them down, frequently a rising tide lifts many boats.

I did really well for myself early on (not as well as some, better than most) and I realized it didn't make me happy intrinsically. As such, I've started investing in myself, in relationships, and in figuring out what does make me happy. It's great seeing my contemporaries do well. I've let go of a lot of things and people who weren't making me happy lately and it's really nice, actually.

Perspective matters, and in some ways, comes for us all in time.

I think this is pretty natural / universal. There’s a lot of “ways” to deal with the emotions you’re feeling (“seethe”), for me the important inflection point was realizing that what was driving that was internal conflict between where I wanted to go & how I was going to get there. So looking more inward and less outward was key, and filtering out all of that “noise” to focus on tangibly making myself better was key.

Here’s where it gets more fun — that process made me realize that where I “wanted to be” was not where I wanted to be. And this post was fun to read because I reflected on how far off I am from when I felt the same way, and yet I’ve achieved different successes than I had imagined, experienced different failures than I had dreaded. It’s a wild ride; take time to reflect, work to improve yourself and set goals, but balance it with enjoyment of the ride.

There's a lot of good responses in this thread already, but I would like to add one more thing.

An emotion will generally be part of a chain of emotions and beliefs. Here's how this example of envy could work out for me:

- At the top we might feel angry.

- One level below that we realize we feel angry because we feel envious of someone

- Below that we may realize that we feel envy because we feel insecure

- We feel insecure because we fear not being good enough

- We fear not being good enough because somewhere in our past we internalized the lesson that unless we're good enough, we may not receive attention / affection

- Not receiving attention / affection is connected to fear, because as a child, in our evolutionary past, not being protected by our caretakers could result in our death

Ultimately, the envy is connected to a fear of not being loved and a fear of death. And many other things are as well.

i had it with my roommate and my best friend, we are both software developers. i think this had contributed the most to what we both are now. I confronted him what that i had always felt jealous about him and that what motivated me to work even harder just to reach him. He told he felt the same!

Consider 'someone' to be one and the same as yourself.

And then you can celebrate 'your' successes, commiserate failures, lament failings, while freeing the other you to improve.

More difficult if 'they're' arrogant and sneering perhaps, but that's a only a challenge, to be faced head-on.

Who was it that said "comparison" is the source of all evil? Everyone gets caught up in it. What to do that works for me is to practice gratitude and feel inspired from people ahead of me regardless of age. They might just end up as a boss, friend, partner, lover, savior.

I think that the comments have covered pretty much everything to break the problem into fundamentals. I would just like to add that: - professional envy is futile - use the opportunity to step aside for a while, and think of a another route to get ahead of the person you are jealous of

This way you would not just stop wasting time in constant comparison, but also likely to find a constructive mechanism to beat your competition.

In my little career, whenever I found myself being jealous of others, I thought harder to differentiate myself, isolate from comparison/competition, and always learnt something new to get ahead.

In the end, I don't know if my own narrative of professional journey would reach my milestones, but I am 100% sure that I wouldn't be too jealous.

Thanks for posting this question and to those who answered with advice. This is something I've been struggling with recently, despite others probably facing the same envy when looking at my life.

I decided to compile some of my favourite learnings from this thread:

1) Jealousy comes from a scarcity mindset. Use this as awareness and fuel to improve.

2) Never compare yourself to someone across a single domain. Things must be analyzed in the context of their lives, including what they've chosen to give up.

3) Outward success != happiness. This is particularly important in the age of social media, when people post the best 10% of their lives. Consistent happiness > sporadic highs.

4) Assess whether you'd actually want to do what that person does, not just be perceived as they are.

When I see someone more successful than me I do envy them, but I'm happy for them. It's great to see people succeed and do well.

I always like seeing people succeed, use that envy to work harder and do better. Set a goal they have reached and go for it.

Be careful spending your time lamenting them and looking for holes in their success. Don't waste your time like this.

You should check out this book Zen Shorts, it's for kids but has some great lessons.

Here's a quick summary . . .

“The heavy load”, story goes….

Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.

The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk, she just shoved him out of the way and departed.

As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”

Now the question goes to you all, “Do you think you have carried it long enough?”

Do keep in mind, a big part of success is your network and luck, so that plays a part. But we can always improve, strive to do better.

So be happy for them and congratulate them unless of course this person is just a daft p--- about their success.

Then I just tell them.

Hey, Good For You.


In most cases, you probably have no real idea what is involved in their so-called success.

Sometimes it's mostly hype and hot air. Theranos was valued at $10 billion. It dropped to basically zero overnight. Now the founder is set to be prosecuted on criminal charges.

Other times, sure, their success is real -- and comes at the cost of divorce, chronic drug use to manage consequent health issues etc. Rich and famous people are sometimes privately pretty miserable. We sometimes get insight into their personal misery during headline making personal drama, like bankruptcy, ugly divorces or death due to drug overdose.

I like to say "Sometimes, the grass is greener because of all the crap."

...but at the same time it’s because those people are the real deal. Most people I know are in the latter camp.

Yeah, they can run marathons and got into a DL team at Google and got 2350s on their SATs and made a million in crypto, what of it? I’m very skeptical that the people better than me aren’t better than me for a darn good reason.

In eighth grade, I got in trouble for trying to explain to another student how a letter-substitution puzzle worked at all. It was for extra credit.

The other student was Hispanic and spoke English as a second language. He had no idea where to even start. He didn't even know what it was.

My dad did the Cryptoquote in the newspaper every single morning. I knew exactly how this worked.

I was one of the "smart" kids at school, but my ability to solve this puzzle had little or nothing to do with innate intelligence. I just had seen such puzzles many, many times and helped my dad when he got stuck because he didn't like failing to solve it. So if he couldn't do it on his own, he began asking family members to look at it.

Meanwhile, I never have really become fluent in a second language like the Hispanic student I was trying to assist because it struck me as unfair that he had zero hope of solving this puzzle through no fault of his own.

But he was a poor immigrant of the wrong ethnicity. The school system and world around him placed no value on the extra knowledge he had due to who his dad was. Instead, it placed value on what I knew because of who my dad was, somewhat randomly and arbitrarily, not because there are careers to be of solving puzzles in the daily paper and not because being bilingual is useless.

There is so much luck, happenstance, born into the right family, right-place-and-right-time involved in "success" that I just can't be arsed to invest a lot of emotional heat in looking at other people and wishing I had their stuff.

I've worked hard at making my private life work. I think if I ever have "success," it will be sustainable and not destroy me/my life. In contrast, many people with public success got it by making crippling personal sacrifices. In some cases, it literally kills them.

I'll pass on that. It's simply not anything I want.

Maybe a perspective change.

The possibility of ever being envious of people who are objectively better/faster/etc than me is absolutely alien to me. They're better than me in my chosen profession, end of story.

Sometimes you're behind because that's just life being what it is, or you missed an opportunity out of bad luck. Meh, can't be mad about that.

In a number of cases, I've seen people who aren't up to par get ahead, but those are few and far in between, and not worth worrying about.

The biggest problem is people get ahead through "unethical" means. This bothers me. If this is what bothers you, I sorry, I don't know how to help you. I too would like advice.

I experience 0 professional envy. If I see someone who happens to be younger and more successful, it only inspires me. It makes me me want to be friends with that person so that maybe the qualities that made them succeed will rub off on me.

Unfortunately this is only possible if you subscribe to a more tabula rasa viewpoint than most.

There are too many things you do not know about how a person got there to make an adequate comparison to yourself and your situation. Be joyful for them.

You made different choices. You valued different things at different times. If you optimized everything to get the job you maybe would have the job - but you didn’t, because it’s a job and there is more to life than that.

What you see in their title / newspapers / on social media is not their life. The acclaim / praise is not their life. It does not guarantee happiness / success. It does not make you worse or lesser.

May the envy / anger be fleeting. It’s human, it’s allowed, but in the end, useless and harmful.

I don't get this problem much any more, despite the fact that I have achieved little worldly success to date.

I'd say the key thing is that you've noticed the envy, which means that it can't control you -- not all the time.

Keep paying attention.

You realize Vitalik Buterin invented Ethereum when he was 19? The guys who did the Manhattan Project were disgustingly young. Newton invented calculus when he was 21. Hell, Nas released Illmatic when he was 21.

The world has a few winners and lots of losers. Like me, you’re probably a loser. This is just part of the tragicomedy of life. For most of history people were born farmers and died farmers.

The best thing you can do is to focus on being better than yourself yesterday.

Also, envy isn’t a bad thing. If someone has something you don’t, do you want that thing? If yes, envy motivates you to try harder. If no, who cares?

>>For most of history people were born farmers and died farmers.

Individual suffering is one thing.

But for most of history, and for most of history to come. Every one is anonymous.

Read Ozymandias. No one really knows Julius Ceasar. No one.

Which is why fame almost always useless, from an historical perspective. Having a name(famous) means nothing.

Ask yourself why you care about someone else's life in such great detail?

"One thing my pops always told me is you never count another man’s money" —— Steph Curry

Now, granted, he was already really well paid when he said this, but he had only the 4th highest salary on his team at the time.

I was top of my class when I was at school at almost everything (except for things like French, Religious Education and things I didn't care about much). I was top of every class at Sixth Form (16-18).

I went to Uni and there were people that were smarter than me by quite a bit. It is just something you gotta accept and be okay with it.

I am lucky enough to be smarter than the vast majority of the population, and I make more money and I have opportunities that most people don't have

When I saw real poverty it was a reality check and I've calmed down since.

If they're my direct peers and colleagues, and they're not assholes, I think it's better for me if people around me are successful as well. I remind myself that I'd rather not be the smartest person in the room so that way I'm always driven to do better. And I can learn from people around me. I have to consciously remind myself of that, but after a while that perspective becomes instinctual- make them part of your "tribe" and you'll switch to wanting your tribe to succeed.

I remember when I was a kid riding in my car with my mom. I would pretend we were racing other cars. It was a completely meaningless endeavor, of course.

It was great, because any car behind us was losing, and every car that passed us, in my mind, decided they no longer wanted to race. Therefore mom and I were always winning.

I am a petty person, and this approach helps to this day. When someone surpasses me, I think about what's important to me, and then say "oh, that person is playing a different game with different goals."

The smooth talkers are usually poor doers. My experience with such people says that those who are good at PR are rarely deep experts and cannot be counted on to participate productively in a commercial enterprise. Don’t waste your time on these people: they’ve chosen an easier path, one built on social skills rather than solid technical expertise. There’s no shame in focusing on your work and on sharpening your own skill set. After all, that’s what makes you successful in your work. All else is extraneous.

Anyone who's anything-er than you can be your teacher in that thing, if you approach them that way — even if only in your own mind.

If you bring envy to your interactions with these people, the things you'll tend to notice are those that trip envy. If you engage with them as people from whom you can learn something, the things you'll more often observe are just that: things you could learn. They may even be the very same thing; the intent you bring can color your experience of them that deeply.

I try to not set goals that are about me personally, but more about what I want to create. How can I make myself as useful as possible, shape the future as much as possible, connect with as many people as possible, etc.

I still get just as envious as anyone else, especially when times are tough, but thinking outwardly helps get me re-aligned. I've already got everything I need, having more money would just mean living a more comfortable life which is something you get used to and stop appreciating pretty quick.

I don't envy other people; someone is always going to make a higher salary. I do however want a high enough salary (or a successful enough side project) to permanently buy my freedom in terms of time; i.e., financial freedom.

There's many things I would rather be doing with 8-9 hours a day: AI research, cancer research, volunteer work. I also think my greatest achievements in life have all occurred when I wasn't under pressure, which is difficult when you have a full time job.

Being envy is natural, but don't transform that into enmity/hatred towards that person, as that can ruin you. As you get older, you also become 'wiser' in dealing such situations. In younger days, you can compete with any one, since you have years ahead to train yourself. As you get older, you won't have much time, just maintain a cordial relationship as long as your younger colleague is not harming you to the extent that it can lead to PIP, etc.

I don't have statistics on this, but I would guess 99% of all jobs in the world, succeeding above and beyond reproach is not (should not be) an enviable goal in life. Really I think the goal should be to find people / environment that works well for you and embrace it, otherwise move on.

But if you do decide to make it a goal then work toward accomplishing it.

It sounds to me like you're wandering aimlessly in life to have decided your goals are to try to find ways to be counter-productive.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.


(Often more aspirational than practiced. I include myself in this.)

I don't think that's happened.. Now, you're not saying WHY they make more money/get more acclaim/praise, but assuming it's justified, I look up to them and respect them. I don't strive to become like them, I'm me, and they're them. Now, people who's getting credit for something they didn't do, or that I did, that's another matter, but then I guess it no longer qualifies as envy.

Take a deep breath, and a moment to realize that you still make n times more money than the average person and are better off than, hmm, 90% of the average people.

>Does this happen to anyone else?

I'm 34 with a GED barely making 34k a year... I can't open reddit or HN without being envious of most of the people posting.

Munger and Buffett have long addressed envy with a response like the following:

"The idea of caring that someone is making money faster [than you are] is one of the deadly sins. Envy is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. There’s a lot of pain and no fun. Why would you want to get on that trolley?"

I have found that perspective to be helpful. There's no upside for anyone.

Usually I am the object of envy from others (family, friends, acquaintance, neighbors). As a freelancer whom can afford to spend a lot of time doing fun stuff and travel with my family, they always ask me how much money I make. I just explain I am a freelancer and I do stuff on internet, but I never disclose my real income.

One time I met an old friend whom I lost touch, we were in the beginning of 2000's simple programmers at a firm and after that each departed on our ways. So I met him in a plane, me with my family, him alone. Started talking and whatever each has done meanwhile. So he tells me he is the big boss of an international firm, has a very good salary and stuff, planes tickets are bought by the company, car with driver awaiting to drive where he wants, the whole package of a man who did it in life. So I ask him, how much you get paid USD/h? He tells me his monthly salary, which is quite big for our country and we start the math. On one side is the total annual salary + bonuses + covered expenses + medical insurance, etc etc. On the other side number of hours he works/wastes for the firm. We come to an agreement he is paid ~20 euros/hour. Then I drop the bomb "you know, I have plenty of clients who I simple refuse their projects because I don't have time for them, will you consider come working for me and help me with those projects? I will pay you double, 40 euros/hour for beginning and later we can raise to 50 after you get back in business with programming skills?"...his jaw dropped.

I'm sorry but I fail to understand how this post was in any way helpful.

Can you explain what it was here that you thought would help OP in helping him deal with his problems?

By providing him with an advice on dealing with the opposite side of the coin. Unless you're unable to comprehend how this world work, everybody's gonna figure it out sooner or later in life how to be successful. So the OP will be at one time in the future object of envy as well.

So you avoid disclosing your income, but then ask your old colleague point-blank for his. Care to elaborate on this apparent inconsistency?

Have you considered his jaw dropping has little to do with your made up figures, and more with your general attitude?

jealous much?

Doesn't happen to me, because no matter how good other's have it, there's a large amount of others that have it worse. If you're not happy about your condition, do something about it. Want more money? Go make it, want more acclaim? Go get it. If you want it bad enough and are willing to put in the time and effort, you will get it.

I don’t know if envy is the correct word, but I do find it frustrating when people are rewarded for making harmful decisions or playing office politics over producing quality output. It’s not so much that I am jealous of their success but that their harms are now enshrined in the organization and everybody else will ultimately pay for it.

I'd recommend reading "The Laws of Human Nature" by Robert Greene. It talks about this.

My interpretation from the book: it's a perfectly natural feeling, but it doesn't mean you have to act on negative destructive instincts. There are ways to channel this energy into more productive behaviours (e.g. by using it to challenge yourself).

If you are ok with older people being more successful and value their mentorship, just think you identified another potential mentor ahead of their time in age. Start learning from them now... would you be jealous of Einstein if he came back reincarnated younger than you ? Or would you cherish the chance to get to know him ?

hmm personally I haven't really felt this way since high school (I'm 26 right now working as a SWE in NYC). I think you're at a great point because you have the ability to turn that envy into something productive. Perhaps it's learning a new skill that you can apply on the job, that will get you paid more. Trying to invalidate someone is counter productive, because chances are it will not make you anymore successful/happy. Furthermore, it is taking away time from activities that will certainly make you successful and happy. So with that said, as the Nike commercials state, "Just Do It". Start something that you know will make you happy and successful in your path. When you get bored, tried, lazy, unmotivated of "just doing it" think about that envy, use it to continue forward. Make others want to be envious of you!

The best solution is to just compete with your previous self and be thankful for what you have. Easier said than done!

It can be helpful to reframe your envy as simply being happy for others.

Other than specific edge cases (for example, competing with a colleague for a promotion), success is not mutually exclusive.

You can be happy for your peers when they do well -- their performance doesn't mean that you can't succeed, too.

I haven't had that issue much but one thing to try to do instead is try to observe them learn from them and their failues and successes. Even if you could never directly match them you could assuge yourself by continuing to learn, grow, and avoid their pitfalls.

Make an effort to determine exactly WHY you feel envy. It might be a signal that something is wrong. It's easy to feel envious about pay if you're struggling with debt. Easy to feel envious about acclaim/praise when your skills are not current.

No, this doesn't happen to me. When someone younger gets accolades, I celebrate. If I can, I try to learn a technique from them that might have helped them get their success, but it's not always possible to isolate for just one thing.

You've got some internal, "spiritual" things you've got to sort out then. Be happy for them, learn from them, emulate what your identity allows. Otherwise, forget about it. You're not going to grow from envying people.

Whenever you feel envious, remember that your world need NOT be a zero-sum game.

If you find yourself envious, instead focus on enlarging ur world to escape the zero-sum mentality. Try thinking beyond the limitations you perceive yourself in currently.

He probably borrowed this from the Bible, but despite Louis CK being toxic, I still hear him saying, "never look in someone else's bowl to see if they have more than you. Only look to make sure they have enough."

Doing well is the best revenge. When you find yourself seething take ten minutes and do some career development, pick something to study that you're weak in and funnel that non productive time into your future success

Even better, have someone else tell you your weaknesses because you probably don’t notice them the way that others do.

I recently was working with a quantum startup where the founder was so jealous of me he came up with a new lie about his history and accomplishments multiple times a day. It was endless, and nearly nothing he said had any basis in reality.

I totally gave up on him when his lies became so audacious he got mad at me twice for casually dismissing his claims of being the real Satoshi and that Rigetti totally stole his ideas, forcing him to play catch up. He managed to get in a story about strangling a person to death and the Canadian Armed Forces covering it up because it was a "ptsd-related blackout," and that the RCMP would put out a kill order if anyone without top secret clearance entered his commercial "lab".

Why he couldn't figure out why I was so disinterested in these stories is beyond me... I think he was just looking for a buddy with similar professional interests that he could brag to, and couldn't figure out how to keep me interested in his otherwise woefully lacking / plagiarized code base that didn't do nearly half of what he claimed it did.

Originally I was trying to help him get his head on straight, but within a day of his total meltdown at my expense, I was over that, and have zero sympathy for what his investors are soon to learn.

Ironically, in all his fantasy wisdom and military-strength security, even after supposedly having his ideas stolen from him, he never got me to sign a non-disclosure agreement, even when I brought it up multiple times with both him and his primary investor.

It really looks like self-sabotage to me. Baffling.

Sometimes the best thing to do in that kind of a situation is to let the person "win" the conversation every so often.

Most of the time I just nodded along and mmhmm until he lost steam. It's hard to fake interest throughout a full on barrage of crazy.

I went along with everything until I discovered nearly his entire code base was copied from other people's git repos and the one thing that seemed to have a little genuine code wasn't capable of meeting his claims. Then he pretended it as "obfuscated" and as a hacker, I should see through it. The problem is,I totally saw through it.

Maybe he was hoping I'd turn his imaginations into real things. I really couldn't tell.

His behaviour was so bizarre, I was concerned he could explode spectacularly. Not worth the time and effort to calm his jealousy and internal rage.

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