On a recent interview, Charlie Munger was asked about inflation and the current economic state we’re in. During that interview, he said something that I think is one of the most profound statements about what drives people to do what they do and explains a LOT of the vitriol and divisiveness in our country today: “The world is not driven by greed but by envy. The fact that everyone’s 5 times better off than they used to be…they take it for granted. All they think about is someone having more than they have.”
If you’re successful in business or in a position where you’re earning more than most of the others in your family, there’s a very good chance you have to deal with passive-aggressive behaviors or outright direct attacks on you that are cloaked in some “virtuous cause” but actually fueled by envy.
You’ll almost certainly deal with people who feel you have undeserved success, convinced you’re taking advantage of others for your personal gains. I am often on the receiving end of that by people with higher education and degrees. They are flat-out disgusted by someone like me – a high school dropout – making 100X more than they are. This is based on nothing BUT envy, given that those who’ve attacked me know nothing about me or my business, don’t take into consideration (or even care to ask) that I’ve had ZERO help and have flat out worked for my success for over 2 decades, taking risks, making sacrifices and doing things they simply won’t do.
Even friends and family will talk about you behind your back, about how it must be so disappointing that you have to work ALL the time and how sad it is that you don’t spend more time with your family, taking vacations or doing “nonwork” activities. This is all said with a sneer and false sympathy toward your situation. Don’t buy it.
Also, don’t let people sell you on this concept of “money won’t buy happiness” claptrap.
Most pushing this idea are short on money and clueless about how to go and get some. Of course, money doesn’t buy happiness, but neither does poverty. If it did, everyone living in the projects would be the happiest, most fulfilled humans walking the earth and every rich person would be a miserable bastard. I know a lot of very wealthy people who are very fulfilled and happy.
When I was poor, I constantly worried about money, and about how I was going to pay the rent, buy food, scrape together enough money to fix my broken-down car, or pay for medical bills. Of course, having a business creates problems as well, but I’ll keep those problems all day long vs. the problem of not having enough money and having to scrape by.
Finally, I would also encourage YOU not to be envious of other people’s lives or businesses, allowing this envy to shut you down and not LEARN from them, or make you feel less than. Let your drive be based on your desire to be a better version of yourself and to create the life and circumstances you want, not on a need to keep up with others or impress a bunch of people you don’t give a rat’s butt about. Find your reason why. My drive is to be the best version of myself that I can.
As Jordan Peterson so astutely says, compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to where someone else is today.
That’s a game you can actually win and is a far more productive exercise than allowing yourself to wallow in envy, resenting those who are better off, and dismissing it as luck or gains by nefarious means. Get curious when you see someone succeeding. Learn. And replace any envy with gratitude for what you do have, what you’ve already accomplished. It would be a much better world if we applauded and championed others’ successes instead of tearing them down.
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