Envy is the thief to joy

My entire life, I have prided myself on my accomplishments. I never explicitly tied it to my direct value as a human being but a part of me always felt better / worse than someone purely based on professional and academic achievement. 

I was bullied a lot as in high school. I went to a classic high school with the nerds, jocks, band geeks, etc. with a clear peking order. You can imagine I was a nerd. With that bitterness, I was always determined to out-achieve my peers in life to "make them regret it". Flash forward - I graduated from a top Ivy, worked at a big three consultancy, MF PE shop and now a HF making much more money than I deserve. The funny thing is, at this point in life, I do not even think about the kids in high school (and I'm sure they don't think of me either). However, it has left me with a habit to valuing myself and others based on our achievements. And there's always someone better than me aka I'm always jealous of others and quite down on myself. 

Over the last few years, I've been trying to fix this issue. Earnestly, I have achieved more than I ever imagined. Historically, my approach has been to be more grateful for how far I've come and the opportunities given to me and that "99% of the world is worse off". However, I'm starting to think this is flawed and would love others thoughts. By making myself feel better by saying "I'm better than 99% of the world", I'm still making a comparison with myself and others i.e. rooting my value based on relative life differences. My new approach is to try to find non-relative meaning, value and happiness. In other words, ideally, I no longer look down on anyone or up to someone purely based on their professional merit. Rather, I look up to those who have found peace and joy in life and down on others who are assholes. 

The above are loose ramblings I am having during lunch as I realized how unhappy I am with my way of living. I would love if others have advice / books to read to help become a less envious and jealous person. I just want to be myself.  

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Comments (42)

Jun 24, 2021 - 7:56am

Asking for exact age and/or salary is considered rude, except in very specific and obvious circumstances (want to know the age of a chic you're thinking about dating). Even if we're online a lot of people here are from upper class and as a result it prob comes off the wrong way when you ask. 

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 24, 2021 - 9:34am

Hey man - OP here. The thing about answering your question is that I feel like it goes against my goals in the post I mentioned. If I tell you, the outcomes are (i) WSO validates how much I make for my age or (ii) WSO makes me feel like shit for how much I make given my age. In addition, I feel like it'll feed my way back into using my accomplishments / compensation / etc. as a form of making myself feel better. 

BUT - I get you're curious so I'll give you directional numbers. Late twenties. $$$ is more than my path had I stayed in MF PE. Happiness is slightly better given better WLB / more meaningful work but not life changing (as you can see from my post)

Most Helpful
Jun 23, 2021 - 1:46pm

There is a large difference between guilt and gratitude. Guilt for the things and opportunities one has leads to evil. Gratitude leads to good. Historically, people have expressed their gratitude to God. In this day and age, with so many non-believers, one might express gratitude to those who came before us, who built a civilization that allows us to have jobs that aren't physically demanding and that pay really well. A civilization that is imperfect in its meritocracy but generally allows people to work their way up through the system.

The ingratitude in our current society has led to a generation of miserable people who are one injustice away from revolution. Those who are successful feel guilty and blame the "evil" generations before them for denying others opportunity today; those who are not successful by relative standards think they live a life of deprivation and it's because of the "evil" generations before them denying them opportunity today. Gratitude is basically impossible with such an attitude. 

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Jun 23, 2021 - 2:17pm

Bookmark with comment. Button broke again

What’s past is past and can’t be undone. It has led to the circumstances we now face. All we can do is recognize our circumstances for what they are and make the best decisions we can, “given the givens.” - Howard Marks

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Jun 23, 2021 - 11:25pm

You just think of that on the spot, Dostoevsky?

path less traveled

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Jun 23, 2021 - 2:34pm

Take this with a grain of salt but my 2cents: I am genuinely a happy person nearly all the time. And for me comparing myself to others was something i did only when i was in a bad place mentally. Here is what I do to stay happy, I focus only on what I have control over. I can control the way I think and act, thats about it. I cant control how people view me or how people interact with me, it has allowed me to understand if i cant control it then why would i let it bother me. I think if you are constantly comparing yourself to others you must need some validation from something or someone since you are not happy within yourself. Maybe instead of comparing start focusing on why youre doing the things youre doing. Why did you try hard in highschool ? because you wanted to be better than everyone else or because you wanted that validation from people jealous of you. Its easy to compare yourself to others but its not easy to ask yourself why you even have those thoughts in the first place

Jun 23, 2021 - 11:31pm

I kinda agree with this. I'm pretty much always happy and its because I have always taken my own path. I dont have daddy issues so Im not trying to fill his electrician shoes. Everything I do I do because it genuinely interests me. Even if I am just a competitive person, I find satisfaction in the tycoon game that is life-did not feel happy fuxkin bitches and doing drugs/drinking. 

When I stay up late working its because I want to. As soon as its something I dont want anymore I will simply choose another path.

path less traveled

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 24, 2021 - 9:37am

OP here. I think this is great advice - I do. I think the part I struggle with is taking the theoretical to practical every day thinking and results. For example, it's fairly common knowledge that money only matters so far, spend time with family / friends, love more and work less, etc. but it's hard to implement these "cliches" into everyday life and living. It makes complete rational sense to only stress about things I can control but it's very difficult to live and breathe that mantra. 

I love your latter point though. It's probably worth some introspection to even understand myself and to have better self awareness. Can't fix a problem if I don't understand the full grasp of the problem, right? 

Jun 25, 2021 - 4:42pm

Can I ask you what makes it difficult to live and breathe the mantra, or what makes it hard to implement the "cliches"? perhaps you have more life experience than I so I am not familiar with the difficulties that arise with implementation. If you are worried about how people perceive you, you need to ask yourself why you give random people power over your life, why are you so worried about people's opinions of you? Of course no one wants everyone to hate them but you need to think and worry about yourself. The most successful people are sometimes the most controversial. 

why fix a problem if it doesn't have to be a problem in the first place, I would think about the source of all these thoughts and try and have some reflection. Feel free to PM but good luck. Wish the best for your journey. 

Jun 23, 2021 - 8:43pm

If your only motivation was getting back at your HS bullies, you probably wouldn't have made it this far.  Face it, some people love work and constantly striving to be on top.  You're probably one of them, and if you were some regular schmuck who worked an average job and smoked weed after work, you'd be unhappy.

Jun 23, 2021 - 11:34pm

^^ But it is true that the social ostacization can make a man bitter and constantly seeking affirmation in those who deprived him of it. It is the basis of most psychological problems nowadays. There is definitely the potential of childhood events to leave a permanent mark on the psyche.

path less traveled

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 24, 2021 - 9:43am

REVENGE. Jk. Motivation to get back at my high school bullies was the start of the snowball. Then, the audience changed but the motivation was similar - always get the respect of people around me. In other words, I wanted my college friends to think my post college job was "sick". Same with my consulting mates. Same with my associate class. You get it. The only difference is I like all of my classmates / colleagues and hated my high school counterparts. 

However, the reality is, the people I care / love don't care what I do with my life and I shouldn't care about the people I hate, right? But, I keep living and making decisions based on getting the respect of an abstract audience that may or may not care about me. 

Jun 23, 2021 - 11:38pm

International student at an ivy here. I'm much younger than you so I don't want to sound disrespectful or unaware of your life experiences but I think I have some value to share. I had the same mindset throughout high school that gunning for an ivy made me special and superior to others in some ways. But after two years in college and doing finance internships, including one at a multi billion AM, I realized that thinking about these career achievements as a benchmark against others or thinking that one has achieved much is futile. You say that you feel as if you have achieved more than you have ever thought you could in earnest. But have you really? There are much much more people who are making a bigger impact on the world from for example your target university who may have changed the world with their technological innovation or entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, you are a highly paid employee at a very selective industry. But your actual impact on people is minimal and can you actually say that you make a difference?  Your life in terms of your career thus far sounds like jumping through hoops after hoops because of risk aversion and the next "exit opp". Your career trajectory and past outlook on life actually sounds like something I would like to avoid. I think recognizing that your past pursuit of these "opportunities" was myopic would really make you happier. There are several kinds of success and fulfillment and it is not a competition like climbing the high finance ladder. 

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 24, 2021 - 9:45am

Beast mode man. 

I don't disagree with anything you've said. I have personally reigned in my aspirations to change the world or disrupt on industry. If I don't, I think I'll become even more jealous haha but you're right that there's always more. When I meant by I achieved more than I expected, I purely meant comp and career trajectory. Coming from an immigrant family that was relatively poor, making more than my parents my first year out of college was already above my expectations. 

Jun 24, 2021 - 7:46am

Keep it simple man. 

For me, I equate everything in life - advancing my career, doing good work, making friends, dating, etc... - as being some form of problem solving. And I absolutely love problem solving. Even when I fail, I'm happy because failure poses new challenges = new problems to solve.

Find that "theme" that you can build your life around. You'll never ever be unhappy

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 24, 2021 - 9:45am

I really like this. I do find simplifying everything is the move. I'll try this out - appreciate it

Jun 24, 2021 - 11:01am

The Non-Economist

Keep it simple man. 

For me, I equate everything in life - advancing my career, doing good work, making friends, dating, etc... - as being some form of problem solving. And I absolutely love problem solving. Even when I fail, I'm happy because failure poses new challenges = new problems to solve.

Find that "theme" that you can build your life around. You'll never ever be unhappy

Just to take this one step further, the majority of your seemingly big problems are really just a bunch of smaller problems for you to solve.  Makes life seem less daunting.
 

Also, to get back to OP's question, focus on playing your own game.  Know you have an unique background/story with unique goals.   Don't care so much how others succeed.  Focus on succeeding in your own game.  You'll have less envy.

Have compassion as well as ambition and you’ll go far in life
Jun 24, 2021 - 11:34am

Fantastic Post and glad you have started your journey and quest for knowledge and deeper meaning.I'd highly recommend the book 'Why Buddhism is True" by Robert Wright.

He has a very practical and scientific approach to explaining applied Buddhism in Western Society. Believe he is a University of Virginia professor.

Feel free to PM as you crack it open or have other questions.I'd also highly recommend checking out Stoicism. Daily stoic email newsletter is a 5 minute read each morning and great place to start!All Love!

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Jun 24, 2021 - 10:25pm

Hi OP, great post. I am definitely an underachiever compared to you, and I hope I can offer something here.

I took a gap year to do my first finance internship, got laid off on my first job, managed my way into a bullshit tech company, quit after 3 months when the company got raided by cops (not exaggerating), and is now in a terrible investment banking group at a big balance sheet bank

So far, I have made almost 0 money and I am nowhere near a promotion. By the time I'm 28, I'll probably be an associate when my peers are 24/25 year olds. I don't even know if my lateraling efforts will succeed as I don't like my current group's business model.

What have I got ? I got really tough. I have experienced a lot in the last 3-4 years, most of them things people wish don't happen to them. For example, who would want your 1st job to last only 5 months, when covid-19 hits ?

I also read a lot. In 2019 I finished 40 books, quite a few of them literature. I think reading literature is a great way for you to explore yourself, understand human beings, and this world. 

I feel like you have had a smooth ride since college. That's great. In the mean time, prepare yourself is never enough mentally. You need to go through them to become stronger. 

Jun 25, 2021 - 8:11pm

Agree with that statement. Therapist might be the best solution in this case. I'm in my early 30s and from another country. Kind of going through similar experiences, except super "successful"career. Maybe midlife crisis? Who knows, but speaking to my friends in that age category ( from different walks of life) - it seems like majority have some kind of realizations about themselves and life in general and dealing with issues with therapy's help. Plus it never hurts to try

Jun 28, 2021 - 5:16pm

First of all, as humans, we are genetically coded to be selfish; so don't be too hard on yourself. (Thanks R. Dawkins)

Second, You seem to attribute your human value as a person to the economic value of your pay. While true in a capitalistic economic sense of self worth this is not fully true because humans are more than what they contribute to the economy. Many people find value in what they do every day; making less than 10% of your paycheck and in developing countries maybe even 1%-3% of your paycheck. Try to fix this monetary sense of self worth. 

Third, I'll assume you are feeling lost in this complex world you live in. You have been trying to stick it to people who don't care and never did care for the last decade and now that you have; you have lost your sense of purpose and are looking for something to to keep you going. A sense of purpose can be one of the hardest things to rediscover in ones life because that is why you wake up every morning and do what you do. You make a conscious decision to commit to every action you perform. Figure out why you do what you do. This can help remove your jealous thoughts because you have a virtuous goal in mind rather than jealous distractions. 

Forth, I would recommend becoming the best version of yourself. Improve yourself everyday stop focusing on what everyone else is doing around you.  

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