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Cartoon: Learn from your envy

Learn from Your Envy

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

One of the things I do professionally is to give speeches - keynote speeches, motivational speeches and training speeches mostly related to creativity. I get flown to interesting places and get paid a decent sum for my talks. I also know a few other people who do the same kind of thing. Some of them even speak on similar topics. So, when I see one of them is getting more business than I am, or is going to more exotic places than I go or tells funnier jokes during a talk than I do -- I sometimes feel a little envious.

Sometimes, I feel very envious.

When this happens, I try to turn off the envy and learn from these people. After all, if they are getting more business than I am or going to more exotic places than I do or telling funnier jokes than I do, it implies they are doing some things better than I do. It is far more useful to work out what it is they do better and learn from them than it is to be spiteful and try to diminish their accomplishments.

This does not mean I copy those whom I might envy. No way! Rather, I try to learn from them. For example, if I see that someone who is getting more business than me is exploiting social media with slick, commercial messages, I might experiment with social media. But, my professional style is relaxed and less businesslike than many in my line of business. So my messages should also be less slick and more, well, more Jeffrey-like.

If You Do Not Know Why Someone Outdoes You, Ask Her

If it is not clear why someone is succeeding in ways that inspire envy, I can ask her. Most people are delighted to be asked for advice and happy to pass it on. Indeed, just as I envy others who seem more successful than me, those people also envy others. Some of them may even envy me! And I am certainly delighted and proud to give advice when asked for it.

It's Hard to Learn When You Want to Belittle

It is easy for me to suggest you try to learn from those you envy. In large part this is because we often prefer to find fault with those we envy, by criticising them and belittling their accomplishments. This makes us feel better, of course, but it does not lead to self improvement. Rather, it leads to complacency. If I tell myself that a guy who gets lots of speaking gigs is incompetent and wins those gigs only because his wife is the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, I may feel better about myself, but I have not bettered myself. He will probably continue to get more gigs than I get. I will probably continue to envy him.

On the other hand, if I open my mind to learn from him, I can innovate myself. Clearly, this is the better option for me. That said, I am sure my partner would object to my dumping her to marry a Fortune 100 company CEO, so I would have to look deeper and identify his other strengths.

Likewise, the next time someone else's success sparks envy or even jealousy in you, do not belittle her accomplishments. Work out why she succeeded and try to learn from that.

 

 

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