The Envy Cure

Saturday, 3:17pm
Mendocino, CA
Under my thumb is a squirming dog who just had her day…” (Stones)

Howdy. I’m republishing this article from 2010, cuz it was one of the most-discussed and helpful posts I’ve written. And it’s on a subject most biz books not only ignore, but aggressively seek to dismiss. Yet, in my decades of consulting, I see it bubble up in nearly every entrepreneur I meet at some point.

So, enjoy another nugget from the archives. (And I hope you didn’t eat much — again — at Thanksgiving…):

Friend…

Do you suffer from the heartbreak of envy?

Are you jealous of friends and colleagues who attain success, while you continue to struggle?

Would you like to learn a simple cure for feeling inferior to others?

Well, then step right up…

Here’s the story: I grew up with the definite impression that ambition was a moral failing.  The operative phrase was “Don’t get too big for your britches”…

… which was a cold warning to anyone who dared attempt to rise above their (vaguely defined) place in life.

And one of the greatest joys was to gleefully watch the collapse and humbling of the High & Mighty.  I believe there’s some evolutionary fragment left in our systems that wants a solid check on keeping folks from leaving the pack.

Now, if you risk failing and succeed, that’s great.  We were there for ya the entire time, Bucko.  Rooted for ya.  Got yer back.

I think our innate need for leadership allows for a select few to “make it” without hostility.  And, as long as they provide whatever it is we need from them — protection, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, decisive action, look good in a tight sweater, whatever — they get a pass.

But we seem to have a ceiling of tolerance for others moving up the hierarchy too fast.  Whoa, there, buddy.  Where do you think you’re going?

And when the unworthy grab the brass ring, it can trigger a hormone dump that’ll keep you up all night.  Because, why did HE make it, when he’s clearly not the right dude towin.  This is totally fucking unfair, and makes ME look bad now.

The lucky creep.

I hope he screws up and gets what’s coming to him…

And so on.

I’ve felt it, you’ve felt it, the nicest person you’ve ever met has felt it.  Humans are constantly comparing themselves to others, and we do not like it when Mr. Envy comes a’knockin’.

Dan Sullivan (of Strategic Coach) has a good take on this: He suggests you stop comparing yourself to others… and instead, compare yourself to yourself.  Get happy with the progress you’ve made from wherever you were before.  Don’t allow your brain to start measuring how short you came up against your lofty dreams, or other’s success. (Which is what most folks do.)

I like that tactic.

However, I have another one I’ve been employing ever since I began my solo career, so many decades ago.

It works, and I think you’ll like having it in your tool kit.

Back then, as a raw rookie, I was dangerously inept.  And woefully inexperienced and unprepared for the tasks ahead of me.  Had I allowed my Inner Scaredy-Cat to win the argument, I never would have left the house to go snag my first gig.

Worse, as I moved into inner circles (at joints like Jay Abraham’s offices), I began to encounter other writers my age and younger… who were light-years ahead of me in every category.  Fame, skill, wealth… and especially that precious sense of feeling like you earned your place in the world and belonged there.

Mr. Envy showed up frequently, and occasionally I would find myself secretly wishing for these guys to fail.  I mean, why them and not me yet?  The bastards were too big for their britches…

But that wasn’t gonna work. If I wanted to earn my OWN place in the world, I realized I needed to knee-cap Mr. Envy, and lock that demon away somewhere forever.

Because the better way to look at things… was to congratulate these guys on their success, learn from their adventures getting there, and encourage even more success for them.

There was, I knew (once Mr. Envy was muzzled), plenty of room for everybody in the writing game… and the other guy’s success didn’t impact my own even a little bit.

In fact, once I selflessly began networking with them, they helped me out.  It was win-win, all the way.

Still, though… that nagging sense of “Gee, I wish I was him” kept lurching back into my head. I wanted to be an MTV rock star, a drooled-over novelist, an infamous international lover, a frequent guest on Larry King (this was a long time ago, folks), David Letterman’s best friend, a gazillionaire with no worries about rent or…

And that’s when I stumbled on this extremely cool CURE for envy.

I’m sure I nicked it from some other source, somewhere… but I haven’t been able to find it explained anywhere else.  Maybe I really did invent it.

At any rate… it works.

Wanna know what it is?

Okay.  Here is my…

Super-Potent Envy Cure: When you find yourself wishing you were someone else… or at least in their shoes, enjoying all the great stuff they seem to be enjoying…

… just imagine being inside their skin — really inside them, being them — for 5 minutes.  Dealing with everything that makes them who they are.

And then see if their life still looks so good.

Most envy comes from a lack of something, perceived or real.  When you’re broke, the dude with two hundred bucks in his checking account looks like a winner.  When you’re desperately horny, the guy getting laid all the time looks like the hero of a 007 novel.  When you’re being ignored in your market, the mogul with the big business machine looks like a cushy gig.

This is where your street-level salesmanship comes in.  (Which is what I’ve been trying to share with y’all over the past 6 years here in the blog.)

Great salesmen lead better lives.  Not because they sell lots of stuff… but because they live in the real world.  You can’t be efficient selling when you’re hobbled with a belief that the world (and everyone in it) “should” behave a certain way… or you wish they would.

Naw.  You gotta be hip to how people actually operate.  So you take off the blinders, and peek behind the masks, and get to know your fellow high-end primates REALLY well, from deep inside their hearts and minds.

This raising of the curtain — shocking at first — will actually make you love people more… while also helping you understand why they do what they do.  You’ll understand why good people do bad things, why bad people do good things, and why the inner life of everyone around you is unique.

And while you love your fellow beasts…

… once you feel comfy with yourself (because you’re finally going after your goals and engaging in your own rollicking adventure in life)…

… you won’t want to spend even a full minute inside the skin of anyone else.

Because it is CREEPY AS HELL in there.

I love to read autobiographies and biographies.  (Or skim them, when they’re horribly written.)

It has changed my outlook — and my petty jealousies — to learn the real story of the people I once idolized, and often wished I was living their life.

Wow, does it ever change your outlook.  Especially when you discover the wicked little secrets that fueled their motivation to attain whatever it is — fame, acclaim, wealth, accomplishments — that triggered your envy button.

The novelists loathed themselves.  The movie stars craved adulation like junk.  The great lovers were joyless asshole sociopaths.  The wealthy barons were infested with sick needs.

Big men still pitied themselves over Mommie’s inattention.  Forceful leaders were quivering lakes of insecurity.  Debonair social stalwarts harbored unquenchable dark desires.

Yes, there are folks out there who succeed without secret vices and immature cravings.

They’re also boring as hell.  And you’d be screaming for release after ten seconds inside their skin.  (Many have just been unusually successful at quashing their sweaty-palmed desires.  In fact, the boring ones are often sitting on the nastiest payloads of demons.  See: Every Bible-thumping politician recently caught with hookers and drugs.)

You want wit, a lust of adventure, forceful opinions and a knack for winning in your heroes?

I do, too.  But I’ve learned to like them despite the roiling mess of complexity coursing through their veins.

In fact, I embrace it.  I like my heroes flawed — it brings out the luster of their accomplishments.

It also highlights the elusive (and quickly disappearing) moments of satisfaction they seek.

You’re alive.  You are here on this earth with a ticket to ride that expires (sometimes sooner rather than later).  You may wish you had a better set-up… finer bone structure, a thicker mop of hair, more muscles, more impressive genitals, bluer eyes, a rich uncle with you in the will, whatever hang-up is spoiling your enjoyment of life…

… but the simplest way to attain lasting happiness is to let your dumb-ass desires drift away, and get jiggy with who you are now, and what you’ve got to work with.

It’s kind of Zen, and it takes effort to get there.  But it’s worth it.

You can’t be happy all the time, but you can actually enjoy the down times, too, once you change your basic orientation from “I wish” to “Here I am”.  Some of the most satisfied people I know are butt-ugly trolls who have learned that natural beauty is fraught with negative side effects (and not worth pursuing)…

… and that, at the end of the day, what really counts is what you bring to the table in terms of being a quality human being.

I’ve known a MOB of successful people in my career (including many of the most famous and infamous “bigger than life” legends in business).  I’ve been friends with them, been let in behind the scenes, and hung out long enough to see behind the mask.

And I wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes inside any of their skins, ever.  I like who I am, with all my faults and all my regrets and all my inherent stupidity.  I fit well inside my own skin.

And — though it took a VERY long time — I earned my place in the world.  Really earned it.  Nothing happened from wishing, or cheating, or relying on luck.

Naw.  I blundered my way into the Feast of Life.  Utterly fucked things up along the ride… but kept learning from mistakes, kept cleaning up my messes and fixing what I broke when I could, kept trying and growing and staying true to the goals that resonated with me.  That’s all I had going for my sorry ass.

We’re all pathetically flawed.  All of us, from James Bond on down through your neighbor who just bought the new Jag (and won’t stop gloating about the deal he got).

Nobody gets out of here unscathed.  You can’t live without making mistakes and stepping on toes.

And yes, sometimes you will get too big for your britches, when you’re going for the gusto.  When it happens, buy new ones.

Stay frosty (and true to yourself),

John

P.S. My recent reads include the autobiographies of Keith Richards and Christopher Hitchens.  Keith’s may be the best-written of all-time — he’s a brilliant storyteller, used a writer who knew him for decades to help collect his thoughts coherently… and he is tough on himself.  Hitch bares all, but can be a bit long-winded.

The key to biographies is NOT to settle old scores, or try to spin your existence so your legacy looks better.  Screw that nonsense.

The key is to spill the beans, relentlessly.  Lift up your mask, raise the curtain on your demons, cop to your trespasses.  And share the juicy details. The story is not the broad overview, but the detail.  You lived it, dude.  I wasn’t there.

What happened?

P.P.S. What biographies or autobiographies have you liked?

And let us know, in the comment section here, how you’ve handled envy (good or bad) in your life.  Along with the realization that your fellow passengers on this whirling planet are one scary-ass species…

49 Responses to The Envy Cure

  1. Hi John

    I can’t remember the last biography I read …. it must have been some time ago. Yea we envy people … but I fear the one thing that covertly holds me back is the fear of the envy of others.

    In the past I would do very kind things for others that were close to me just to get ‘slapped’ by them as they were unable (or unwilling) to achieve the things that I was doing that were keeping us all afloat.

    I feel that being ostracized from the pack has huge implications for people and I found my self ‘downgrading’ my talents just to stay friends with people who would hate me for even the smallest of achievements.

    I don’t know anyone who’s shoes I would rather be in …. as you say, everyone gets scathed somehow and the more money you have, the grater the frustrations you have to put up with to earn it!!

    Maybe its time to become a monk ??? :)

    thanks for the great post once again

    regards

    xxxxcarlxxxx

    • Yeah, money won’t buy you happiness… but most of us would prefer to find that out on our own. And, there remains a lot to be said for having some bucks behind your dreams. However, if you live a good life, there will be times where money was the last thing required to feel fulfilled, or happy, or hopeful. I’ve never personally lived above the consumption level I felt happy with decades ago — I drive an old Ford, I cherish my old guitars I’ve had forever, and while I do bling-out on computer equipment, my office is totally old-school (and very, very untidy). I’m wearing old tennis shoes, my fave jeans, and an ancient baseball cap (meaningful to me)… and I’m home with my dogs and my lady, happy as hell.

      Take the ostracizing from the pack with a big grain of salt — your real friends will eventually welcome you back into the fold, after they’re used to the “new you” of achievement and high work ethic. But it may take a little time…

      • Hi John

        Some great wisdom here thanks:

        “However, if you live a good life, there will be times where money was the last thing required to feel fulfilled, or happy, or hopeful.”

        I notice that some of the happiest people in the World live in the poorest countries so you are right there for sure :)

        “Take the ostracizing from the pack with a big grain of salt — your real friends will eventually welcome you back into the fold, after they’re used to the “new you” of achievement and high work ethic. But it may take a little time…”

        Thanks for that … those people have gone from my life no anyway and I am attracting good people as I progress.

        Thanks for the kind words John

        regards

        xxxxcarlxxxx

      • A wise friend of mine talks about the “Tribal Comfort Zone”. It’s like this: If life were lived on a scale of 1-10, the TCZ is at 5-6 with occasional highs of 7-9 and lows of 2-4.

        If we get too low, people step in to pull us back up. If we get too high, we are pulled back down. If we resist we get booted – by the 5-6’s. Bummer? Maybe but handle the groove and your new tribe now consists of 7-8’s. John, your riff and Carl’s comment reminded me of that. I’m feeling like an 8 right now so Muchas Garcias!

        • Hmmm… that sounds almost right, Alan. You’re blessed if you have a tribe like that. However, I spent the first years of my career with NO tribe — I didn’t have a network yet of colleagues, and my longtime pals sort of avoided the entire topic of being an entrepreneur (because it was strange and scary to them). When I did cobble a network together, though, the tribal support kicked in fast. So, good point.

  2. Hi John,
    My favorite autobiographies: Thomas Jefferson, Buckminster Fuller; Andrew Carnegie (currently reading) and Ernest Holmes.

    I have had a lot of practice this year at being grateful for what I have. It is often a conscious choice. Still, there was a weekend in August that the envy-monster bit hard. I wasn’t just green with it; I was chartreuse, olive, kelly and forest.

    Husband’s son had stopped by on his fancy motorcycle for a quick visit. He told us he was going to Saratoga for the weekend to watch the horse races. He was carrying “a few clothes, some good weed, and $1,000 spending money” so he could have some fun. He roared off in a cloud of dust; and for a few intense minutes I hated my life and everything about it. I was laid up with the broken leg and ankle; Husband had been unemployed for two months; and we couldn’t keep food in the house, never mind take a vacation.

    I wanted to be him. I would’ve killed to trade places. Then Husband told me that “D” (the son) was getting a divorce and was facing a very big legal battle. His impulsive vacation was actually an escape, because they had just separated. That was enough to cure me of my envy. Our life may be hard but we love each other and that matters a hell of a lot more than money. :-)

    • I’ve had multiple similar situations in my life. I think we just naturally make assumptions about the happiness of others, especially when we’re not overjoyed ourselves. Ideally, we want health. love, safety, wealth, lack of boredom, all of it… but you can easily live an entire life quite happily without ever having all of those things at peak levels. It’s all in your outlook, and what you value…

      Thanks for the note. Good luck getting back on your feet, Sharon.

  3. Hi John,

    As always thanks for the insight.

    When will we be able to read your autobiography?

    I’ve learned a lot of very useful skills reading this blog, mostly from your experiences as a rookie. It’d be cool to have them all in one edition.

    Just throwin it out there =)

    Thanks John.

    Marcus

    • Actually, I’m working on the autobio, but we’re talking a loooong time before it’s done. More people have to die first, so I can tell those stories I wouldn’t dream of telling because it might embarrass them. Hell, I may have to die first, before some of this shit gets told.

      Meanwhile, this blog is almost pure autobiographical at its core. Most long-time readers know me pretty well — I’m a share-pig, and I’m not afraid to tell stories that mostly make me look bad… because (thankfully) I’ve learned nearly all the “big” lessons from disasters in my life. When things are going swimmingly, there are few lessons to learn. You just kick back and enjoy the ride. But when you fuck everything up, there are messes to clean, and lessons to take to heart. And jobs ahead, preparing yourself so you don’t make that same mistake again.

      Most writers are autobiographical, even with ads. They may hide it, but the best “voice” comes from the heart, and you can’t fake it.

      Thanks for the note, Marcus.

  4. John, this post really got me fired up. Okay, I would like to add something from my own experience.

    Take off the rose colored glasses. See a situation for what it really is. Not what you would like it to be. This not only applies to business, but life in general.

    Too many times we get caught up in the dream, only to find out that our dream is actually a nightmare unfolding before our eyes.

    • That’s certainly, true, too. I’m very happy being at an age now where I can finally look back on many major moments in my life and actually see — from a distance — what really happened, and even why it happened. With clarity that only comes with time and a bit of wisdom. You go after something you think you want, you struggle to get it, and win or lose… it’s not until later, after the story has played out further, that you can really say it was worth it, or worth agonizing over.

      Thanks.

  5. John,

    Just the read I needed. It’s been a hell of a ride these last few years but sometimes I feel like I’m on a ferris wheel goin in circles.

    Lots of friends in my ad agency days & friends I learned design with keep poppin up w/ their stories of success & multi-emmy award winnings.

    You’ve hit it on the head though. There’s no way in hell I could imagine experiencing what it took for them to get there and I strive everyday to not forget what I’ve been through as well.

    As for the biographies/autobiograhies I’ve been readin:

    I follow the path of the metalhead, music lover as well as guys & gals who just don’t fit the mold of popular culture that somehow busted that door down & made the world their bitch. These are some of my fav’s.

    WEIRD AL: Yes, he has a book. It’s bright, goofy & full of awesome photos of himself in all kinds of odd situations that he clearly shouldn’t be in. (there’s a photo of him on Wheel of Fortune w/ James Brown & Little Richard?!?) It’s brilliantly written by one of the writers of the Onion, Nathan Rabin.

    COREY TAYLOR “SEVEN DEADLY SINS”: Brilliant & poetically written. Not you’re run of the mill autobiography. He took the concept of the 7 deadly sins & decided to throw them out the window & write his own based on his life experiences as lead singer of heavy metal band, Slipknot & Stone Sour. And good lord after reading what he has gone through, I wouldn’t wish his childhood on anyone.

    I AM OZZY: How the hell he’s still alive after what he’s experienced in his lifetime is anyone’s guess.

    TONY IOMMI: The guitar player accidently chops off 2 of his finger tips in a sheet metal accident the day before he was about to go on tour… but decided to keep playin. And because of it, created a unique guitar sound that eventually became “heavy metal” w/ his band Black Sabbath.

    KIRK HAMMETT “Too Much Horror Business”: Not really an autobiography per say but a collection of photos & stories of the Metallica guitarist’s extensive horror movie memorabilia collection that tells you more about the man’s life than any words can explain.

    ALAN FLETCHER (founding partner of Pentagram): The Art of Looking Sideways.
    Again, wouldn’t necessarily call this an autobiography but a massive collection of random tidbits of knowledge he’s found & kept over the years. (it’s the heaviest book I own) I do believe books like these give a deeper understanding of the mind of it’s creator.

    Thanks again for the years of inspiration,

    Raul

  6. The picture in this entry hits the point home quite clearly. Cars like the Caddy are a success and status symbol. Then you read Lemon Aid by Phil Edmonston and find out how much of a nightmare it is to own some of these luxury moneypits.

    Now take this thought into every aspect of a high profile life and all of a sudden the envy drops right out for me. Too much nonsense to deal with.

    It’s cold up here today in Edmonton so I’ll have no probs stayin’ frosty.

    Cheers to everyone, eh?

  7. Well John, my favorite biographies are of pro sports coaches from MLB and the NHL. They seem to be able to teach us a lot about success and how to deal with people.

    Envy? Sure I’m still envious of successful people, but I’ve gotten over it for the most part and learn all I can from what they’ve accomplished in business,sports and life. Then I use their wisdom to achieve more in my music and sports business.

    Thanks John

    Mark in getting Colder Canada

  8. Great post, John.

    Reading 3rd, final and long-awaited volume of Manchester’s epic Churchill bio that just came out.

    New must-read: Mastery by Robert Greene (Art of Power, Art of Seduction).

    David

  9. ‘Inside their skin’ is a great survival and coping tactic.

    Reminds me of when I read Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich” and he challenges us to “read the stories of these men.” It’s quite liberating to have the glamour encapsulated in the usual one-paragraph bios stripped away so you can appreciate the tenacity and focus of these people. AETN’s recently released, “Men Who Built America” is a treasure.

    Thanks for sharing your insight!

  10. As I sit here in my pajamas, with my dogs under foot, sending emails to my corporate clients that are stuck on conference calls, after dealing with the morning commute, I’m thankful for them and don’t envy them a bit. I was in their shoes, and my journey through the corporate world gave me the contacts to work independently. Sure, I don’t get free football tickets or the other perks but the price paid for them, in terms of freedom is pretty high. I work far less hours, have the freedom to do what I want and make more money at the same time, although I don’t tell people that. To those that worry about appearing too successful; don’t show it. I’m famous for my friends not knowing how successful I actually am and the few that find out are quite surprised.

    To my clients it looks like I’m at an office somewhere and they like that, even on Skype calls. I had a Skype call put on hold once, hit the mute button and grabbed a guitar, which is normally outside the webcams view, and started playing forgeting that I was still on video. I answered honestly telling them that it helps me at breaks to keep creative. I don’t want them to Envy my lifestyle and stop giving me business so I do need to be careful.

    I think my perspective came with age and experience and you won’t understand that money doesn’t buy happiness until you have it but it does afford me some freedoms.

    • Yeah, gotta be careful when there’s video around. I love the image of taking a break to play guitar, though. I’ve done that, too.

      The real freedom I’ve “bought” for myself is time. And I enjoy every second of it…

  11. John,

    I am new to your blog but am loving it!

    You have a gift with words and what feels like a deep spiritual understanding of life. That is great combination for helping others open their hearts and live a unique Inspired life.

    As I read this blog, I laughed, cried, and reflected on my own journey of “I wish” to “Here I am.” Once I really understood that each of us has a divine purpose for our individual life, celebrating who I was without a desire to be someone else became very clear to me. Now, don’t get me wrong, it has been a journey to get to this realization and really align my life to the belief. It has been the struggles I have experienced and my deep desire to understand why we are here on this earth that have helped me to really celebrate who I am.

    When I look outside myself, I can feel flawed but when I look deep within my heart and soul, I feel as perfect as perfect can be. It is from that place that we should live our lives. Trust me, not much envy resides there!

    How about this motto…….The skin I am in is how I am gonna win!

    Keep on Lighting up the Souls of the World!
    Roxann

  12. Good stuff. Important.

    I recently read a biography about George Washington by Ron Chernow.

    Brave dude. Would make himself a ready target ontop his horse just to rally the revolutionary troops. Amazed spectators were convinced that — as the bullets whizzed around Washington — it was simply against God’s will that he be killed.

    Surprisingly he was also apparently terrified of public speaking. Was shaking like a leaf during his first inaugural address.

    Anyone wishing they had lived in these simple “good old days” should take a close look at how the typical citizens lived.

    Great post John.

    –Jimbo

    • The worst thing we do to heroes is make them mythologically “pure”… which ruins, for me, the best part: That, despite being human and vulnerable, they did amazing things. Made bad choices along with the good, did some really spectacularly stupid things, and managed to live a full life anyway. That’s what real heroes are, for me.

      Thanks for the note, Jimbo.

  13. Great post, John.

    As you say, we’re clearly all hard-wired to experience envy and it’s ridiculously easy to let it take you to bad and pointless time-squandering places…

    And of course it cuts both ways – we envy and sometimes we’re envied; we’re transfixed by what we perceive as the loser in ourselves while all others can see is the winner.

    Robert Burns wrote: ‘O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us…’ And that would be immeasurably cool – to be able to jump into somebody else’s skin for half an hour and get their first-hand, unexpurgated perspective on who they think we are. For good or ill.

    My envy-crushing tactic is to let the moment pass by, acknowledge it, figure out why it’s there, and let it go. Then I take a deep breath, concede to myself that I have indeed made choices that have greatly assisted in undermining my own success, but there’s absolutely nothing I can do about any of that now.

    On the other hand, I’ve also made some excellent choices, taken some very sound decisions, lived and loved a lot, and the net result of it all is that I am where I am right now and overall it’s a pretty good place to be. And getting better…

    • Excellent Zen attitude, Eugenie. I rely on the acknowledgement/let-it-go mode a LOT (while sussing out the immediate lessons, and later checking back to see if longterm lessons are also available to learn). At the end of the ride, the only standing question is: “Did you do the best you could, with what you had?” You pull that off, you’re guaranteed a pretty damn good life…

  14. John,
    I just received your package in the mail–the one I ordered at the InfoSummit.

    Today is the first email I’ve received from you. I don’t normally read blogs, but I’m VERY impressed with this one. One reason is you actually reply to the comments. (Or maybe that’s common–like I said, I don’t read them often.)

    Anyway, I like your take on envy. Another story on this same topic that’s stuck with me for years if from Earl Nightingale. I don’t remember which tape series it was from. (Yeah, cassette tapes.) It’s a parable about everyone in town going out to the field and tossing out all of their problems. Then you have to decide if you take home your problems, or someone else’s. Invariably, you see that your problems aren’t so bad. I remind myself of this whenever I start to feel the tinglings of envy.

    I look forward in getting into your writing course (which I bought for my high school senior daughter who says she wants to be a copywriter.) We had a brief conversation about this at the conference.

    • Hi Doug. I remember that conversation, I think. I have one at nearly every marketing event I speak at — at least one savvy parent sees the wisdom of investing in their kid’s ability to write persuasively. I’m all for it, of course. (You’ll find posts on this very subject all through the archives here, by the way.)

      And hey, I’ve still got my cassette tape collection from the 70s and 80s, so you’re in good company here…

      Thanks for the note. Welcome aboard.

  15. I haven’t been wanting to be anyone else, ever. We all have interesting life stories to lead that will only get more interesting as we muster up the courage to follow through with our own inner guidance (as opposed to going along with the mainstream, or with peer pressure).

  16. Thanks, John, for the Super-Potent Envy Cure! A miracle drug. And I needed a giant dose of it exactly when it landed in my email from you.

    About 15 minutes before reading your Envy Cure blog, I was sifting through my snail mail and saw something that made me reach for my Equalizerometer. There she was smiling big and bright at me from her holiday card. We’ve been friends aka rivals since high school.

    Equalizerometer in hand. She’s never worked a day in her life. I’ve worked for 40 years and will have to work another 40. She has no children. I finally survived children and now a boomerang parent for my grandchild. She’s been nipped, tucked, lifted, and mashed by a real doctor. I use Frownies and Wrinkies — $19.95 at The Vermont Country Store. Equalizerometer now registering brilliant green.

    Turned to my computer and there is John Carlton holding out a big spoonful of Super-Potent Envy Cure. Here is the part of the cure that made me throw down the Equalizerometer, “ … kept trying and growing and staying true to the goals that resonated with me.”

    John, I have been on your mailing list and reading your blog for years — smiling, laughing, nodding in agreement, getting inspired. Today felt like a life changer. The timing, I guess. Funny how life works like that. Thanks again for the Envy Cure. It works!

    Just read the Steve Jobs bio by Walter Isaacson. And I experienced the CREEPY AS HELL feeling you described being inside the skin of another person. Jobs, no doubt, is a creative genius, but images of Howard Hughes kept flashing in my head as I read all about his eccentric behaviors. Interesting but creepy.

    • Thanks for the note, Patricia. Glad the post helped in some small way. I like the Equalizer-o-meter, too. Often, what we really desire when envious is just “more” in our lives… and finally knowing what “more” means to you (not anyone else) can really nail down what can make you happier. Money won’t do it. Fame for sure won’t do it. Jobs was happy being Jobs — neurotic, competitive, a stress-addict, all of it. And people loved him anyway (or in spite of it). My favorite part of Issacson’s book was where he asked some of the Apple employees how bad it was, and then asked them if they wished they hadn’t worked there. All said it was awful, but they wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. You didn’t have to want to be Jobs’ drinking buddy to appreciate his genius.

      The big realization is that life is complex, but amazing. And we should remain stoked that we get to be on the ride, no matter what…

  17. Great stuff as usual John.

    “You gotta be hip to how people actually operate.” That human condition stuff that frustrates, thrills and fills our pockets with gold when we understand a winning appeal.

    Steve Jobs was a profound read. Just knowing that he was a little past nutty and afflicted with his share of demons made me appreciate all the more his design genius.

  18. You know the grass is always greener on the other side, but when you get there, you find yourself standing in a lot of cow dung.

    My great secret to contentment is simple:

    “Be thankful regardless”.

    Having recently lost the lot due to the GFC, having a thankful heart over what remains has been a Godsend.

    – Greg

  19. Hi John,
    Great post as usual. The envy things still gets me occassionaly. Its a bugger at bringing you down when you let the envy in.

    Most of my life I’m totally happy in my skin and quite happy qith no money or lots. unfortunately my wife isn’t lol.

    Bio I’m reading is Babylon Confidential by Claudia Christian – actress. Its my son’s book as he has met her, I just thought she was a sexy looking lady who got lucky in LaLa land.

    After reading just the first 50 pages I decided she can keep her life and her money. Her life totally sucks!

    Keep up the insights John. Always worth my time to read and reflect. (reflection was never my strong suit when young but you learn a lot from doing it)

  20. And if you’re the focus of envy…

    You can take some tremendous hits from things done by others in envy…but they can eventually and very indirectly lead to some of the most important life lessons ever. Things that needed to happen that can only be seen in hindsight.

    You never know what’s going to lead where, so no calling it out as good or bad.

    “I believe that brutality tends to defeat itself. Prizefighters die young, gourmands get the gout, hate hurts worse the man who nurses it, and all selfishness robs the mind of its divine insight, and cheats the soul that would know.” – Elbert Hubbard

    Or…

    “Everything comes out the same, no matter whether you make it hard on yourself or not” – Anonymous Taxi Driver

    I was unusually fortunate on envy of others. I realized young that I ran to a very different beat and that I was OK as is. I knew then was going to have to take a lot of heat.

    That was one hell of a gift from somewhere to a fourth grader.

    As per the wisdom here…I also got to see the dark side of some rich/famous people at a very young age. I wanted no part of what they were.

    Who did I admire? The skilled craftsmen and other “working class heros” (thank you John Lennon).

    Latest sort-of-a-bio read was “The Dark side of Camelot”. I knew the Kennedys weren’t as squeaky clean as advertised but I had no idea how thoroughly rotten they actually were.

    It broke my heart in a way.
    I grew up in the Camelot era and have fond memories of things like JFK’s inaugural speech and all the optimism.

  21. Man, I really needed to hear this today. Thanks for keeping it real JC, I really needed a bit of “Carlton Therapy”.

    I was up till 3am last night trying to fix a problem in my business. I did fix it, but fuck, it was at 3am for christsake.

    That, plus your blog this morning, tells me I gotta just get comfy in my seat and enjoy the ride a bit more.

  22. It’s not totally a biography but I loved Laird Hamilton’s book Force of Nature. In fact it was part of what motivated me to try living in Maui for 8 months.

    Also Dan Kennedy’s My Unfinished Business.

    Snowball, Warren Buffet’s bio was another good read.

    I remember busting out laughing all through Blue Blood by Edward Conlon. Best joke ends with, “for $5 what did you expect Red Lobster?” It’s worth the read if only to find out what that punch line is attached to.

  23. Dear JSC

    Wow talk bout last track lesson in life…

    I also enjoy reading bio’s of those who have gone before to see how they got going….and also take great joy in what Nap Hill suggested in his course “Law of Success in 16 lessons”….(which is think and grow rich gone way deeper)…

    “Observe life and those round us and take from which you learn from others and apply to your own life even if it’s little diluted from original source…use that to inspire us to our own freedom whatever that may be…”

    Great Post man!

    Later.

    RJ, Glenelg,Australia

  24. Another classic… thanks — I really liked your comments about “great salesmen lead better lives”, and getting hip to “how people really operate”. The deep, raw truths of the 3c situations (customers, competitors, colleagues). I occasionally envy my moronic less talented competitors who sometimes make a lot more in sales than I do, because they nailed affiliate launch models correctly; that’s on my to-do list next year.

    Like Brian Tracy says, there’s few things more aggravating then to see people much less smart than you, making a lot more money than you do… and the good news being that all things can be learned. Your comments about getting inside others and what it may really like, resonate.. crafting a highly personal, uniquely compelling life is the way to do it, as you get at. Super thoughts, thanks as always for keeping it real. Have a great holiday season.

    to success,

    -ken

  25. Every would-be marketer/author/copywriter/mouth-breather/breather-of-any-sort needs to ingest and digest this as wisdom before embarking on a journey that could be lonely and painful and inward-looking. Because, although you can imagine yourself inside someone else’s skin, the only place where you can have an effect on your universe, either positive or negative, is inside your own skin. How you see yourself in the world and your place in it, is conditional solely on what you see on self-examination. We each need to commission our inner-biographer to explain ourselves to ourselves, which would inexorably alter our perceptions of personal truth.

  26. The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill (Penguin Classics) has one of the highest wisdom:words ratio of any book i’ve ever read. A bit tough to read for people who still feel uncomfortable with how people talked ::across the pond and back in the day::.

    Thanks for writing this gem, i’ve just gotten through a very similar and triumphant feeling for the first time in my life. Reality finally all came crashing down on me (about a month ago) and i’ve never been happier. I’m curious to know how you feel now though. Did you ever slip back into your “old ways”, or once you made the realization to see the world completely objectively, did it stay that way forever?

    • Also a note on JSM, reading his books, along with Feynman’s reminded me that what separates a “genius” from an ape is experience and deep thinking. For anyone who believes in the concept of a “genius” and fears they will never attain that level of “greatness”, those two books will surely make you re-think. What a meta-concept!

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