Envy Will Paralyze You

December 31, 2012

You ever look over your shoulder at the next guy? Maybe you were at the parking garage, getting into your car just as someone else was setting their car alarm and walking away. The thoughts start rolling: “His car is worth more than mine. I wonder what he does for a living? I should be driving a better car.” What began as just a trivial glance quickly becomes an assessment of your success or failure as a person. 

We all can be driven by envy.

Competition with others fuels an intense drive to look the best, have the best, and be the best. On the surface, I understand the reasoning; but it is deeply flawed.

The fact is: envy will paralyze you. It will paralyze your leadership; it has paralyzed mine at times.

In the workplace, comparison halts progress. Say you’re in sales. How much energy are you spending on keeping tabs on the salespeople around you? Are you ahead of them, or are you behind on your quota? Instead of working to creatively boost your own sales, you’re using your energy and time to stave off an anxiety attack.

Or consider your business at the organizational level: everyone knows a wise business owner keeps up with the competition. They’re running analytics, and keeping tabs on new products and industry buzz. On the other hand, a business could quickly lose a competitive edge merely by trying too hard to keep up. By focusing entirely on matching the competition’s product offering, few opportunities remain for innovation.

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If you are so wrapped up in the world around you, how will you be able to measure a creative idea? What happens if you strike out; what if your idea is critiqued?

When you are envious, your creativity is paralyzed.

Back in that parking garage, the next car to pull in is a six-year-old Volkswagen Golf. Is it turning your head? It just so happens that the driver’s Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who is known for driving these VW’s into the ground. Judged purely by the car he drives, you might not think he was the one responsible for the Internet as we know it.

In the end, it doesn’t matter the arena; whether in life, business, or recreation, envy is an unnecessary distraction and an unhealthy attitude. When we spend all of our time and energy comparing ourselves to those around us, we are shifting our focus onto the success of others, and away from the priorities in front of us. In short, we forget to live, to build, to perform, and much more so: to be creative and original.

When we can’t imagine our success without comparing ourselves to other people, we have hindered our own potential. To me, that’s paralysis.