How You Can Use Envy to Help You Succeed

Envy is bad. It’s one of the seven deadly sins, along with its pals pride, greed, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth. It’s super destructive if you just focus on what other people have.

But Amy Alkon flipped that on its head with her article in Psychology Today, The Power of Positive Envy. Alkon thinks that we’ve spent too long using the term envy when we mean jealousy. Jealousy rots us, while envy can motivate us.

If you see something that someone else has that you want–be it a career or a car–you can sit on your behind and whine about it, or you can change your behavior to work towards that. She writes:

[Evolutionary social psychologist Abraham “Bram”]Buunk and his team explain that there are actually two kinds of envy, malicious envy and benign envy. Each kind motivates people to try to shrink that “status gap” between themselves and others. The difference is in how. Benign envy pushes people to work harder in hopes of matching or beating the competition. Malicious envy is the nasty kind — the kind that motivates a person to loosen the ladder rungs, hoping to cause their golden-girl co-worker to topple to her (professional) death.

It’s the time of year when we set goals. If you look around and want something, you can set a goal and work toward it. But, keep in mind, it’s actual work.

I’ve had many people contact me over the years and ask how I manage to make a living as a freelancer. They want to write and make money as well. I give everyone the same advice:

  • Pick a genre, preferably an area you’re already an expert in.
  • Write five, 500-800 word posts.
  • Establish a website.
  • Then send me your posts and I’ll give you feedback.

Do you know how many have done this? One time, I had one person write write article. I’ve probably given this advice to 30 people (and now I give it to all of you for free). They all thought freelance writing was their key to working at home and raking in the cash. (Ha!)

But, they weren’t willing to do the work. They wanted someone to pay them before they even started writing. It doesn’t work that way. You need a portfolio. You need a website.

Sure, other people have done it without that. Someone has undoubtedly had the sky open over their head and the angel of freelance writing contracts appears and suddenly you’re writing for the New Yorker. But, the reality is, most of us work very hard to get where we are.

Other people ask how I became an HR Influencer. The answer is pretty much the same. Every single day I work. Every single day I read things about business and HR. Every single day. Even when I’m not writing, recording, or creating webinars, I’m scanning the business pages, reading a wide variety of information, and putting it in my brain. (I enjoy the information gathering, so I can happily be on vacation and reading my RSS feed. YMMV.)

If you want these things, use that envy in a postive light. Go out and get it. It’s a lot of work to accomplish any important goal, but you can do it.

And if you do want to become a freelance writer, do take my advice and I will give you feedback.

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7 thoughts on “How You Can Use Envy to Help You Succeed

  1. And yes, the key to making a living as a freelance or entrepreneur is working, thinking, doing every day. As a friend of mine says, we are free to work any 27 hours of the day we want (as our own bosses.)

  2. Your advice is right on. Anyone who’s ever been self-employed knows that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. That being said, the reason some people now think they can get paid without working is because they see people — the Kardashians being the rote example — who have gotten rich in very unconventional ways, seemingly cashing in on their mere celebrity. Who knew that becoming famous because of a sex tape could lead to your entire family becoming millionaires, and at least one becoming a billionaire? Likewise, all the people on social media who have become “influencers,” or been involved in memes that went viral, and managed to monetize their online presence, sometimes very handsomely. But, for most of us, there’s no substitute for hard work. “There is no royal road to geometry.”

    1. So true. And, the reality is, the Kardashians probably do do a lot of behind the scenes work.

      It takes so much work. It’s good. I’m happy to do it. I enjoy my job.

      But, it’s work.

  3. I once kept a blog as a test of how well I could do it. I posted and added a photo from my camera every day. That lasted a whole month. Frankly, I doubt it would have gathered any interest had I posted it. I had way underestimated the effort of doing that simple little thing and doing it well. That was a test, just making it up as a document for my own experiment, not finding a blog platform and troubleshooting and dealing with responses. It certainly gave me a new respect for people like EHRL and Ask a Manager who do it well and do it every day for years.

    1. I have no idea how Alison at Ask a Manager does it. She publishes so much stuff and consults on the side. She’s amazing.

  4. Hi Suzanne, thank you for sharing what you are reading and always finding an interesting and helpful way to connect it to something else. I really enjoy everything you write, especially when there is “a bit of snark.” I love it!

    I also worked in HR for 20+ years and then five years ago, started an HR consulting and career transition business. Self-employment is a roller coaster ride. It requires an insane amount of passion, a willingness to get out of our comfort zone, and a lot of patience to keep going. What you wrote about reminds me mostly of the need to have a high level of “want to” – if there is no real desire to put in the work then you really don’t want it.

    And for those of us who have felt significant financial impact of 2020, it helps to remember the original reason one chooses to start a business. My “want to” is so high that I am willing to try different things and get out of my own way. It’s hard work, at times it’s uncomfortable, and yes I’ve even had to write a few blogs to try and stay in front of people. If you want to see anything that I have written, I included my web site here and go to “our voice” – Happy Holidays to you, Suzanne and can’t wait to read all your good stuff in 2021!
    PS – I am the original J-Law 🙂

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