“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

27 August 2012

How not to begrudge successful friends

We've all been there...

Very Good Friend, a lovely person with whom we've shared both laughter and tears, has finally hit the career and/or personal life jackpot. New job! New home! New marriage! New baby! VGF is over the moon and eager to share his/her good fortune with all and sundry. Facebook status updates abound. Twitter pictures pour in. The email subject line reads: "Finally! Wonderful news!" It is sunshine and rainbows and the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking, and all you can think about is how much the fantastic VGF deserves this good fortune. Your heart is filled with altruistic merriment.

Right? Right?

Well, almost.

If we're being honest with ourselves, we must admit that sometimes altruistic merriment might occupy only part of our hearts. Say, forty percent. Or thirty. At first, the success of VGF makes us feel giddy. We feel like we've shared in their success through osmosis... what I like to call the Transitive Property of Awesome Events. At first, everybody is a winner because everybody loves VGF. This is a good feeling.

Sometimes it doesn't last.

People like me, and probably like you, come down off this sugar-high around day number three. That's when reality likes to set in. VGF, however deserving, is going to have a baby/wedding/promotion/mortgage payment. VGF is making his or her dreams come true. VGF is supremely happy and you... well, maybe you're not. The truth is that VGF's wonderful success hasn't actually been transferred to you. When you come to this realization, it can sometimes sting a bit. It can sting a whole lot.

Sometimes it can suck.

Of course we want our friends and family to succeed. Unless we are sociopaths (and hopefully we are not) then we love to see those that we love find their groove. The tough part is when the success of VGF starts to highlight the ways in which we, ourselves, have yet to succeed. This happens to everyone. You are not alone. Watching other people get what they've been chasing can seem magical... but why is all that good mojo still ignoring you?

Stop. Sit down. Take a deep breath.

Real success isn't magical, and it isn't a race.

It can help to think back a year or two, to remember what VGF went through to get here. No doubt there were bad years. No doubt there were tears. Perhaps you had your own successes during that bad period, as well, and VGF was there with you, hoping for some Transitive Awesomeness too.

Everyone has the ability to be jealous, but everyone has the ability to overcome that jealousy too. This is the secret to long-lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships. We shouldn't be afraid to be honest about this... everyone goes through it. Author Lawrence Durell once said:

"It is not love that is blind, but jealousy."

Could that be more true? When the Green Monster overtakes us, it makes us blind to all the wonderful successes we have credited to our own account. It makes us forget that luck isn't random--it follows those who chase dreams and work hard to achieve them. Don't let yourself forget this. That is the single best way to share in VGF's success story.

We earn our own luck but we don't decide when it's disbursed. Be patient.