You Jealous? Good!
Jealousy is one of the most underrated drivers for human achievements.
You know what's cool? Being confident, smart, funny, humble, rich (or hating the rich; both work somehow), competitive... I can go on and on.
But do you know what's not cool, and was never cool, no matter what?
When you think about jealousy, you usually think about someone (usually a woman, which is very unfair. But look at these classic stories: 1 2 and modern memes: 1 2) gritting her teeth in anger and side-eyeing her competition, secretly plotting how to take them down.
And if you put "I'm a jealous person" on your LinkedIn profile, you are not getting any recruiters calling you. If you tell it to your date in the first five minutes of your dinner, watch him/her squirm for the next 30 minutes, trying to get out of there as soon as possible.
Jealousy is not only uncool, it's for losers. It should be avoided at all costs. It's in competition with mosquitoes and paper cuts as the worst thing in the world.
But let me ask this question: Can jealousy possibly be a good thing? Can you strategically get all "jealoused up" to help you achieve your goals?
Before you throw rocks at me, I want to share a story with you on how jealousy has helped me.
Chasing Laura Vanderkam
Giving a popular TED talk has been one of my most impactful achievements. It crossed 10M views this past year. Among the tens of thousands of TED talks out there, mine is in the top 1% of most viewed. Knowing that 10M people around the world have given me 15 minutes of their precious time, watching me tell my story, teaching them to overcome their fear of rejection, and hopefully taking actions to better their lives, gives me chills.
The good kind of chills.
And do you know what's giving me a bad kind of chills?
Laura Vanderkam's TED talk.
Not that it's a bad talk. It's actually amazing, so much so that it makes me jealous.
It came out about a week after mine. And just by reading the title, I instantly knew it was going to be a hit. And the fear that she was going to have more views than me overtook me like a hairworm infecting a praying mantis.
To my chagrin, her talk has indeed been beating mine ever since. It's been over six years, and she's got 14M views, 4M more than mine.
I didn't know Laura at all. But in my mind, she must be a bad person. She for sure cheated to get so many views. I'm sure she's also a terrible cook, her cat must be very mean, and she probably can't remember her Netflix password.
Then I finally met her at a conference we both spoke at. Damn it, she's actually nice, cool, and funny. I hated it. I actually told her about my jealousy, and we both shared a laugh.
This jealousy sounds silly. It's not rational and makes no sense.
But let me tell you a secret: I created this jealousy, and built it up in my mind on purpose. I used it as a tool to motivate myself to keep writing, keep thinking, and come up with my second book and TED talk.
No, it's not my sole motivation. But motivation is like a smoothie. It's made out of different components. If my desire to teach is the strawberry, and my love to help others is the yogurt, my secret wish to kick Laura's butt in total views is the ice. You blend it together to make a delicious cup of motivation smoothie.
Now, let me tell you why jealousy can be awesome, and why you should also get some healthy jealousy going in your life.
Three upsides of jealousy:
It opens your eyes - they say monkey see, monkey do. Well, monkey A is only mimicking monkey B because monkey B got the positive results monkey A was jealous of. If monkey B got fried or killed by doing whatever he was doing, I'm sure monkey A would have avoided doing that thing like the plague. It's called a cautionary tale.
By being jealous of someone, you can learn from that person. It opens up your perspective and lets you see what's possible. If Laura can get 14M views by talking about organizing time, surely I can get 20M views by talking about achieving goals… right?
I'm kidding… kind of.
It makes you work hard - one of the greatest rivalries in basketball is that between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. It was said they were jealous of each other throughout their careers, so much so that they would look at each other's game stats every night, motivating themselves to train harder and play harder, so they could become better players and beat the other person.
That jealousy-infused rivalry propelled them into two of the most accomplished players ever in NBA history - Magic Johnson won five championships and three MVPs. Larry Bird won three championships and three MVPs.
It pushes society forward - jealousy not only pushes people like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird toward individual accomplishments, it also directly caused amazing achievements in history that have propelled civilizations forward.
Let's look at what these jealous mofos did:
Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo: Historical records suggest a rivalry between these two great Renaissance artists, potentially fueled by jealousy. The result: they threw the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, David, and the Sistine Chapel's ceiling at each other like two fighting toddlers.
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates: Both tech titans admired each other, but they also felt competitive and jealous. This rivalry ultimately gave us Windows, iPod, and iPhone. Some of them were amazing, some of them required constant reboots.
Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla: The well-documented rivalry between these two inventors, driven by professional jealousy, led to significant advancements in the field of electricity and many other technologies. Did you know their fight called the "Current War" defined the modern power transmission as we know it?
Let's All Get Jealous, Shall We?
I hope by now you see jealousy a little differently than in the past. Maybe it's time to destigmatize jealousy and give it an honorable place in this world. If you use jealousy well, it can be one of your most powerful tools.
Now, jealousy is not all rainbows and sunshine. It can also be destructive. Someday, I will write about how to get all the upsides of jealousy and avoid the pitfalls.
Until then, let’s all get jealoused up like a boss.
Speaking of how to jealous well, I am going to offer you two things:
Colleen McFarland’s Be Social Camp worked so well last month. By demand, it’s back for a second round!!! Starting next week, she will teach you the skills to talk and network with someone you admire (and yes, even jealous of).
This camp will help you set goals for networking situations, master conversational skills, develop a social mindset, and practice every day to improve.
The camp will include five components:
A Be Social self-assessment survey to help you determine which skills to focus on during the camp.
A one-hour group workshop with Colleen.
A 28-day SMS text-based accountability tool on the Sisyphi Platform, where you'll perform and report one of four actions to Colleen each day:
Get to know people
Connect people with each other
Ask for help
Twenty short daily instructional videos developed by Colleen.
A one-hour wrap-up session with Colleen.
If you are honest with me, and email me the top three people you are most jealous of, I will email you back and share my top three with you too.