One of the ten commandments on envy is
Thou(you) shall not covet thy(your) neighbor’s house, thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, not his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.
This might be one of the toughest commandment to follow. Why? We are genetically wired to compare.
$10,000 salary difference can make you unhappy
In Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely tells about a funny incident.
A few years ago, for instance, I met with one of the top executives of one big investment companies. Over the course of our conversation he mentioned that one of his employees had recently came to him to complain about his salary.
“How long have been with the firm?” the executive asked the young man.
“Three years, I came straight from college”, was the answer
“And when you joined us, how much did you expect to be making in three years?”
“I was hoping to make hundred thousand.”
The executive eyed him curiously.
“And now you are making almost three hundred thousand, so how can you probably complain?” he asked
“Well, the young man stammered, ” it’s just that a couple of the guys at the desks next to me, they’re not any better than I am, and they are making three hundred ten.”
The executive shook his head.
CEO Salary Made Public
In 1993, federal securities regulator forced companies, to reveal the details about the pay and perks of their top executives. Why? In 1976 the average CEO was paid 36 times as much as the average worker. By 1993, the average went up to 131 times. By having the information in public they thought the executives salaries will not increase drastically. But what happened when this rule was in place?
The average CEO makes about 369 times as much as the average worker.
Much of this can be blamed on Envy. Dan Ariely writes
As H.L.Mencken, the twentieth century Journalist, Satirist, Social critic, cynic and free thinker noted, a man’s satisfaction with his salary depends on (are you ready for this?) whether he makes more than his wife’s sister’s husband. Why the wife’s sister’s husband? Because (and I have feeling that Mencken’s wife kept him fully informed of her sister’s husband salary) this is a comparison that is salient and readily available
Aristotle wrote about this long time ago
We envy those who are near us in time, place, age or reputation.
Dan Ariely Tip
Dan offers a suggestion for this.
Move toward smaller circles that boost our relative happiness.
Learning about Envy from Munger
In Psychology of Human Misjudgment Munger writes about Envy
Those of you who have raised siblings you know about envy, or tried to run a law firm or investment bank or even a faculty? I’ve hear Warren say half a dozen times, “It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy.“
Envy has no upside
The idea of caring that someone is making money faster[than you are] is one of the deadly sins. Envy is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. There’s a lot of pain and no fun. Why would you want to get on the trolley?
Dealing with Envy
I find the following trick very useful to deal with envy. Let us say I have an envy on someone’s wealth. Most likely the person will be some one near me. Remember what Aristotle told? I ask myself why am I comparing with this person. Why not compare myself with Warren Buffett? My brain tells that Warren Buffett is different. Then the person you are comparing against is also different. I see a conflict in my envy and this helps the envy to get dissolved. Nicolas de Condorcet, a French philosopher, mathematician tells
Enjoy your own life without comparing it with that of another.