Are You Able to be Happy for Friends and Family That are Wildly Successful?

by Darwin on July 15, 2012

Our family just returned from a trip to visit some friends in South Carolina.  We were visiting my wife’s old college friend (who actually introduced us and is thus responsible for our current life and family!) and while down there, she had invited another set of mutual college friends up from Florida so we could all hang together for a few days.  We hadn’t seen each other in a few years, but we all have young kids now and thought it would be neat to get together and spend a few days at their “Lake House”.  It turns out the Lake House is a gorgeous 40 acre plot on a pristine lake that looks out to nothing but preserved lands.  Beautiful home, ponds, beach with palm trees, a Polaris rover to ride around in, you name it.  And that’s just the Lake House, not their main house closer to Charleston.  She hit it big.  She’s an author and somewhat of a celeb in many circles so she’ll remain nameless, but the bottom line is that they’re doing REALLY well, have a lot of stuff and seem very happy.

But Wait, There’s More!

Enter my other buddy that came up from Florida.  He has also been very successful.  He’s presently building a 6 Bedroom 7 Bath mansion down in Florida in a gated community that will have a beautiful swimming pool in the courtyard and all kinds of other nice amenities.  They happen to be doing quite well and seem very happy as well.  I wouldn’t even venture a guess at the income of either couple, but directionally, it’s no stretch to say that they make considerably more than we do.

Neither of them were in any way bragging about their success or playing it up, but it just comes up in normal conversation.  You can’t help but notice how someone’s place is when you’re there and my buddy works in finance and he knows about my interest in finance as well, so naturally, we were talking finances quite a bit, like what he’s up to, his hedge fund, his investments, his clients, etc.

The Epiphany

I honestly never really thought about the asymmetry in wealth amongst the families the entire visit.  It was only on the ride home that my wife and I were just talking about stuff and she said, “Wow, they both seem to be doing really well.  Do you feel like I’ve held you back or badly that we’re not in the same boat?”  It was an honest and legitimate question.  After all, over the years, we’ve made decisions not to move around the country chasing the next job offer or even to take an international assignment from my current employer just because my career hasn’t been our only priority.  We have family in the area, like having some roots and stability, and I have my hands full at night with kid activities and 3 other jobs: Blogging, Outsourcing Business and Real Estate.  My wife is home with the kids now and moving to the middle of nowhere chasing another $20K in salary every 2 years would certainly increase our income over the years, but probably wouldn’t have left her very happy, nor the kids.  While I can legitimately put in a typical 50 hour week at work and still end up at the top of the continuum each year from an appraisal standpoint, I have to realistically admit that I have not been a cut-throat careerist and have not advanced as far as I could have given my initial trajectory in my twenties.

My answer? After mulling it over for a second, I replied that I couldn’t be happier for them.  Seriously.  They both worked really hard to get where they are.  They took risks.  They did things that I didn’t and they deserve their success.  I’m really happy for them and I’m happy that they are also happily married and have great families.  I had to think for a moment about who I WAS jealous of.  I really couldn’t come up with anyone.  I kind of remember being a kid and maybe being a bit jealous of a jock who got all the girls so effortlessly or a kid who was just so much damn better at every sport than me without even trying.  But that’s probably a common feeling for many kids – part of immature adolescence.  But as an adult?  I don’t bear any jealousy toward anyone?  Even though so many people have so much more money, success, status, or have had stuff handed to them, I think my ability to be happy for others is just feeling good about what I’ve done with my life, what I have earned and what the future holds.  I won’t brag and say what I have accomplished or what I do have, but I’ll just say that it’s enough for me to be perfectly content.

Jealousy Will Ruin Your Life

I’ve never talked about this on my blog but my entire family is estranged from my brother.  It’s a real shame because he has 4 boys the same age as my kids and he and I were pretty close growing up.  He used to have a dark streak and would snap and become violent over seemingly small things now and then, but he never turned on me (just many of his friends and my parents).  Well, when he came to the realization college wasn’t for him, he started a tree removal business.  It was tough because the income was sporadic, he wasn’t an experienced business man and it was a very capital intensive business with a lot of things breaking.  I worked for him one summer and it was VERY physical, hard and dangerous work – clearing lots and taking down large trees.  He used to joke that my summer job experience should reinforce why I’m in college and shouldn’t do manual labor for a living.  Well, fast-forward a couple years, I got out of college, got a decent job and bought a house first thing.  During the same period, he married a woman who had a very jealous streak and played to his weaknesses.  She always had it out for me and used to insinuate that I was the favorite of my parents (which was untrue as my father used to go WAY out of his way to be very equal and fair with both sons on everything from wedding gift to Christmas gifts.).  She hated my wife (then fiance), apparently because she was thinner, had a larger engagement ring and other nonsensical reasons.  And when I bought the house, that was the final straw.  They were living in an apartment with very loud tenants above them and hated their living situation, but they didn’t have the financial means to get out.  She was so jealous about the house that when we hosted a holiday or tried to get the whole family out for a get-together, they wouldn’t come.  At one point, even my brother didn’t side with her and he came out without her.

But as time wore on, he had to choose – his wife or his family.  The jealousy became more and more ridiculous and they reached a cross-roads.  They had to part ways with everyone over the anger, the jealousy.  And they did.  I’ve only seen him once over the past several years, and it was to tell him in person that my father died.  I found his reaction to be odd, rather dismissive, only to find out later that he already found out from a local cop friend.  So, I’m not sure what his motivation was to have me call him, drive two hours out and watch me break the horrific news to him that he already knew, and apparently didn’t care much about.  His only inquiry following that was to the family lawyer to find out if he was getting any money.  He wasn’t, it all went to my mother.  But it demonstrated just how deep the anger and jealousy went – he wasn’t even there for my mom following the death of her husband and the man who raised him and helped him so much with his business in the early years.  I hope they’re happy, but I suspect they are not.  Because there are millions of other people in the world to be jealous of.  But such is life.

I’m thankful for what I have, I’m thankful that my friends and other family members are doing well, and I’m very optimistic about the future.

Do You Find Yourself Being Jealous of Others?

Are Other Jealous of You?

Does it All Revolve Around Money?

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