by Darrin Schenck


by Darrin Schenck


If you have not been listening to the Modern Wisdom podcast by Chris Williamson, you need to start.  My current all-time favorite podcast is the episode with Alex HormoziEpisode 670 entitled: 23 Controversial Truths About Life is so full of actionable takeaways and great advice that I have listened to it three times to make sure I took all the notes I could.  It is amazing.  The link is here.

But, the episode I am focused on for this particular blog is the one with Morgan Housel #707. In this podcast host Chris Williamson offers up some great questions and the intriguing dialogue ensues.  One thing they touch on that really caught my attention was this concept:

You don’t just want to be happy, but you also desire

to be happier than the people around you.

It is human nature to play the comparison game, we do it for lots of reason.  In days long past, we did it to make sure we had a place in the tribe.  In modern times, we sped way too much time looking at the rest of the world on social media and trying to keep up.  Here is a perfect example…how many people do you see driving a brand new Tesla with an UBER sticker in the window?  Tons…and in many cases that person is working a job and driving for UBER on weekends to make the payment of the Tesla.  So, to be clear, they are willing to work two jobs to be seen driving a Tesla?  Madness

Because this approach is so prevalent, people are always going to find themselves unhappy.  As soon as someone feels like they are getting ahead, they are looking at new groups of people to compare themselves to.  It becomes a never-ending cycle, one that is growingly difficult to escape.  It is all-consuming, and can be very difficult to recover from.  As actor Will Smith once said:  Trying to get famous is a great thing.  Being famous has a lot of downside (paraphrased version)

I spent much of my late teens and early twenties thinking I wanted to be famous.  I chose the sport of racquetball to pursue, and this meant I was never going to be famous.  Definitely a good thing.  If I was a Pro Tennis player at age 24, with the mindset, lack of experience and attitude I had at that time, ranked in the top 50 in the world, I would have gotten famous alright.  But for all the wrong reasons.  I wasn’t equipped to handle all the things that go along with being famous, and this was before social media and everyone on Earth walking around with a camera phone.  I would have made real money, traveled the world and had a shallow and empty life.  I would have crashed and burned; I would have punched paparazzi and ignored fans who just wanted an autograph but were not doing things on my terms.  I would have been hated for my lack of loyalty to my fans, and the backlash would have been very difficult if not impossible for me to deal with.

Looking back, I am so glad that I did choose racquetball, that I wasn’t in a bigger sport with similar success, and had to learn the hard way all the things Tim Ferriss mentions in this very straight forward and eye-opening article he penned in 2020.  See, I was playing the comparison game, and I thought Tim Ferriss and all those Pro Tennis players were happier than I was.  This was not necessarily the case.  They all had more money than I did, but this does not equate to  happier life.  It took me a while to learn that.

What makes people feel really good about themselves is to see that they are doing just a bit better than their friends are.  Whether is be more sex, more money, kids with more accolades or whatever, we want to see that the people we compare ourselves with on a daily basis are in our side view mirrors instead of out ahead of us.  For some reason, this is what many people strive for.  They are unhappy until they get it, and they are less satisfied than they expected when they do slightly pull ahead of others in the group.

The real problem that so many people suffer from without realizing it, is the inability to be happy and grateful for what they have.  Taking a step back and realizing that the life they do have is one that many people on Earth are jealous of would be a great start.  As the old saying goes, there are people lying in a hospital bed somewhere praying for the life that you take for granted every moment of every day.  Gratitude goes a long way in making you realize that you should be happy with where you are right now.

Here’s another thought to leave you with:  Once you reach a certain level, the car, the clothes, the house, they no longer matter.  Really rich people don’t want everyone around them to know they are rich.  Forget the Kardashians, the Housewives and all the other terrible examples of human being “reality” TV and social media portray as icons of our society.  Be a good person, strive to do better, help others, and make enough money to have a comfortable life.  Forget buying a private jet or having a chef that cooks all your meals for you, learn to cook the meals yourself and you will appreciate the taste of your own hard work much better.  Once you reach a certain level of financial success, all you really want is to be able to blend in.

Here is one last story to consider, and once again I am paraphrasing:

A rich American went to a small village in Mexico on the coast for a vacation.  He worked hard all year, and snuck away for a long weekend, which was as much time away as he could allow himself.  He saw a fisherman that was whistling as he walked towards him, carrying a fish in one hand and his fishing pole in another.  He seemed very content, and the American felt compelled to ask him some questions.  He walked with the fisherman to his very modest home, nothing fancy at all.  His wife greeted him at the door, gave him a kiss and took the fish inside to prepare for dinner.  The two men remained outside, talking a little longer.

The American asked what he did for a living, and the fisherman looked puzzled.  He responded “I fish to feed my family, and the rest of the time I just enjoy life.  I sleep in, make love to my wife, and fish”  The American laughed, and said, what happens if you can’t catch any fish?  The Mexican gentlemen responded “There are plenty of fish, and I always catch one for dinner”.  The American’s eyes lit up, and he shared his thoughts with the fisherman.  “If that is the case, why don’t you catch more and sell them at the local market?  Then you could hire more people, catch more fish, and sell more at market.  Next you could buy a boat, and go out to sea and catch even more fish and bring them back and sell them at the market.  You could become a wealthy man.

Think about it, you could buy a bigger house, build up the company and after years of hard work, sell the company and retire!  Then you could sleep in, take it easy, and do whatever you want!  The American seemed proud of himself for giving this advice to the fisherman, but he just looked at him confused.  Finally he spoke up.  “You want me to give up my lifestyle, work much harder for many years, move into a bigger house, buy a boat, build a company and sell it, just to get back the life I have now?  No thank you” and with that, he turned around and went inside.  The American walked back to his hotel, mumbling to himself how the Mexican fisherman was doomed to be poor and unhappy all his life.  The Mexican sat down to dinner with his wife, they enjoyed the fish he had caught, and went for a long walk to watch the sunset together after dinner, just like they did almost every night.

Moral of the story…be grateful for what you have.  Sometimes you end up chasing something for years that didn’t get you the end result you wanted in the first place, and you gave up a happy life trying.  Words with considering as you map out your life’s plan…

I wish you luck in your endeavors.


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