Envy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of ours. When someone close to us gets something good; whether you are a good person or not, a part of us naturally leaps. We wish it were we; “e choke”. We never outgrow it. “You’re a copycat” kids will scream in the playground. But how else do they learn and grow; how else do we?
So many things “choke” (a slang that Davido and the Twitter community is fond of saying when feeling or showing intense shock or surprise). So it’s safe to say that it chokes after Instagram copied the stories feature from Snapchat after it refused to sell its brand for 3billion Dollars. It must have choked Dangote to know that his biggest long standing rival Rabiu (founder of BUA group) after fighting over mining rights in Edo State and both selling off parts of their flour business to the same Olams, that Rabiu is also building a refinery same time as him. That competition is healthy for us all. Casio had a touch screen watch in 1984 (same year the original Mac was created). But decades later, Apple copied and made a killing with it through the iPhone.
We want what others have. It’s the mentality of “why not me”; it breeds envy. But by the nature of the emotion of envy, it only applies when it’s someone close to us. If it’s a random person doing better, we care less. The more relatable and comparative, the more the envy is felt. From kids at the playground to corporates in the boardroom, envy is actually not a weak emotion. It’s that human instinct to want a good thing that someone else, close to you enough has. When overflown, we get a bit sad, maybe angry but most importantly inspired. The last should be the point for entrepreneurs. Building on those, we follow suit. When managed right, it drives innovation. I call it the healthy competition.
Let’s manage our expectations. The lack of envy and ‘copycatteism” is a lack of ambition. Psychologists have been able to establish that there are certain reasons that could make another person copy what you do and this includes your culture, level of education and basically your personality type. Some people stand out more alluringly. Many times as humans, we dwell in our comfort zone. This is a psychological state where we are so familiar with the happenings around us and we feel so in control of our environment. It’s never the best place to grow from. However, once we are triggered by a little change, we usually crave the desire to move to a better position where we also feel more in control.
Let’s put this in context, imagine starting a business alongside someone else and in the space of two years that person has achieved a feat you’re yet to achieve. The first thing that comes to your mind is the fact that you’re not doing pretty well and you really need to buckle up and get on track. Asides this basic assessment of self, you try to imagine what the other person is doing to achieve such a result and you’re not doing… that’s where positive envy comes in, you desire to have what that person has. Now you see we are back to our earlier definition.
At that stage, you’re willing to work extra hours, think about more creative ideas, implement certain strategies you once considered but never got to try out all because you are in desperate need to achieve a good result in the shortest possible time.
There will always be envy amongst friends. But they mustn’t turn to “frenemies”. They should use that as a fuel to all become bigger. When I think of the concept of good envy amongst friends, I think of the Bill Gates and Warren Buffet friendship. They’ve been best friends for over three decades. So they didn’t become friends because they are both wealthy. They are both wealthy because they become friends. When Bill Gates first met Warren Buffett, it was at a dinner for fast rising people over forty years ago. Their host was Gates’ mum. She asked everyone around the table to identify what they believed was the single most important factor in their success through life. Gates and Buffett gave the same one-word answer: “Focus.” But what’s that? It’s not just keeping an eye on the target. It’s also keeping an eye on other key players to make you discomfort enough to get better.
To grow our businesses, get better results with whatever we are doing, it’s important that we don’t neglect keeping a eye on what others are also doing so as not to be left behind at the end of the day. But keep an open mind that is void of hate. If you don’t, then you’re rehearsing for witchcraft.
Envy shouldn’t always lead to a plot to sabotage a person ahead. Embrace the good part of envy. The truth is, no one is an island of knowledge, and we all need other people’s ideas, contributions in whatever it is we are doing. You will be doing yourself a great disfavor if you think that asking that your friend’s opinion on that strategy you’re trying to implement would be tantamount to be considered as envious because the person is presently doing better than you are.
The word envy is indeed paradoxical so you really have to choose what side of the divide you’re in, is it positive as to fostering your growth without an iota of prejudice for someone else.
Strategy. Business StartUps and Corporate Restructuring Consulting
Uwaoma Eizu is the lead strategist at Hexavia! He is a graduate of Mathematics with two MBAs and over a decade of experience working with startups and big businesses. His core is in building startups and in corporate restructuring. He is also a certified member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria and the Project Management Institute, USA. By the side, he writes weekly for the BusinessDay newspaper.