The Upside of Professional Jealousy

Envy gets a bad rap. We generally think of the jealous person as a petty, grasping human being without much redeeming worth: Snow White's evil stepmother. And yet being jealous of another's success is a very human and natural thing.

So let me come clean: I exist in a spicy marinade of unmitigated professional jealousy. I'm jealous of my friends' success with Zombies, Run! Jealous that my friends at Stitch are making shows like Moderation Town, that Jay Bushman is doing his Twitter events like #SWSWesteros, jealous of the people working with RIDES. And SXSW brings a million new things to be jealous of! The triumph that is Operation Ajax, the sheer unfiltered fun of Ninja Reform School Girls. Chuck Wendig has like a billion pieces of writing out, each one better than the last.

I look at the amazing people making these amazing things and think, my god, what am I doing with my time?! How in the world can I keep up with all of the awesome that is out there? Why am I not keeping up? And yes, I am furiously jealous. I wish that all of their successes were mine. If you've never felt that way, too, I can only speculate that you are a robot.

But here's the thing: it's important for a creator to not let envy color your interactions with the people you're jealous of. Remember that they're not hurting you by being awesome. Quite the reverse, in fact. They're doing you a giant favor by making you better, too.

That's because the flipside of rank jealousy is motivation. My until-now-secret shame is that huge swaths of my work have been driven by that unquellable desire to keep up with the awesome people surrounding me. 

It's all a matter of framing. It's true that I will never, ever be the person who thought of and implemented any of these works. But why should I want to take that away from them? They worked hard; they deserve what comes to them. It's not their fault if I haven't made something as amazing as they have. It's only mine!

And yet this intense competitive spirit can be an incredible source of energy and inspiration. It's nothing to be ashamed of, especially if maybe, maybe, just maybe it means you actually make your own awesome thing, too, instead of just thinking about it. 

The little green-eyed monster kneeling on my shoulders and whispering in my ear gets me to dig deeper, try harder, work longer, and make more. It's one of the best things I have going for me, and it just might work for you, too. Just make sure to focus that energy on yourself, and not anyone else. I mean, it's not their fault how awesome they are. They can't help it.


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