Whenever I saw someone do extremely well financially, I’d feel envy. I’d convince myself that I was still better in other ways. But when that didn’t work, I’d just tell myself that I didn’t want what they had and forced myself to believe it.

It was 3am and I was in a tent.

In a small town deep in a valley in Peru, a large mountain overseeing the stage bounced the sound waves right back at everybody. During the day, many people bummed around and the whole scene looked like a parent’s disappointment.

But at night, people were out and bouncing around drinking teas and getting high. I just wanted to sleep, but there was a puddle inside the tent and I had to stay half-awake to not fall in it.

Back in those days, I started meeting people who saw the “evils” of money, those who had no interest in investing or generating income. Those who live for today and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. I had gone from an engineering student to a worker to a small business owner to having nothing in some valley full of hippies just trying to get some sleep.

I can tell you more about my stories later if you want, but I really believe that unconsciously I ended up there because of my avoidance of money and everything that surrounds it.

I see it everywhere now, though it especially stands out to those trying to start their own businesses.

Why doesn’t your stuff look that good?

Do you ever look at a really good web store and think, “why can’t I make mine look like that?”

Some things just have that special “oomph” that makes things look really good. But when we try to replicate it we end up with subpar stuff.

Kind of like when you take a photo with that brand new DSLR and they end up looking like a regular cell phone picture.

We tell ourselves that other people are just more skilled, that maybe you need to learn PhotoShop and that you’ll do it later. Then you find out that they didn’t do any editing to get that awesome photo, so you just tell yourself that you need a better camera.

We’re very good at finding excuses when we have a tough time with something.

That’s how I felt with money… just the other day when I told my friend that rent can cost less than $300 per month in Ecuador, she told me, “Dude! That’s how much I make in a day!”

Sometimes I make negative money in a day.

But a comment like that would really throw me off.

Oh man, my days were sometimes ruined due to comments like that.

What I’m slowly grasping is the idea of learning to become a better person in general. A better communicator, to take criticism properly, and to focus on the right things, at the right times. But getting rid of envy? That was not something that came easily so I made a system to try to get me there.

Spot, fix, tweak.

  • SPOT: What are my reactions? Do I snap when the same topic comes up? Do I start criticizing the other person and judging their lack of sensitivity? I wrote all of these down. I literally took out my notebook whenever I started to feel snappy toward someone until I spotted the underlying issue: talk about income and careers made me jealous.
  • FIX: Make an effort to start a new habit. They say that when you’re training dogs, you’ll have a tougher time teaching a dog to stop doing something than if you just teach the dog what to do instead. Since I got past the “spot” stage, I knew how to recognize this stuff (though I did miss a few) and actively tried to change these habits. Yes, this meant actually facing the problem and asking about the other person’s views. Yes, my friend makes over $300 every day, so I asked “Really?” and she didn’t expand on it any more. The conversation went on as usual.
    • One thing that I used to do is stop talking about the topic. The other person would normally catch that there was something wrong, but I would hide it and try to act as if it was okay and that nothing was bothering me. I’m still working on this, but now I genuinely feel happy for the other person… I strongly believe it came with forming that habit. I feel proud to call them my friend and I let them know.
  • TWEAK: Some things don’t work… so try again. Sometimes people will tell you things just to brag, and I realized that I used that against them. I judged their character and when I would voice it, I’d hurt feelings left and right and made things worse. So I looked into it some more and still work on it every day. I find keeping my mouth shut to work most of the time.

Yes, I believe in systems and processes. We have to position what we can in order to guarantee our success with it.

Don’t try to quit drinking while hanging out at a bar every Friday night.

Don’t try to talk about business with people who know nothing about it and give you crappy advice.

Eat fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water to feel energized throughout the day.

Set yourself up for success.  

How does this affect your business?

Take for example my specialty notebooks business, Emnotes. The product itself is great, but when I start thinking about it, there are a ton of other ways I could improve on it.

I don’t like the way the eyelet that attaches the elastic to the notebook looks, but other people don’t mind it too much. I’m redesigning the website. I want to lower the costs of production and retail. The list goes on and on…

But the point is that now I look at other products with curiosity, not envy. Moleskine, Five Star, etc.. all these notebooks are well made, and they get the job done. I want to know how they got there. I look at every single detail of these books when I go to the store.

It wasn’t always the case though. I used to think that my handmade notebooks belonged up there with the big brands instead of working my way there.

Improving your content

I also notice it with podcasts and other material that I read. Some people write better than I do and I can tell that they practice every day through their blogs, and now I want to replicate their process. Note: this does not mean copying their stuff.

It sure beats the old process of looking at a good blog post and wondering why I can’t produce content like that. Then feeling bad for myself. Then cursing the other bloggers for “taking away my audience”.

All these things aren’t real, you guys. There’s enough of everything for everyone.

It’s tough to admit to yourself (and even worse to admit it to someone else) what we’re envious of.

Drop a comment below or shoot me a message to tell me a limiting habit that you want to get rid of.

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