It’s a horribly nasty trait to have, one I’ve gone to battle with for years.


I’m sure it’s just another tool from the kit that Resistance carries around in the back of our skull.

I know I’m not alone – you can see it in the eyes of your friends and coworkers when you talk shop.

Sometimes we can be jealous of someone’s achievement – the award they received, the press they’ve enjoyed, the plain ol’ recognition of having their folio go viral.

Other times it might be the effort they’ve gone through – I know I’ve been jealous of other designers simply because it’s evident that they are better spenders of their time than I am. I piss mine away watching shitty sitcoms, while they trade it in for skill and experience. That one stings.

Or it might be knowledge. This is one I’m going through right now. My knowledge is lacking – at least compared to where I’d like it to be. I’m working on it, and I’m very excited to share that journey through my writing (coming soon!) but when I see how much is being written about design, and how much of it is insanely good, I get jealous. I get jealous that other people know so much more than I do, that I want to be someone that can be turned to for good information, and yet I’m needing to spend most of my spare time trying to just catch up to know what questions to ask, let alone know what the answers are.

We spend a lot of time honing our craft and looking outward to develop our tastes, so it comes as no surprise that we find other people who we consider our equals, and it’s inevitable that some of those people you follow will streak ahead in some way, be it skill, achievement, or acknowledgement.

Wasting Energy and Time

The thing with my jealousy is that it’s draining. It’s tiring. It’s cycles of mental energy spent on worrying about what someone else has done and measuring myself up against them that it will genuinely drain me.

I bet it’s the same for you.

I’m lucky to have realised this about myself, even though it took years for me to see what I was doing to myself. I don’t know if it was something I read or some stray thought or seeing how others acted and being grossed out by it and wanting to change, or maybe, just plain ol’ aging.

The tl;dr version – wasting time on being jealous, even if you’re not actively thinking about it, even if you push it aside and let it stew in its own pool of filth in the back of your heart, means you aren’t spending time refining your craft.

Limited Access

Being jealous of someone else means you limit your access to them.

It’s hard to email someone and say “hey, congrats, I’m really happy for you” when you’re spending time brooding. Tweeting “That’s awesome! Go you!” is difficult when you’re sulking.

And if you somehow found the energy to do such things even though you didn’t mean such praise, because screw them, it should be you, then they’ll know it. The language will be insincere, the praise empty.

But what if you had been their cheerleader all along? What if your jealousy was for someone you knew? What if you had spent the months before that telling them they’d make it, that they just had to keep going?

Then when you gave them their thanks, you might open a dialogue, one that could be beneficial for you. They might be able to offer advice that you’d otherwise have missed.

Of course it’s possible to be jealous of people you haven’t met. I know for me, that’s pretty much been the case 100% of the time. So what access do I have to these people anyway?

Their example.

That’s it. I have access to their example. I might not know exactly what they did to achieve their success or knowledge*, but I have the results of it – their work.

Jealousy will sit over your eyes and mind like a mucus if you let it, and will push you to dismissing what you’re looking at. Ever found yourself looking at piece of beautiful work and do nothing but find it’s faults, find what you could do better? Yeah, that’s jealousy. Ever notice how you rarely bother rebuilding shitty work in your head? Yeah, that’s you not being jealous.

Let it in and it’ll stop you from being able to look clearly at the work that’s causing this feeling for you, which means you’ll lose an opportunity to learn something new, even if you have to learn it by reengineering their process. Though to be honest, so much is shared on Twitter and in blogs, chances are you could see at least some of their process somewhere.

(*It’s work, that’s all it ever is, a lot of hard work, a lot of deliberate practice, and a dose of luck, that’s the secret to success, most of us are just too glued to watching rednecks open garages and sell what they find rather than put in the effort.)

What Are You Really Jealous of?

Once you start to notice your jealous setting in, ask yourself why it’s there.

Is it really because of the award that someone got? Is it really because of the quality of their work? Or the press they’re getting?

In my experience it’s never been about that. It’s been about me – it’s been about the fact that I haven’t tried hard enough, that I haven’t spent enough time producing anything that would even be worth entering into some competition.

Or even simpler, perhaps I feel jealousy tugging away at my chest because I didn’t have the guts.

I didn’t have it in me to do what they were doing – to put in the hours, to face the perceived humiliation that not winning would bring (which is none, folks, it’s none, no one cares if you came last, and those that do aren’t the ones who would have half the guts to try), to push myself.

For me, at least, jealousy is a good hint of what’s going wrong in my creative or personal or professional life. It’s my mind’s way of whispering “something’s wrong.” I know this because whenever I’ve been doing my work, I’ve never felt jealous of someone else doing theirs.

Jealousy is a fuel that burns dirty, and running on it for too long will simply destroy your creative engine.

Don’t use it as motivation. If you need to, use it’s far sweeter relative – the desire to do better than what’s been done. Not because other people have done a bad job because they’re idiots (a victory over idiots isn’t much of a victory) but because you want to challenge yourself to do better than something that’s good. Because you want to do great work.