There have been these WhatsApp messages floating around, saying that "If you bought bitcoin worth ₹ 1 Lakh on January 1, 2013, it would be worth ₹ 8 crore today."
"The Market, unlike the Lord, does not forgive those who don't know what they do"
Wonderful! But if you didn't understand what bitcoin was on January 1, 2013 and you still don't understand what it is, would that gain have any meaning? Would you still be able to justify why you kept holding on to it apart from just dumb luck?
A lot of times we get a sense that all our neighbours are getting richer and we are being left behind. In market parlance, it's called FOMO - fear of missing out. We sometimes deal with this by asking why, instead of what has that person figured out to become richer than us.
This, perhaps, comes from the fact that we perceive that person to be our peer in circumstances but this sudden change of fortune leaves us pondering over our personal status. To paraphrase a dialog from my favourite film Three Idiots, which captures this feeling very well - "When a friend fails in exam, you feel bad, but when a friend comes first in the same exam, you feel worse."
Religious scriptures define the sins that hold a man back from living a virtuous life. Among these, envy is the most curious one. All the other sins allow us some level of pleasure, no matter how momentary. Envy is the only sin that doesn't lead to any enjoyment while we are committing it.
It becomes a fruitless endeavour to compare our situation with that of others who come from a different background and knowledge. Allowing luck to distort our view of the world and just because someone had more of something we always longed for is a sure way to feel permanently disgruntled.
Does it have a cure?
Envy has an easy cure. Knowing where we come from goes a long way in understanding what we may be able to achieve. Of course luck can help along the way, but figuring out what we can know, can understand and then act on it will lead to far less envy than in any other case.
Also it helps a lot if we do not keep looking over our fences into how well our neighbours are doing. Just like we may not pity them if they were less fortunate than us, we can also avoid feeling envious in case they do better than us.
We mostly hear only of the positive cases because of sheer survival of the winners. Since no one particularly enjoys talking about their losses or defeats, we are blissfully unaware of the pitfalls some people have fallen into.
Envy, after all, is not a sign of weakness but a sign of empathy working against us.
Transactions happen in the market because there's a difference of opinion about the value of a security. If opinions occasionally tilt significantly in one direction some people who participated feel enriched and the rest who didn't participate feel left out. It's how markets have functioned since the time they've been around. We don't need to unduly beat ourselves up just because someone did better than us.
To avoid Market Envy, we should endeavour not to follow this famous quote: "Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings, instead of our own"