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Mudita turtles all the way down

One meditation technique is to imagine someone in your life you only want happiness for. Someone who when they’re happy, you’re happy. We’ve all been happy for friends and family. Joy is not zero sum.


We’ve all been jealous. Jealous of someone’s financial success, happiness, luck, status, intelligence, personality, talent, or partner. Jealousy can be a useful motivator, but chasing your ghost is healthier one.

Achieving in life is mostly about the simple, hard things. Whether it’s building a company, doing a job well, or learning a skill. This is true about personal life as well. A simple, hard thing is to be happy for others’ success. The easy thing is to be jealous or dismissive:

“Yeah, but they aren’t happy.” 

“Yeah, but they’re douchebags”. 

“They’ll fail soon.” 

“They’re awful people.”

Whether someone “deserves” their success or not, it’s so much more powerful to be happy for them. It’s freeing. “Good for them.” “I’m glad they succeeded.”

The most common way people are miserable is comparing themselves to others. Thinking about what their life could have been if only… they took that job, they invested in that company or asset, they grew up somewhere else, they made that move. If only, if only. The funny part is, they’d likely still be saying “if only” even if they did all the things they wish they did. 

Selfish Mudita

Be happy for the success of others. It’s the biggest framing hack one can do. Even from a purely selfish perspective, there’s rarely a way to undue the success of others. It’s best to change the way you think about it. When others succeed, it means you can too. And you can take pleasure in their joy.

Schadenfreude feels good in the moment. It’s like eating junk food. Mudita is the opposite of schadenfreude. It’s what we should strive for— being grateful and happy for others and their success. 

Startup Mudita

At a startup, it’s a lot easier to do this. Incentives are aligned when everyone has equity. When the team wins, you win. At a larger company, when the team wins, individuals may want to take credit for that team’s success to further their career. A culture of mudita outperforms.

Taken to the extreme, this can get weird. Are you happy if a co-worker gets promoted over you by playing politics? I mean, your co-worker enjoyed the outcome. Maybe some are happy for their conniving co-worker, but that seems a bit much. Mudita is not the sole virtue to follow. It functions best alongside other virtues like honesty and loyalty.

You can sense mudita in social groups and startup cultures with positive community. People want the best for each other. They care.

For those full of envy, even having marginally more mudita is huge. We can change our normal state of happiness by doing this.

The easiest way to experience joy in life is to be happy for those who succeed. If you can be happy for someone else’s happiness, you’ve hacked the matrix.