Schadenfreude is defined as pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
Typically this is applied to situations where we feel some sort of vindication because the person got what we think they deserve. The shady influencer gets rugged on a project. The sex offender gets life in prison. The person cheating the system gets caught.
In crypto this is a big part of the journey. Since 2016 I have experienced schadenfreude more than I like to admit. If I see someone with a huge ego take a massive L on their trade, there’s a part of me that likes it.
I’m not proud of this. It is a failure on many levels for me. It is something I am aware of and work on. It’s gotten a lot better over the years, allowing me to spend my time helping people win vs separating myself.
I’ve also learned that there are two pieces to this puzzle. The most obvious is what I described — finding immediate pleasure. The other is the relief that comes from avoiding others’ pain.
This morning I saw Gainzy’s tweet here:
As I read through the comments and the quoted retweets, I noticed that most people pointed out how miserable “other” people are.
The “others” are stuck in the matrix working 9–5 dead end jobs. They have kids they don’t want. They are stressed, overweight and look 20 years older than they actually are.
But we, the crypto community, are in this magic bubble that has given us all the things we always wanted while normies struggle through a miserable existence.
This was also my truth for a while. Like so many others, I was red pilled on the Four Hour Workweek in 2010, fused with a cocktail of Ayn Rand and Rich Dad Poor Dad.
I woke up each day without a clear vision of what I wanted — I woke up with a clear vision of what I didn’t want.
I spent the better part of a decade accomplishing goals and living the blueprint of automation and laptop lifestyle. Cash pouring in faster than they could fill the margaritas. Everything allowing me to relax on the beach and think about nothing, giving me 16 hours of daylight to plan my next wild adventure.
I looked at friends from high school in college from my little mountain of self righteousness through a lens of pity. What a shame, I would think. If only they did what I did, they wouldn’t be shackled to a life of misery.
As I get older, however, I realize how naive I’ve been.
As humans, we compare ourselves to others constantly. It’s a core principle in the social comparison theory and is the foundation of most consumer behavior.
This had been codified through terms like “Keeping up with the Joneses” and “the Hedonic treadmill” and “Mimetic desire.” Beware the perils of wanting what other people have, they tell us. Learn gratitude and run your own race, etc.
But what they don’t tell us is that comparing ourselves to the people we are NOT envious of can be just as dangerous.
When we look at people who make life decisions that we wouldn’t make, our human brain translates it as worst possible move. If that buddy from high school has kids in his 20s, we think about how much freedom he is throwing away and how much financial stress he is putting himself under.
We think about how his ability to exercise two hours a day is gone and how his sleep cycle is totally fucked. We think about how he is forced to slave at some job he hates just to keep his head above water to support a family who will inevitably hate him, spiraling into a lonely, sexless life of misfortune.
Our brains are designed to do this. The amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, is constantly scanning our environment to protect us. If we are programmed to believe that certain things will hurt us, it will alchemize all our thoughts into a firehose of brainwaves that will mold our belief system.
If we grew up in a world where we saw unhappy people working at jobs they hated, we will be inclined to avoid those types of jobs. If we saw unhappy people talking about how stressed their kids made them, we will avoid having kids.
The amygdala is the compass for your mind. It seeks safety before anything else. This is why we have immediate reactions to things we perceive as dangerous to our existence.
But what if we did not see the “in the matrix” lifestyle as a threat? What if we saw having kids, being married, working at a steady job as a path to deep meaning and boundless love the same way we saw being full time in crypto?
We would begin to focus on the benefits, not the process.
We would see how many friends and connections having a family can bring. We would see people filled with purpose, giving them strength to persevere in tough times and through jobs they don’t love. We’d focus on the long game, knowing that a vast majority of the upside from having kids or working at a job we don’t like comes later in life.
Bringing it full circle, we can think about this — if you were going to describe the crypto journey to others but you couldn’t discuss the money, would it really look that awesome?
Many people in crypto work by themselves behind a computer. Their friends are mostly online, many of which they’ve never met. They spend thousands of hours chasing emotional highs and lows, trying to find a few big wins so they can finally relax and get away from the markets, which often involves mindless consumption of TV, video games, scrolling social media or partying. A majority of their time is spent alone.
Much of the optimism from crypto is just a byproduct of bull markets — if we get another bear market you will see what I mean. I saw more existential crisis in 2018–2019 than I could have ever imagined, a testament to how prices dictate the meaning we get from our days on Earth. What kind of life is that?
But this is not what we think about. Most of the people who are in crypto focus on the bigger picture.
This is our best shot at financial freedom. It’s the most exciting and innovative place to be. This is where we have amazing Discord and Telegram friends that we build real connections with. This is where we feel like we can be a part of something bigger than ourselves in a world full of corruption and psyops.
Both groups of people, those “in” the matrix and those “out” of the matrix, have a full spectrum of experiences. Our brains simply filter what we need to feel safe and important.
Personally, I care less about what people do with their lives and more about if they are happy. When I meet people who genuinely love what they are doing, there is little discussion about the sacrifices required and the tradeoffs taken. It’s all worth it.
A way to compare apples to apples is think about this framework:
The only two people you need to impress are the 8 year old version of you and the 80 year old version of you.
I know for myself I care less about money than I do about relationships. I think more about the 80 year old Carter and how much he wants to have a core group of people with him for the rest of his life.
I also think about how in 10 years I would NOT be stoked if I was shitposting in Discord trying to find small cap cryptos to ape into. I want to build something bigger than that. Most likely I will be envious of people who decided to have kids earlier in life and create a long lasting family.
But for so many years that wasn’t the case. I thought about the here and now. I thought about how there was no fucking way I was going to be locked into something that could potentially suck my life force. Make money, get freedom, avoid anything that could get in the way.
Crypto promises a way out. The bull market energy kills the short term pain of unhappiness, the volatility promises that you’re one pump away from being free forever. It gives us meaning and purpose when we aren’t sure what our meaning and purpose actually is.
When faced with this spiritual confusion, schadenfreude is a blinding force. We see nothing but misery in others’ choices but fail to see our own shortcomings.
When you are truly happy with your life, you don’t focus on how shitty other people’s lives must be, you hope they are on a path that makes them happy too.
With a clear vision, we start to feel this unwavering happiness. We are able to focus on our own journey, the joy it brings us and compound those feelings for decades to come. Everyone deserves to be happy, including the people who made very different decisions that we did.
Being happy is the ultimate flex.