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Don’t Get Jealous Get Better

I have a little motto on the wall of my office saying "Don't Get Jealous get better". I use it as a reminder of a positive life change I made a few years back. So far it’s been a great lesson.

When I started working at Microsoft 8 years ago, I encountered something that I’d never really experienced before at work: people that were genuinely better at my job. Before then I’d only worked in small teams, and while there were people as good as me, there were never really those that completely blew me out of the water. That changed when I joined a big company. Now I would regularly encounter better developers, better communicators and better speakers.

As someone new to this phenomenon of no longer being amongst the smartest in the room my initial reaction was to fight. To point out the inadequacies to peers of other people’s approaches. While secretly being jealous of the apparent ease that they could do things that I found hard.

I’d invent excuses as to why I wasn’t as good; I’d talk of opportunities that they had. I’d speak ill of them in the hope that I could convince people that I was better than they were.

A former manager pointed it out to me in a 1:1 meeting. They said something like “You’re not very supportive of successful people” my initial reaction was defensive. I argued that I didn't like people who cheated their way to the top.

Over the next few weeks, I thought about my career and realised that I had often tried to scupper other people’s success through some crazy notion that I was more deserving of success. I’d be snarky on emails and ask intentionally tricky questions in meetings.

Good managers often raise mirrors to ourselves. Looking at my actions objectively taught me a lesson about my character. Since that meeting, I have always tried to keep that part of my ego in check. It’s a very common trait in software developers and one I have subsequently noticed in others especially those that are new to big teams.

What I try to do now is notice those that are doing things better than me and figure out how they do it so I can get better myself: Turning a negative personality trait into a learning opportunity.

What I have found is that you become more supportive and a better team player. As your horizons broaden and your network increases in size, you are going to discover people that are better than you at certain things. Part of growing as a developer and a person is accepting that.

Don’t get jealous get better.

Martin Beeby

Martin Beeby

Martin works for Oracle as a Developer Evangelist. He’s been a developer since the late 90s and loves figuring out problems and experimenting with code.

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