“It is not greed that drives the world, but envy.” – Charlie Munger
In an increasingly affluent and progressive world, one might assume that people would be more content and fulfilled than ever before. However, a paradoxical phenomenon appears, as many people report feeling less satisfied than in previous generations when life was arguably tougher. Renowned investor and vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, offers a unique perspective on this mystery. He explains that greed may not be driving this dissatisfaction but envy. Based on using Munger’s wealth of wisdom, this article will delve into contemporary unhappiness’s roots and explore his insights on envy, resentment, overspending, cheerfulness, reliability, and duty. Join us as we unpack Munger’s seven golden rules for happiness, and consider how his observations might shed light on why people are, perplexingly, less happy in today’s era of abundance.
“Envy is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. There’s a lot of pain and no fun. Why would you want to get on that trolley?” – Charlie Munger
Charlie Munger Explains Unhappiness
“All this enormous increase in living standards and freedom and diminishment of racial inequities and all the huge progress that has come, people are less happy about the state of affairs than they were when things were way tougher. That has a very simple explanation. The world is not driven by greed; it’s driven by envy. And so, the fact that everybody’s five times better off than they used to be, they take it for granted. All they think about is somebody else having more now when it’s not fair that he should have it, and they don’t. That’s the reason that God came down and told Moses that you couldn’t envy your neighbor’s wife or even his donkey. I mean, even the old Jews were having trouble with envy, and so it’s built into the nature of things. It’s weird for somebody my age.”
Charlie Munger’s 7 Rules for Happiness
“There were a lot of questions today — people trying to figure out what the secret to life is, to a long and happy life,” CNBC’s Becky Quick said to Munger when they talked in the middle of February of 2019.
The secret is “easy” because it’s so simple,” Munger told Quick.
The 95-year-old Munger (at the time) listed his secret to a long and happy life:
“You don’t have a lot of envy.
“You don’t have a lot of resentment.
“You don’t overspend your income.
“You stay cheerful in spite of your troubles.
“You deal with reliable people.
“And you do what you’re supposed to do.
“And all these simple rules work so well to make your life better. And they’re so trite.”
His prescription is logical, Munger says.
Here’s an interpretation of his seven rules for happiness:
- “You don’t have a lot of envy.” – Munger acknowledges that envy is a powerful motivator but suggests it can lead to unhappiness. When you spend your time envying what others have, it takes away from your ability to enjoy and appreciate what you have. Instead, focus on your own goals and achievements.
- “You don’t have a lot of resentment.” – Holding onto resentment can lead to chronic stress and unhappiness. Munger suggests it is better to let go of grudges and move on. This also reflects a broader principle of emotional intelligence.
- “You don’t overspend your income.” – This is a fundamental principle in Munger’s philosophy. Living beyond one’s means can lead to financial stress, significantly impacting overall happiness. Financial discipline and prudence are keys to maintaining a peaceful state of mind.
- “You stay cheerful in spite of your troubles.” – Life will always present challenges and difficulties. Staying cheerful through these times can be a form of resilience and a key to long-term happiness. This doesn’t mean denying problems but maintaining a positive outlook while working through them.
- “You deal with reliable people.” – Relationships can significantly impact our happiness. By associating with reliable, trustworthy people, you can foster positive relationships and avoid the stress and disappointment of dealing with unreliable individuals.
- “You do what you’re supposed to do.” reflects a principle of responsibility and integrity. Doing what we should do—whether in our personal lives, work, or social responsibilities—leads to a sense of accomplishment, self-respect, and happiness.
- “Staying cheerful” reiterates the fourth point, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a positive outlook. This positive attitude can help us better handle the ups and downs of life, contributing to overall happiness.
“The secret to happiness is to lower your expectations. …that is what you compare your experience with. If your expectations and standards are very high and only allow yourself to be happy when things are exquisite, you’ll never be happy and grateful. There will always be some flaw. But compare your experience with lower expectations, especially something not as good, and you’ll find much in your experience of the world to love, cherish and enjoy, every single moment.” – Charlie Munger
- Minimizing jealousy and covetous feelings can boost personal contentment.
- Letting go of lingering bitterness promotes emotional well-being.
- Living within your means helps prevent financial stress and promotes tranquility.
- Displaying a positive outlook, even during challenging times, fosters resilience.
- Engaging with dependable, trustworthy individuals enhances your interpersonal environment.
- Embracing a sense of duty and fulfilling your responsibilities contributes to self-esteem.
- Cultivating and maintaining a positive demeanor aids in dealing with life’s ups and downs.
Adopting a less envious outlook on life and releasing any grudges or bitterness can be instrumental in improving your emotional health. Financial prudence, symbolized by spending within one’s budget, is vital in maintaining a serene state of mind. A cheerful attitude, maintained even in adversity, demonstrates essential resilience. Aligning ourselves with reliable peers enhances our interpersonal relationships and contributes to a more satisfying life. Upholding a sense of obligation and fulfilling our personal or professional responsibilities nurtures self-respect and a feeling of accomplishment. Lastly, promoting a positive mindset, irrespective of life’s ebb and flow, can give us the strength to navigate life’s trials and tribulations. Thus, these key principles suggested by Charlie Munger offer a comprehensive guide to nurturing a happier and more fulfilled life.