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Becoming a Person Who Helps People

Question from a reader -

Hi Sebastian, a question. I'd like to know how you came to be so... gracious. I've noticed that not only do you preach for others to spread gratitude, but you really do go over-the-top with it. It's a bit unbelieveable at times. But I have a good friend who is always very glad to see me (and everyone else). We aren't close anymore, but I always feel we are. I get the feeling you're similarly genuine. How did that come to be? Have you always been that way? I've been trying to be more thankful, but I don't want it to come off as meaningless as a forced plastic smile.

Well, first, that email totally made my day. Thank you.

Before I answer, I've got to pose a hypothetical question to you. Trust me, it's relevant:

Do you think it's more virtuous to do $5,000 worth of good for someone and get $0 in return, or to do $10,000 worth of good for someone and get $2,000 in return?

Wanting Everyone to Win

I just got a good email from a friend about emotions and biochemistry. It got me thinking.

Envy and schadenfreude are common emotions. People like seeing their opponents fail.

Is it possible to get over that? Would it be desirable to get over that?

I think envy and schadenfreude and hatred are usually a detriment to people feeling them. This is obvious enough when you're playing a positive sum game - because Positive Sum Games Don't Require Natural Talent, and have a near infinite opportunity for success. Disciplines like inventing, engineering, finance, entrepreneurship, mathematics, and the natural sciences work hand in hand. Every win by an inventor opens lots of doors for engineering, finance, entrepreneurship, math, and science. And indeed, for other inventors.

A lot of people mistake positive sum games - like the economy at large - for a zero sum game. They think that if you get money, they'll get less money. Of course, it doesn't work like that, as our exponentially growing standard of living shows. Even if someone loses a local conflict (to gain market share in a new technology, for instance) they can still go on to invent and innovate in a new field.

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