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#169 - Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude - taking delight in another's pain, suffering, humiliation, or misfortune.

This week my wife and I, along with our 20 month old daughter, all came down with a nasty case of covid. We are both vaccinated and yet we still got smothered, covered, and chopped by the virus - fevers, chills, aches, chest / nasal congestion and headaches, despite being vaccinated. Nothing serious enough for the hospital but still tough enough to knock us on our rear ends for the better part of 72 hours.

The week wasn't an entire waste of time - I had copious amounts of time to read and randomly started thinking about the concept of Schadenfreude in our society.

What does Schadenfreude have to do with covid, you ask?

Really not much. It's just that I've seen, in the span of a week, multiple posts on social media from ultra liberals poking fun at anti-vax right wingers who died from covid and I've seen posts from super right wingers smirking at the spread of omicron despite all of the vaccines, boosters, policy mandates, and mask wearing requirements. The irony on both sides is apparent, but the gloating posts were filled with a legitimate sense of enjoyment over the 'other side's' suffering.

Not only this, but I see all forms of schadenfreude on twitter constantly - anonymous accounts dunking on fund managers, politicians, and CEO's from the comfort of the armchair when they detect the slightest amount of failure or weakness or suffering. I am certainly no different and feel this tug every time an investor or politician I dislike gets a spoonful of their own medicine.

I think it stems from an insecure, competitive desire inside almost all people to make themselves feel superior to someone else. Whether it is to prove someone is a hypocrite or wrong or just plain stupid, the merrymaking in others' suffering is fairly commonplace in America these days on the interwebs.

Just realize, as the Good Lord himself once said, in the same way you judge others, so too shall you be judged. Schadenfreude has a nasty way of making its way back around to the giver. Its a bit like this virus, only more pernicious and more infectious. It's a nasty little form of hatred that is endemic in our society more so than ever. The best place to combat it is in our own hearts and minds before it ever reaches the tips of our tongue - or the tips of our fingers or social media.

I'll admit, I struggled mightily with this temptation when I played professional baseball. Any bit of failure on someone else's part in the pitching rotation represented an opportunity to move up, to get ahead on the depth charts. This temptation is so easy to fall into for any person at any time in any profession, but beware - it always comes back around. The sun shines and rain falls on both the good and bad, the rich and the poor.

In business, in investing, in politics, you can't be a winner in every season. There are certainly long-term winners in all of these spheres, but they didn't get there without a healthy dose of humility, failure, and hard knocks along the way. If anything, this post is a good reminder to myself to never get complacent, never think you've arrived, find a way to learn from your own failure, and don't glory in the failure of others!


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