Watch Out for Envy

“Watch out for envy.” My dad used to say too many people waste their lives feeling jealous of others.

Koreans are raised to be test-takers. Teenagers battle for a better score on a college entrance exam. College graduates devote themselves to all kinds of eligibility tests. In this land, too many people spend years beating others on competitive exams to be accountants, government workers, public school teachers, real estate agents, and journalists.

Steeped in zero-sum games, it’s difficult to realize there’s a way out of the competition. When tests are the ultimate purpose of life, getting into a med school or law school becomes the highest form of achievement. To test-takers, success forever means winning over others.

I’m not a test-taker. I don’t want to be trapped in binary thinking. The world is much more than a community of winners and losers. There’s no need to be jealous of other restaurant owners’ and writers’ accomplishments. Their success doesn’t affect my craft. I only need to carry on with a “win and help others win” mindset.