A Backstabber

Illustrations by Sarah McMenemy
“I’m surrounded by people, but there’s no one I can open up to and share my troubles with… I wish someone could give me the answers I need.”

If this sounds like something you’d say, ask our M.o.M. Suh Yoon! Email us at ask@yoooon.com. We’ll publish the best questions with Suh Yoon’s answers here in YooooN magazine.

 

Q: As a kid, I learned from stories that good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. My parents and teachers always said, “If you hurt someone else, you’ll get punished for it.” A lot of people believe that, and I’ve tried to live as a kind person in line with that lesson. But I’m really confused because I think I’ve been living a lie.

I was working for an app developer in 2014. One day Mike, my old boss, came to see me. He said he was going to start a mobile game company and asked me to join it. I’d be leading 5 developers and responsible for game development. In return, I’d get a 15% stake in the company. He’d sell the company if its games were successful and he said I could also make a lot of money.

I was pretty interested. I’d been envying my successful coworkers. I didn’t have to invest any money right away into Mike’s idea, and besides, I could make a fortune later on! I decided to start my own company if that happened. Wearing these rose-colored glasses, I joined Mike’s company.

As I’d expected, there was a ton of work. Between planning, developing, and testing, I spent half the week staying overnight at work. I didn’t get paid much since it was a new company, but I wasn’t worried since I had shares in it. I was determined to make a successful game, share bonuses with my team, and start a business. All our efforts paid off and we launched our game the next year.

The game did well and I finally started to relax, but something seemed wrong somehow. I found out Mike had been talking to my coworkers behind my back, telling them he needed money for marketing and that he was going to found a new company and draw investment to it, that they should move with him and would all get higher salaries and bonuses. I found out that even the game’s sales had gone to the new company. My shares were as worthless as toilet paper.

I met with Mike to voice my complaints, but he ordered me to leave the company. Worse yet, he’d coerced me into writing a memo saying I’d never associate with him again. I was already depressed and suffering from insomnia because of stress, and now I wanted to leave it all behind and quit the game industry. I answered friends telling me to file a lawsuit with, “I don’t need to punish Mike. It’s common knowledge that bad people always get their just desserts. Mike’s going to ruin his own life sooner or later.”

I went to law school the next year. I later heard that all the team members I’d worked with had also left the company one by one.

A while later, I was shocked to read in the paper that thanks to the game I’d made, Mike had sold the company for 30 million dollars! I couldn’t believe it. As far as I’d learned, Mike should have been punished by then, but instead, a person that bad had got a windfall! Why do things like this happen?

-Adam from North Carolina

 

A: When it comes to good fortune, how a person feels is much more important than moral good and evil. Our brains don’t work based on what’s right or wrong. The energy of our good fortune increases along with the brain’s happiness and satisfaction. In contrast, self-admonishment and resentment push good fortune away from our brains.

We’d better examine the principles of good fortune here. People create their own lives and call good fortune according to how they think and feel, whether it be conscious or unconscious. As Margaret Thatcher said in The Iron Lady,

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become.”

You don’t receive good fortune for kind deeds or bad luck for sins. Good fortune depends on your state of mind, not on how well you’ve behaved. Sometimes business leaders earn a lot of money by ripping off employees, and sometimes gang bosses profit from their crimes and live wealthy lives without stepping foot inside a prison cell.

So why does it seem like bad people have good luck? It’s because of their lack of conscience. Bad people use or betray others for their own benefit without a second thought. They believe they can enjoy good fortune no matter what they do. It’s like they’re declaring themselves innocent. It’s paradoxical, but this attitude draws good fortune to them.

On the other hand, people who are too kind are seized by guilt and reproach themselves over the smallest things. The brain can’t draw in good fortune this way. How can good fortune find people who don’t think they’re worthy of enjoying it? If you judge yourself guilty, destiny will punish you.

When I meet overly kind clients, I advise them,

“No. That incident from the past that you feel guilty about isn’t causing the problem. You have learned enough since that time. Now stop punishing yourself.”

Of course, a considerable number of bad people receive punishment later. People who do bad things are sowing grudges in others’ minds. Besides, luck isn’t always good. When their luck is down, bad people may be subject to revenge from bad relationships they themselves have made or endure bad things happening to them. It’s easy for anyone to fall into regret, self-blame, or resentment at such times. Ultimately, they suffer even worse fortune as their lives hit bottom.

Suh Yoon's Quotes

“The energy of our good fortune increases along with the brain’s happiness and satisfaction. In contrast, self-admonishment and resentment push good fortune away from our brains.”
“That incident from the past that you feel guilty about isn’t causing the problem. You have learned enough since that time. Now stop punishing yourself.”
“You don’t receive good fortune for kind deeds or bad luck for sins. Good fortune depends on your state of mind, not on how well you’ve behaved.”