A few weeks ago I listened to an audiobook titled “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life”.
About 20 minutes into it, way before the end of the first chapter, I honestly thought to myself that this is the book everyone in my life should read.
To be clear, I’ve never thought that about any other book. There have been some that I think would be so great for some people, but this one was for EVERYONE.
While it didn’t uncover anything incredibly new or different for me in principle (it mostly offered some valuable reminders and a ton of giggles), it opened my eyes to how a typically lame-sounding topic can be livened up if delivered by the right person with the right tone.
Sure, you could call it a self help or personal development book, but I think it was more about changing your perspective and responses to situations. The lens Mark Manson writes through is just as useful as it is gut-bustingly hilarious.
Seriously. It’s super gosh damn funny.
And lucky for us, with that humor comes some really empowering insight.
Personally, the largest lesson I have continued to carry and repeat for myself is this:
I have chosen my problems, and my problems will never go away.
Therefore, how can they be upgraded?
Are this year’s problems better than last year’s?
What can I do to solve my current ones and make room for newer, more exciting problems with even larger payoffs?
I probably don’t do much justice to this concept with my lame explanation, but these ideas are pretty powerful to me and I call upon them often whenever I feel like a piece of shit for not being further along in whatever area of my life feels most suffocating or stuck at the moment.
So let’s move on to Mark Manson’s much better explanation of things…Here are a few of my favorite short snippets from the book that I wanted to share with you guys.
Please enjoy three small gems from “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”:
We joke online about “first-world problems”, but we really have become victims of our own success. Stress-related health issues, anxiety disorders, and cases of depression have skyrocketed over the past thirty years, despite the fact that everyone has a flat-screen TV and can have their groceries delivered. Our crisis is no longer material; it’s existential, it’s spiritual. We have so much fucking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to give a fuck about anymore.
Because there’s an infinite amount of things we can now see or know, there are also an infinite number of ways we can discover that we don’t measure up, that we’re not good enough, that things aren’t as great as they could be. And this rips us apart inside.
Because here’s the things that’s wrong with all of the “How to Be Happy” shit that’s been shared eight million times on Facebook in the past few years — here’s what nobody realizes about all of this crap:
The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give you a minute to unpretzel your brain and maybe read that again: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law” — the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place. The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you feel, regardless of how much money you actually make. The more you desperately want to be sexy and desired, the uglier you come to see yourself, regardless of your actual physical appearance. The more you desperately want to be happy and loved, the lonelier and more afraid you become, regardless of those who surround you. The more you want to be spiritually enlightened, the more self-centered and shallow you become in trying to get there.
It’s like the one time I tripped on acid and it felt like the more I walked toward a house, the farther away the house got from me. And yes, I just used by LSD hallucinations to make a philosophical point about happiness. No fucks given.
As the existential philosopher Albert Camus said (and I’m pretty sure he wan’t on LSD at the time): “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
Or put more simply:
EMOTIONS ARE OVERRATED
Emotions evolved for one specific purpose: to help us live and reproduce a little bit better. That’s it. They’re feedback mechanisms telling us that something is either likely right or likely wrong for us — nothing more, nothing less.
Much like the pain of touching a hot stove teaches you not to touch it again, the sadness of being alone teaches you not to do the things that made you feel so alone again. Emotions are simply biological signals decided to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.
Look, I don’t mean to make light of your midlife crisis or the fact that your drunk dad stole your bike when you were eight years old and you still haven’t gotten over it, but when it comes down to it, if you feel crappy it’s because your brain is telling you that there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or unresolved. In other words, negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel then, it’s because you’re supposed to do something. Positive emotions, on the other hand, are rewards for taking the proper action. When you feel them, life seems simple and there is nothing else to do but enjoy it. Then, like everything else, the positive emotions go away, because more problems inevitably emerge.
Emotions are part of the equation of our lives, but not the entire equation. Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it is good. Just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad. Emotions are merely signposts, suggestions that our neurobiology gives us, not commandments. Therefore, we shouldn’t always trust our own emotions. In fact, I believe we should make it a habit of questioning them.
Many people are taught to repress their emotions for various personal, social, or cultural reasons — particularly negative emotions. Sadly, to deny one’s negative emotions is to deny many of the feedback mechanisms that help a person solve problems. As a result, many of these repressed individuals struggle to deal with problems throughout their lives. And if they can’t solve problems, then they can’t be happy. Remember, pain serves a purpose.
But then there are those people who over-identify with their emotions. Everything is justified for no other reason than they felt it. “Oh, I broke your windshield, but I was really mad; I couldn’t help it.” Or “I dropped out of school and moved to Alaska just because it felt right.” Decision-making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks. You know who bases their entire lives on their emotions? Three-year-old kids. And dogs. You what else three-year-old kids and dogs do? Shit on the carpet.
REJECTION MAKES YOUR LIFE BETTER
As an extension of our positivity/consumer culture, many of us have been “indoctrinated” with the belief that we should try to be as inherently accepting and affirmative as possible. This is a cornerstone of many of the so-called positive thinking books; open yourself up to opportunities, be accepting, say yes to everything and everyone, and so on.
But we need to reject something. Otherwise, we stand for nothing. If nothing is better or more desirable than anything else, then we are empty and our life is meaningless. We are without values and therefore lives out life without any purpose.
The avoidance of rejection (both giving and receiving it) is often sold to us as a way to make ourselves feel better. But avoiding rejection gives us short-term pleasure by making us rudderless and directionless in the long term.
To truly appreciate something, you must confine yourself to it. There’s a certain level of joy and meaning that you reach in life only when you’ve spent decades investigating in a single relationship, a single craft, a single career. And you cannot achieve those decades of investment without rejecting the alternatives.
The act of choosing a value for yourself require rejecting alternative values. If I choose to make my marriage the most important part of my life, that means I’m (probably) choosing not to make cocaine-fueled hooker orgies an important part of my life. If I’m choosing to judge myself based on my ability to have open and accepting friendships, that means I am rejecting trashing my friends behind their backs. These are all healthy decisions, yet they require rejection at every turn.
The point is, we all must give a fuck about something, in order to value something. And to value something, we must reject what is not that something. To value X, we must reject non-X.
That rejection is an inherent and necessary part of maintaining our values, and therefore our identity. We are defined by what we choose to reject. And if we reject nothing (perhaps in fear of being rejected by something ourselves), we essentially have no identity at all.
GOOD STUFF, HUH?
I told ya’ll. Profound AF, and fun AF —I’m a true Mark Manson fan.
If you want to read a whole bunch more of his articles, check out his blog at MarkManson.net.
And if you wanna purchase his book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, just click the title anywhere throughout this post to find it on Amazon.
Thanks for reading, dudes! Talk to ya next week