Sometimes it seems as if everyone around us is so blessed and happy. How is it that while we are struggling with our life others are enjoying theirs? What is the secret that separates those who are happy from those who are not?
The answer is simple – it’s the state of mind.
In today’s world everything is attainable. Look around and you’ll find people who go from poverty to being millionaires before they turn 30. Kids without parents that become stars in professional sports. People who lose 100s of pounds in a few months after spending most of their life being obese.
Scratch the surface and you’ll see that the most important thing these people did was: setting the right state of mind. They replaced depressive, negative, busy thoughts with ones that are supportive, positive and focused. They chose to hold themselves accountable. They chose performing over criticizing. They chose being happy over being unhappy.
You can do exactly the same thing. Understand that happiness is not a goal, happiness is a state. You can’t obtain happiness the way you obtain 4 year higher education diploma. Feelings inside you can’t be stored and owned like a piece of paper. They can however be retrieved and reignited over and over until certain feelings become identifying part of you. Relearn your brain to power positive thoughts instead of negative ones. Make happiness your identifying trait, a habit, and you will find yourself unable to be unhappy even in the darkest hours.
Ignite the flame of joy in you. Not tomorrow, the next year or the year after. Now! Seize the realization that your happiness belongs and is controlled by you. And that there is not a single reason to delay being in the happy state of mind.
Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions -Dalai Lama
One of the most impactful things in life is the group of people you share your time with. We humans climbed to the top of the food chain by organizing into tribes and standing united against stronger, faster and meaner enemies. What we couldn’t even imagine as individuals, we achieved as a part of a group. Tens of thousands of years we spent roaming and evolving together left the imprint of social animal all over us.
However, in this era of distractions and shallow entertainment many of us seem to have forgotten how important real relationships are. There is no surer way to box yourself into depression then to cut ties with everyone around you. At first it may seem like a great idea, but as time passes you’ll start to realize that you need someone, anyone to share your thoughts with.
So, choose to belong for sake of your own sanity. Understand that everything becomes easier when you truly invest yourself and share time with people you care about. Find those who share your values and goals. Stay away from those who don’t. But be prepared to give – the best relationships are those where you can help others with their need and have them satisfy yours.
Now, will you be burned more often than not by giving and not receiving? Of course. In the rapidly changing world of today, everyone needs so much, and tomorrow they will need even more. Know your limits but do not let those limits hold you. If you are able to give – give freely. Rejoice that you were able to provide and contribute to the social network we all depend on.
The more you give, the more you will develop yourself. We all end up getting pulled toward our own group. Leeches always end up with leeches. Givers always end up with givers. Don’t let adversity and disappointment knock you off your path and drive you toward group you don’t belong. Choose to give and be foundation for people around you and help them develop. Make your group a giver’s group and start carrying each other on the path of happiness.
Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes -William Gibson
It said that truths are often forgotten only to be rediscovered in somewhat similar shape and form. Just look at happiness – one of the most studied topics in the history of human kind. We know more about happiness then about almost any other subject. Countless books have been written on the subject of happiness; and funny enough, some authors even tried giving a list of steps you need to do in order to be happy. Yet so many of us are unhappy.
The problem is that knowing and practicing are not the same thing. We all know that when hitter steps in batters box he should hit baseball out of ballpark. But give us a bat and we would look ridiculous while trying to do something we know so much about when we see it on TV. We allow our brains to simplify until the point where everything looks so easy, yet it becomes so hard when we actually need to do it.
If there was no distinction between knowing and practicing – being well-spoken would be inherent trait since we all talk. But, only few of us actually pay attention when speaking. Others are too busy thinking about problems of the past, expectations from the future and that video on YouTube they need to revisit and watch.
In this moment, if you allowed yourself to think and dream – you would find that you absolutely know in which direction you should head out in order to be happy. True enough, you also know doubts, uncertainties and obstacles that are keeping you from starting toward your goals and happiness.
It all comes down to asking yourself – will you stand up and bask in the light of doing or stay crouched in the dirt of knowing? Will you actually practice what you already understand? Will you commit yourself to refocusing your mind from distractions onto things that you truly care about? Will you allow yourself to be happy?
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are – Theodore Roosevelt
By now you have probably experienced depressing impact circumstances and people can have on your plans. You were doing great and going toward the goal when suddenly external influence changed everything. Losing control you got upset and eventually your focus is completely broken, crushing you for a day and leaving you crippled for a week as you try to regroup and reorganize you plans.
This may bring up lots of questions like: Do you need to involve yourself in extended planning discussions? Should you be aggressive until others start realizing their negative impact? What about prevention of unexpected circumstances? Do you need a roadmap on dealing with possible negative scenarios? Should you argue with others about your plans?
To all previous (and similar) questions answer is easy: no. What you simply need to do is make plans with less dependencies and conditions. Do not make plans which assume that everybody will act in their best interests. When you actually take time to think about it, you can easily realize that people seldom act in their best interest. As soon emotions kick in, majority of us will completely lose it.
Don’t allow yourself to do that. Fight against impulsiveness that takes you away from your goals. Take the charge and own your plan to the point where you are ready and committed to do everything by yourself. Do not run away from obligations and lure yourself with false promises of somebody else doing your work. Nobody will.
Only you can do your work. Only when your plan has as little dependencies as possible are you ready to begin. With clarity it’ll be obvious why top performers are also the ones that do not shy away from obligations but rather strive to carry everything on their shoulders. Only when you start refusing to count on scraps from others and commit yourself to your personal excellence will you be able to bask in the joy of pushing toward your goals oblivious of obstacles and distractions.
Take your life in your own hands, and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame. – Erica Jong
The one thing that you should do every day is to remind yourself where you are going. Remember the plans that you’ve made for yourself. Recite them every morning. Own that easiest and indispensable building block of living happy and fulfilled life – be present and know where you are actually going. Understand true motivation and purpose behind your actions.
Once you are truly on the path toward your goal, the only thing left is to start enjoying the journey. That’s where most people start to struggle. They stay so focused on the goal that they allow frustrations of not yet arriving to build up to the point of bursting. Why? Getting upset that you haven’t already arrived will not make you reach your goal faster. Even worse, in most situations, it’ll actually put you further away from your goal.
Building up understanding and appreciation of the journey toward goals is indispensable skill that we all need to develop. Love your struggles. Appreciate the grind that brings you closer to your goals. Rejoice that your destination is long and hard, allowing you to celebrate not once, but multiple times for each and every milestone you pass on your journey. Reject doubts that are trying to get a hold of you and arise above petty excuses and empty dreams of everything changing once you arrive at certain destination.
Stop focusing on the goal when that goal is just a mean to another end. You are not reaching an end point, but yet another marker on the longer path your drew for yourself. Focus on the happy fact that you are performing in the moment and that you are staying true to the decisions you’ve made. And stop shielding yourself from excitement. Allow your inner self to release cry of joy for every single victory no matter how small or trivial it may seem. You deserve to celebrate and be celebrated for every positive impact you make.
Only when you put journey ahead of destination will you be ready to conquer anything you set yourself toward. The happiness belongs to those who love each and every moment of what they are doing. And if you are on the path toward your goals, nothing is preventing you from joining them. Embrace the grind.
The chief cause of unhappiness and failure is trading what you want most for what you want right now – Zig Ziglar
It is paradoxical that in this era of abundance we are so easy to slack off. Here we are, in the moment of reading this, able to watch and consume almost anything on the great world wide web. And yet, in this sea of choice, so many of us choose celebrity gossip and news. Are humans truly that shallow? Or is it that we are shaped by our choices? That so many of us when confronted with buttons that say Easy and Hard, will always press Easy.
With each action you take, you train yourself. The same way someone trains themselves to get upset and mindlessly yell, other people train themselves to calm down and approach the problem with clarity. Ultimately, you are the one deciding your fate. Others can plead, force, push you around – but it is you who signs off on what will happen.
So, think before your act. Know that each repetitive action you take brings you closer to automation in your brain. Remember the person you want to be and act like it. Never will be easier to make the right choice than it is right now. Picking what you know is the wrong choice is not only bad for the present, it also will set you back in the future. Your brain remembers, so the next time you are confronted with the same choice it’ll lean you toward the same wrong action even harder.
Bring out the fire in yourself and fight to choose right the first time. Do not shy away or pacify yourself with busy thoughts. Understand that you can’t live in the past or the future. The only time you truly impact is the ever fleeting present. So, make it count. Fill your actions with desire and caring so that you can remember them fondly when present becomes past. Battle the best you can so that upcoming challenges become laughable once they materialize from the future as part of the present facing you.
The time to make breakthrough is now.
Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. -George Bernard Shaw
Doesn’t it feel great when there are others you can blame for something that went wrong? When your effort and time ended in a loss and now you can say – it was because of certain someone or something? Do you feel positive vibe when trading your responsibilities for excuses and pinning the blame somewhere else?
You don’t? Well, you are right. After things go wrong, in the grand scheme of things, blame actually doesn’t matter that much. The only thing that matters is how you feel about your actions. Whether or not you have succumbed to the pressure and circumstances or you raised above them.
When you are part of a group effort don’t be surprised to witness that some people will actually start working against themselves. If they came to conclusion that your team will lose, they will actually start working toward that outcome, just to prove themselves right. It is truly paradoxical how some of us will let emotions rule; all the way to the ruin.
And when blame is not readily available in the present, even invoking distant past is an option. Some of those lucky enough to have supportive parents can even manage to say: yeah, my parents never told me how terrible world actually is. How everything is so much different from what I was taught and told. Somehow, parents not telling little Johnny that Santa Clause doesn’t actually exist and that he may run into difficulties in life is what keeps him from performing in the present.
Obviously, don’t join the choir of ridiculousness. Be the voice of reason. Stand behind your actions, not only when it easy, but when it’s hard. Especially then – be the foundation on which others can lean and focus on following your path regardless of noise around you. Do not take excuses even when they hand them to you on a silver platter. Stay directed toward the destiny you designed for yourself. You do not need excuses, because in the end – they won’t make you happy and, more importantly, won’t even matter.
The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions. -Dwight D. Eisenhower
Book reviews are part of the reason why I started this blog. Unfortunately, as I manage to pile myself with bunch of obligations I’m in constant dreaming mode. Mode where I dream about new things over and over never actually getting to DO things I dreamt about. Luckily, reading this book as part of Betterment Book Club on Reddit got me to finally produce detailed overview that I am using now as summary / review of the book.
Note that my writings on this blog regarding books will fall somewhere between reviews and summaries. Like, I will definitely give score at the end so that people can understand whether or not I recommend book. But also, I’ll try to be detailed enough so that you have summary of the book and biggest takeaways. So, let’s dive in right away – my view of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” by Mark Manson. Caveat – I’ll mix both positive and negative… takeaways and just plain interesting bits.
Happiness is a problem
If I was forced to choose only one takeaway from the book – this would be it. Ever since I’ve read the book I’m trying to remind myself every day that “Happiness is a problem”. That sentence is ingenious because it has multiple meanings. As Mark tells in the book: the act of trying to have positive experience is itself a negative experience. On the other hand the act of accepting negative experience is itself a positive experience. In that sense, chasing happiness will cause problems for you. The more you yearn happiness the bigger problem you’ll create.
Also, another meaning of that sentence targets relationship between solving problems and being happy. Like – find something meaningful, solve it, be happy. Of course, after some time happiness will vanish and you’ll need to look for another meaningful problem to solve to be happy. In that sense, people who don’t have meaningful problems in their they feel
The value of suffering
Hiroo Onoda was officer of Japanese army who at the end of 1944 was basically sent on a suicide mission. His orders called to do as much as damage as he could to overwhelming Allied forces and basically fight to the death without surrendering or taking his own life. Well, Onoda did exactly that – for next 30 YEARS. He hid in the jungles of Philippine island he was on, fighting on and on and on… ignoring pamphlets dropped from planes, pleads of locals and probably his own doubts.
I feel tempted to link to YouTube video or various online articles that tell the story… but instead I call you to purchase this book and read about Onoda there. The way Mark presented Hiroo and tied his legacy with “the value of suffering” is alone worth the price of admission. I’ve read lots of book that talk about necessity of suffering for goals you hold dear… but never was that idea better presented than in this book. Crystal clear. Bravo Mark Manson.
Hiroo Onoda surrendering to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in 1974, 29 years after WW II ended
Inspiration -> Motivation -> Action misconception
Also a big takeaway from this book is that action should precede everything else. Like, most people harbor idea of being inspired, which in turn will get you motivated and ready to perform. Reality is that this almost never materializes. What Mark recommends is to turn those 3 into a loop that STARTS with action, like: Action -> Inspiration -> Motivation… Every time you will lead with Action, after finishing action you’ll be Inspired, and reflecting back on your action you’ll be Motivated. Then when it’s time to start again, you go with another Action feeding off Inspiration and Motivation of previous cycle. Pro-tip.
Commitment is a NO
Finally, one more misconception that gets shattered in this book is “Commitment is a YES”. What Mark points out is that Commitment requires way more NOs than YESes. If you are committed to something you basically only need to say 1 YES. From there, until you “complete” your commitment you’ll be saying NO over and over.
Title of this book is misleading
Author probably went with it because it sounds cool and is eye catching (let’s boost sales, right?). But then you start reading first chapter and essentially get that title of book should be – “The Subtle Art of Choosing What to Give a F*** About”. Subtitle would be in line of: after you choose what to give f*** about, you then need to go deep and invest 100% of you into it. Mark illustrates this by bragging about how he went all-in-badass with helping his mom recover money from scammer.
Author is obviously a try-hard. And that’s a good thing. However, for some reason he is ashamed of it. Even worse, the way he glorifies Bukowski and his tombstone inscription of “Don’t try” completely misses the mark. Message of Bukowski’s life is more in line with “Don’t try – do it”. Like when you ask someone to do something and he replies with “I’ll try”. Well – don’t try, actually do it.
Because if you look at history and how Bukowski succeeded – you’ll see that guy TRIED for 20+ years to get published. He wrote daily and went through rejection after rejection oblivious of failures until, in the end, he found one person that believed in him and was proficient enough in the publishing business.
Now, Bukowski is definitely person whose “talk the talk” is far removed from “walk the walk”. Thus, book which aims to help people improve should not mystify and feed cult of personality for sake of cool factor. Tell it as it is. Help people find the truth… don’t obscure it. Especially if person you are using as an example is as complex and confusing as Bukowski was:
Writing f*** a lot won’t make you cool
Start of the book is especially bad because you are torn between author’s message of “Don’t try” and his incessant *trying* to sound cool. F*** count in first chapter is over 9000. My theory is that author re-purposed one of his early writings as a filter chapter for a book. Like – let’s put worst chapter at start, so we filter out readers. Because as soon as chapter 2 stars, f*** count drops almost to zero and book quality picks up.
Drama and sounding cool returns at the end
After spending 7 chapters explaining that “you are not special”, “you’re wrong about everything”, “failure is the way forward”… in the last chapter author suddenly goes all soft and fluffy with “don’t try, you are already great”. Then he supports that with following bs paragraph:
You are already great because in the face of endless confusion and certain death, you continue to choose what to give a fuck about and what not to. This mere fact, this simple optioning for your own values in life, already makes you beautiful, already makes you successful, and already makes you loved. Even if you don’t realize it. Even if you’re sleeping in a gutter and starving.
Yeah, right. Kinda fits with whole narrative of the chapter in which he approaches, sits on the edge of The Cape of Good Hope and lives through zen-like “I’m reborn” experience. Of course, there is also someone to witness his brave, awe-inspiring act of sitting on the cliff:
As I step back over some rocks, back to the main path, I look up to see a man staring at me. I stop and make eye contact with him.
“Um. I saw you sitting on the edge over there,” he says.
His accent is Australian. The word “there” rolls out of his mouth awkwardly. He points toward Antarctica.
“Yeah. The view is gorgeous, isn’t it?” I am smiling. He is not. He has a serious look on his face.
I brush my hands off on my shorts, my body still buzzing from my surrender. There’s an awkward silence.
The Aussie stands for a moment, perplexed, still looking at me, clearly thinking of what to say next.
After a moment, he carefully pieces the words together.
“Is everything okay? How are you feeling?”
I pause for a moment, still smiling. “Alive. Very alive.”
Yeah… that’s our unfazed, uber-cool Mark Manson. And the best part is that he doesn’t give a f*** and isn’t even trying. /s
Mark Manson and Erika Awakening – they do make a lovely couple
This is probably one of the best self-improvement books I’ve ever read. What makes it even better is the fact that Mark Manson is pretty young writer. I honestly can’t wait for him to get older and wiser… considering he is writing killer books now, when he is 50+ and becomes just a bit more mature, material he’ll spew out will probably be godly.
I promised a score, so here it is: 89/100.
In the end, if you are still on the fence, I HIGHLY recommend reading chapter breakdowns by TheZenMasterReturns. The guy just killed it with his breakdowns as part of Betterment Book Club, and he was instrumental in getting me to write my own detailed view. Here are the links to detailed analysis of “The subtle art of not giving a f***” by /u/TheZenMasterReturns:
Most people, when they remember their childhood dreams, often find them silly and far disconnected from life they are currently living. Of course, they can promptly provide you with a list of reasons why those dreams are unachievable. Those few who have actually tried following their childhood dreams will often say how hard it was even to start going, yet alone get anywhere near what they dreamed about. Most of us can accept a statement that life is not a dream as a solid fact. That sweet dreams are simply not compatible with harsh reality.
It’s understandable and it’s undeniably true – some dreams are just too wild. Some dreams are incompatible with people around you. And some dreams are actually silly. So, yeah – you probably won’t be traveling outside of solar system in next 10 years.
But what about dreams of having fulfilled and happy life? What about your dream job? What about wanting to be in shape and workout? What about hundreds of other small and happy dreams you had for yourself when you were younger and wanted to accomplish? Are those also unattainable? Or you are too distracted to even remember them any more?
Do not kid yourself that you are in a transition period. Everyone can slip and have a bad day or two. But there is no such thing as a year-long slip. You are who you are in the moment of reading this. Whether you are happy with who you currently are is topic for another discussion. But the good news is that you can be the person you decided to be. Simply remember your childhood dreams and be honest – if you went back in time what would be the reaction? Would you make yourself proud? Repulsed?
Think about it. And do not let your goals to slip your mind. Deep down in yourself you’ve always knew what you were destined to be. You are the only one that decides whether your dreams will become your reality. So, stop making excuses and start making your dreams happen.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. -Oscar Wilde
When you are well on the path toward your goal, you may find yourself at crossroads. Looking back on everything accomplished so far you may start to feel as if it’s time to “rest”; stand still for a bit and do nothing – just for sake of it. Your brain doesn’t know better and whether you like it or not it will often try to protect you. You should recognize the helpful intention but you should also reject the notion and keep going toward your goals.
It is said that laziness is a habit of resting when you are not really tired. It’s easy to fall into this habit and allow it to overwhelm you over time. And then as you age you find yourself resting more and more often. Why? Because collective thought of humanity said it must be that way? Because it’s the way things are?
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Especially in this day and age it’s easy to find examples that prove otherwise. You can witness humans in their 50s who are more fit and focused than they were in their 20s. In days of record setting obesity in teens and young adults you have scores of 80 year olds who are completing marathons each year.
What is it that fuels this shocking contrast? Maybe it is that we do gain wisdom with age, so that we find trading couch and pizza eating in front of a screen for outdoor challenge a no-brainer. Maybe we do not know better when we are young so we allow easy excitement and shallow fun to consume our best years.
Or maybe it is regret. Maybe as we draw near to the moment when we will finally be gone from this world we start realizing how much time we have wasted. How many unnecessary stops and detours we have taken. How we should plan rests as meticulously as our goals… and join the two whenever possible.
The next time you feel like taking a break just for sake of it – don’t. Recognize that only you can stop yourself. And that there is simply no need to do that. Keep marching.
Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm. -Winston Churchill