The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson In-Depth Summary
Do you get angry at the asshole driver that cut you off?
Do you gossip about people who’ve upset you?
Do you freak out when the referee whistles in your opponent’s favor?
Well… seems to me like you’re giving too many fucks. (We all do it. I’m super guilty myself.)
Wouldn’t life be better if we would care less about unimportant stuff?
Of course it would be. And that’s what Mark Manson’s book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is all about.
Manson provides a self-help book with blunt language and real life examples. It’s an easy read to help you prioritize and focus on the important.
In short: It’s about reorganizing our values and choosing what to give a fuck about in life.
Chapter 1: Don’t Try
“Conventional life advice – all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time – is actually fixating on what you lack. It lasers on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and then emphasizes them for you. You learn about the best ways to make money because you feel you don’t have enough money already. You stand in front of the mirror and repeat affirmations saying that you’re beautiful because you feel as though you’re not beautiful already.”
“Ironically, this fixation on the positive – on what’s better, what’s superior – only serves to remind us over and over again of what we are not, of what we lack, of what we should have been but failed to be. After all, no truly happy person feels the need to stand in front of a mirror and recite that she’s happy. She just is.”
Either you are or you are not. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not.
This advice is much different from what many other self-development books and teachers are telling (or selling) to us.
It’s funny, because I used to be the guy standing in front of the mirror every morning motivating myself. Telling myself that I was somebody who I probably wasn’t.
This doesn’t mean affirmations don’t work. Maybe they work for you. It means that there’s another way to actually live a good life.
“The world is constantly telling you that the path to a better life is more, more, more – buy more, own more, fuck more, be more. You are constantly bombarded with messages to give a fuck about everything, all the time.”
“The key to a good life is not giving a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.”
And that’s basically what the book is about: Choose what to give a fuck about. Dedicate your fucks only to what’s truly fuck-worthy. Choose what’s important to you and give a fuck about that. Less might actually be more.
How does giving fewer fucks about things help us live the good life?
Because we give way too many fucks about things that don’t matter. And this makes us feel bad about ourselves. Mark Manson calls this The Feedback Loop from Hell.
In short, you feel a certain feeling for some reason (or no obvious reason at all) and having this feeling makes you feel even worse.
For example, you get pissed off because your spouse hasn’t thanked you for washing the dishes. Now when you’re pissed off you realize that you just got pissed off for a tiny matter. And that again pisses you off even more. Only now you’re pissed off about yourself being pissed off. That’s the feedback loop from hell (I wrote in detail about it here.)
The solution is simple: Don’t give a fuck about your negative experiences (anxiety, anger, guilt, fear etc.). Because it’s okay having these feelings. It’s okay to feel like shit sometimes. Don’t make it worse by beating yourself up for feeling that way.
“By not giving a fuck that you feel bad, you short-circuit the Feedback Loop from Hell; you say to yourself, ‘I feel like shit, but who gives a fuck?’ And then, as if sprinkled by magic fuck-giving fairy dust, you stop hating yourself for feeling so bad.”
What does it mean to not give a fuck?
“Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.”
“There’s absolutely nothing admirable or confident about indifference. People who are indifferent are lame and scared. They’re couch potatoes and Internet trolls….They hide in a gray, emotionless pit of their own making, self-absorbed and self-pitying, perpetually distracting themselves from this unfortunate thing demanding their time and energy called life.”
You must give a fuck about something. The question is: What to give a fuck about?
Be comfortable being different. That’s the people who are themselves. No matter what. They don’t care about what others think because they believe what they do is the right thing to do.
“Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.”
“Finding something important and meaningful in your life is perhaps the most productive use of your time and energy. Because if you don’t find that meaningful something, your fucks will be given to meaningless and frivolous causes.”
It’s simple: Don’t hand out fucks like ice cream at a goddamn summer camp but find something fuck-worthy to dedicate your fucks to.
“Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.”
“Maturity is what happens when one learns to only give a fuck about what’s truly fuck-worthy.”
When we grow older we learn to accept ourselves, including the parts we’re not thrilled about. And this is liberating as we no longer feel the urge to give a fuck about everything but only the things that matter. And this is enough. “This simplification actually makes us really fucking happy on a consistent basis.”
Chapter 2: Happiness Is a Problem
“There is a premise that underlies a lot of our assumptions and beliefs. The premise is that happiness is algorithmic, that it can be worked for and earned and achieved as if it were getting accepted to law school or building a really complicated Lego set. If I achieve X, then I can be happy. If I look like Y, then I can be happy. If I can be with a person like Z, then I can be happy.”
This is BS. The premise is the problem. “Happiness is not a solvable equation.”
It’s like they say, the journey is the reward. You don’t climb the Mount Everest for the view, you climb it for the sake of climbing. When you’re up there, you go, “Oh, nice view and really fresh air up here.” And then you immediately start climbing all the way down again.
“The secret sauce is in the solving of problems, not in not having problems in the first place.”
“To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you, not something that you magically discover in a top-ten article on the Huffington Post.”
And guess what, it’s not the same for everybody. Some people might be happy when they can solve actual math problems. Some people are happy putting together Legos. And when they solve the problem, they go to the next one immediately.
I remember studying for university exams. I thought I’ll be happy when the exams are over. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t. Yes, after the last exam I took a deep breath and felt kind of released. However, it wasn’t the happy feeling I was expecting. Au contraire, I kind of felt lost the next days because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have anything to solve. This emptiness felt actually worse than the studying for the exams. “What’s wrong with me?” I thought. (Classic case of the Feedback Loop from Hell.)
“This is a difficult pill to swallow. We like the idea that there’s some form of ultimate happiness that can be attained. We like the idea that we can alleviate all of our suffering permanently. We like the idea that we can feel fulfilled and satisfied with our lives forever. But we cannot.”
Happiness requires struggle.
Mark Manson tells this story of himself wanting to be a rock star. He dreamed about it and imagined himself being on stage with thousands of people yelling his name and stuff. But he never even came close. Why? Because he didn’t actually want it.
“I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love with not the fight but only the victory.”
Life doesn’t work that way. It’s all about the struggle. The way, the process. That’s what we spend most time with.
Look at a soccer team. They play a long season because they want to win the league. But when they finally win the league, they’re already looking forward to the next season. If it was only for the titles, they couldn’t play all year round. It’s the process they enjoy. And if they don’t enjoy it, they burn out. They train 6 days a week for 1 game. They train 11 months a year for 1 title which they celebrate for a few days max.
Or look at our work weeks. A person who hates his job exchanges 5 days of pain for 2 days of free time. That’s a really bad deal. And that person won’t be happy in the long run. However, someone who enjoys what he’s doing day-in, day-out will be a much happier person. It’s our daily struggles that define our successes.
In that sense:
“No matter where you go, there’s a five-hundred-pound load of shit waiting for you. And that’s perfectly fine. The point isn’t to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.”
Chapter 3: You Are Not Special
“Sometime in the 1960s, developing ‘high self-esteem’ – having positive thoughts and feelings about oneself – became all the rage in psychology. Research found that people who thought highly about themselves generally performed better and caused fewer problems… Business and motivational seminars cropped up chanting the same paradoxical mantra: every single one of us can be exceptional and massively successful.”
“But it’s a generation later and the data is in: we’re not all exceptional. It turns out that merely feeling good about yourself doesn’t really mean anything unless you have a good reason to feel good about yourself. It turns out that adversity and failure are useful and even necessary for developing strong-minded and successful adults.”
In other words: Fuck positivity. Sometimes things are fucked up and we need to live with it.
Yeah, it’s probably better to see the glass half-full than half-empty. But sometimes the glass is full of shit. You cannot change that by being positive about it.
We’ve become a generation that feels entitled. Entitled people feel that they deserve good things without actually earning them.
“People who feel entitled view every occurrence in their life as either an affirmation of, or a threat to, their own greatness. If something good happens to them, it’s because of some amazing feat they accomplished. If something bad happens to them, it’s because somebody is jealous and trying to bring them down a notch. Entitlement isn’t impervious. People who are entitled delude themselves into whatever feeds their sense of superiority.”
Entitled people only see their positives. They can’t acknowledge their problems and weaknesses. And sooner or later reality will hit and it will be painful. Because reality is not a unicorn dancing on clouds. Or at least, there will be some clouds full of shit. The unicorn slips and breaks its horn. Baam. Life sucks.
It’s the same for everybody. There’s shit on every path.
Entitled people think that their shit deserves some special treatment. But it doesn’t. Your shit isn’t stinkier than mine. You’ve got the same shit in your life as millions of other people. All that means is you’re not special. And neither am I. Neither is Mark Manson. He’s got the same fucking problems as we have.
“Often, it’s this realization – that you and your problems are actually not privileged in their severity or pain – that is the first and most important step toward solving them.”
And yet, many people forget this. They feel entitled to get special treatment. According to Mark, that comes from the media which only covers exceptional people. Good or bad.
“Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That’s the bottom line. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average.
Exceptional is the new normal. And because we’re all quite average, we feel that we don’t measure up and that we’re not good enough. “Being ‘average’ has become the new standard of failure.”
So, I cannot be exceptional?
Yes, you can. There’s nothing wrong with trying to become exceptional at something. However, you need to realize first that you’re only mediocre. And you need to work extremely hard in order to get there. You’re not there yet. Not even near. All the people who actually are extraordinary are the ones who’ve become obsessed with improvement and worked their asses off each and every day.
Point is: It’s okay to be average. It’s okay to do ordinary things.
Once we accept that we’re as unspecial as it gets we can start improving ourselves and getting better at whatever we want to. Or not.
“The knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgment or lofty expectations.”
Chapter 4: The Value of Suffering
“If suffering is inevitable, if our problems in life are unavoidable, then the question we should be asking is not ‘How do I stop suffering?’ but ‘Why am I suffering – for what purpose?’”
There’s a five-hundred-pound of shit waiting for you wherever you go. You will be suffering. The question is what for? For what purpose?
Marathon runners run through a lot of shit. Every day they get up and run a lot. That’s the shit they choose. Book authors write a lot and need to go through a lot of shit in that sense. Teachers go through a lot of shit as well if they want to be good. They need to read 20 essays on the same topic. Plus they need to deal with immature kids. So whatever you do, you need to go through a lot of shit. The question is which shit do you prefer? And what for?
Now, this is not quite easy to find out. In the book Manson uses a metaphor to help us understand ourselves: The Self-Awareness Onion.
“Self-awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it, and the more you peel them back, the more likely you’re going to start crying at inappropriate times.”
The first layer is a simple understanding of one’s emotions.
How do I feel? What is this emotion?
- I’m sad.
- I kind of feel depressed.
- I am happy right now.
The second layer is an ability to ask why we feel certain emotions.
Why do I feel that way?
- Why am I sad?
- Why am I kind of depressed?
- Why am I happy right now?
The third layer is our personal values: Why do I consider this to be success/failure?
How am I choosing to measure myself? By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?
“This level, which takes constant questioning and effort, is incredibly difficult to reach. But it’s the most important, because our values determine the nature of our problems, and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives.”
So clearly, knowing your values is important because in the end they determine the quality of your life.
The author offers a simple system to find out why something bothers you.
- Ask why.
- Keep on asking why (Why does this seem true?).
Well, this strategy isn’t sophisticated or anything special. And still, it works. We just need to dig deep enough. (You can try it yourself with something that really bugs you.)
“What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how you come to see the situation, how you choose to measure it and value it. Problems may be inevitable, but the meaning of each problem is not. We get to control what our problems mean based on how we choose to think about them, the standard by which we choose to measure them.”
For example school grades. Objectively, grade B- is a B-. There’s no way around it. For Jim it may be a fantastic grade and he gets super enthusiastic about it. For Anna, on the other hand, the grade is a minor catastrophe. The objective value of the grade B- doesn’t mean anything to both of them. They have got completely different standards by which they measure their grades.
The exact same grade or situation can mean very different things for people. All depending on their values and by what standards they measure failure/success.
“If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.”
Let’s look at some common values that create poor problems – problems that can hardly be solved.
“Pleasure is great, but it’s a horrible value to prioritize your life around… Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose… Pleasure is not the cause of happiness; rather, it is the effect.”
“Research shows that once one is able to provide for basic physical needs (food, shelter, and so on), the correlation between happiness and worldly success quickly approaches zero.”
“When people measure themselves not by their behavior, but by the status symbols they’re able to collect, then not only are they shallow, but they’re probably assholes as well.”
Always Being Right
“The fact is, people who base their self-worth on being right about everything prevent themselves from learning from their mistakes… It’s far more helpful to assume that you’re ignorant and don’t know a whole lot. This keeps you unattached to superstitious or poorly informed beliefs and promotes a constant state of learning and growth.”
“It’s simple, really: things go wrong, people upset us, accidents happen. These things make us feel like shit. And that’s fine. Negative emotions are a necessary component of emotional health. To deny that negativity is to perpetuate problems rather than solve them.”
“One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful.”
– Sigmund Freud
What Are Good Values?
“Good values are 1) reality-based, 2) socially constructive, and 3) immediate and controllable.”
“Some examples of good, healthy values: honesty, innovation, vulnerability, standing up for oneself, standing up for others, self-respect, curiosity, charity, humility, creativity.”
Benjamin Franklin worked on his values everyday, learn about his 13 virues here.
Let’s look at honesty. Is it reality-based? Yes. Is it socially constructive? Yes, although it can be harsh. And yes, it’s immediate and controllable.
“When we have poor values – that is, poor standards we set for ourselves and others – we are essentially giving fucks about the things that don’t matter, things that in fact make our lives worse. But when we choose better values, we are able to divert our fucks to something better – toward things that matter, things that improve the state of our well-being and that generate happiness, pleasure, and success as side effects.”
“This, in a nutshell, is what ‘self-improvement’ is really about: prioritizing better values, choosing better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life.”
(Hint: The next chapters are 5 counterintuitive values that are “the most beneficial values one can adopt.”)
Chapter 5: You Are Always Choosing (Responsibility)
“There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.”
This is powerful stuff. If we realize that we’re responsible for everything in our lives, then we get to improve ourselves.
Look, no matter the circumstances, it’s your responsibility. For example, it’s not your fault if you were born into a poor family in Syria, and yet it’s still your responsibility. There are many choices to be made.
It doesn’t matter who’s at fault. It’s always your responsibility because you can choose what you make of it.
Mark Manson compares this to poker. No matter the hand you’re dealt, it’s your responsibility to deal with the hand. It’s about the choices you make. “People who constantly make the best choices in the situations they’re given are the ones who eventually come out ahead in poker, just as in life.”
Yes, some people are dealt better cards in life than others. But life is a long game. If you consistently take responsibility for your situations and make good choices, you’ll eventually come out ahead in life.
“There’s a difference between blaming someone else for your situation and that person’s actually being responsible for your situation. Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you. Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you. This is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things. You always get to choose the metric by which to measure your experiences.”
Let’s say your doctor tells you to lift weights twice a week for health purposes. You do it, but it’s always a pain in the ass to drag yourself to the gym. Lifting weights sucks because you haven’t chosen it but you got to do it. In a different situation, you didn’t go to see your doctor but you read some health magazine and learned that lifting weights twice a week would be good for you. You decide to do it. Now that you’ve chosen the situation yourself, you look at the problem way differently. Twice a week, you walk with a spring in your step to the gym.
“Often the only difference between a problem being painful or being powerful is a sense that we chose it, and that we are responsible for it.”
Chapter 6: You’re Wrong About Everything (Embrace Uncertainty)
Manson makes the point that a while back people were certain about things that we know today are complete BS. People believed that the world was flat. Or that the sun revolved around the earth. Or that women were here to serve men. Etc.
The same holds true for the younger version of you. You were certain about things you now think is bullcrap. And you believe things now that future you will call bullpoo.
“Certainty is the enemy of growth… Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are.”
Also, doubt what Manson says. And doubt what I say. Doubt what your mamma taught you. Doubt what your professors are teaching you. And doubt what you are telling yourself.
Interestingly enough, Mark states that we shall not trust our conception of positive/negative experiences. So even if something feels fantastic now, doesn’t mean it actually is. Or just because something feels awful doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same about it in the future. All we know is how we feel about something now. And that’s not a lot.
This reminds me of the maybe story. (I highly recommend you watch the 2-min video below as it explains it beautifully.)
In most situations we get an intuition that says something is good or bad. But in reality we don’t know. It seems a certain way, but we don’t know. So maybe it’s good and maybe it’s bad. How about taking it as it comes? It’s okay how it is. Maybe it’ll benefit us and maybe it’ll harm us. We simply do not know for sure.
“Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth. As the old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.”
In that sense: embrace uncertainty.
This is also important in order to be able to change our values and prioritizations. In the end, if we want to change and let go of those values, we need to become uncertain of current values.
Manson offers us 3 questions that help us be a little less certain about ourselves.
Question #1: What if I’m wrong?
“As a general rule, we’re all the world’s worst observers of ourselves. When we’re angry, or jealous, or upset, we’re oftentimes the last ones to figure it out.”
“It’s worth remembering that for any change to happen in your life, you must be wrong about something.”
Before you protect your opinion like Gollum protects his precious, ask yourself, What if I was wrong?
Question #2: What would it mean if I were wrong?
This goes a step further. What does it mean if you were wrong?
In most cases the answer would be something like this, “If I’m wrong then I’m behaving like a total asshole.”
Question #3: Would being wrong create a better or worse problem than my current problem, for both myself and others?
“This is the litmus test for determining whether we’ve got some pretty solid values going on, or we’re totally neurotic fuckwads taking our fucks out on everyone, including ourselves.”
Are we just being a selfish idiot or is there something to what we believe?
“That’s simply reality: if it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.”
Chapter 7: Failure Is the Way Forward
“Improvement at anything is based on thousands of tiny failures, and the magnitude of your success is based on how many times you’ve failed at something. If someone is better than you at something, then it’s likely because she has failed at it more than you have.”
You’ve probably heard it before: Talent is overrated (aka the 10’000 hours rule). It’s more about the work you put into something rather than your preconditions.
“We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at. If we’re unwilling to fail, then we’re unwilling to succeed.”
“If you think about a young child trying to learn to walk, that child will fall down and hurt itself hundreds of times. But at no point does that child ever stop and think, ‘Oh, I guess walking just isn’t for me. I’m not good at it.’”
If you want to succeed at something, you will certainly have to fail many times. So failure and pain is part of the process. Always.
As we grow older, we develop avoidance of failure. Manson says this has to do with our education system (grades on performance), overbearing and critical parents (punish kids for failing), and with mass media (constant exposure to stellar success stories without the background of hard work).
This avoidance of failure creates an avoidance of the necessary actions to succeed at things. Manson suggests setting process-oriented goals and just starting to take action with his “Do Something” Principle.
The “Do Something” Principle
“When I was in high school, my math teacher Mr. Packwood used to say: ‘If you’re stuck on a problem, don’t just sit there and think about it; just start working on it. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually cause the right ideas to show up in your head.’”
Don’t just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.
By applying this advice, Mark Manson learned a powerful lesson about motivation:
Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
“Most of us commit to action only if we feel a certain level of motivation. And we feel motivation only when we feel enough emotional inspiration. We assume that these steps occur in a sort of chain reaction.”
Emotional inspiration –> Motivation –> Desirable action
So we assume that if we’re not inspired, we’re screwed and don’t take action. Luckily, this needn’t be necessary the case.
“The thing about motivation is that it’s not only a three-part chain, but an endless loop.”
Inspiration –> Motivation –> Action –> Inspiration –> Motivation –> Action –> Etc.
“Your actions create further emotional reactions and inspirations and move on to motivate your future actions. Taking advantage of this knowledge, we can actually reorient our mindset in the following way:”
Action –> Inspiration –> Motivation
“If you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something – anything, really – and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.”
That’s the “Do Something” Principle. Pretty simple, right?
Don’t think about whether you’re doing it right or not. Just do it. It doesn’t matter if you fail, because the only thing that counts is that you start doing something – anything, really.
Personally, if I have trouble getting started with work, I just clean my desk. That’s super easy and only takes a few minutes. And suddenly I feel like I could actually start work. Magic. (Read The Beginner’s Guide to Take More Action.)
“Action is always within reach. And with simply doing something as your only metric for success – well, then even failure pushes you forward.”
Chapter 8: The Importance of Saying No (Rejection)
“Rejection is an important and crucial life skill.”
After years of traveling Mark Manson learned in the “most un-American place” Russia, that in order to fully trust others, you must be unapologetically honest with each other. In other words, Russia was the first place that he felt he could say whatever he thought or felt, without fear of repercussion.
Quick history lesson:
“Having lived under communism for so many generations, with little to no economic opportunity and caged by a culture of fear, Russian society found the most valuable currency to be trust. And to build trust you have to be honest.”
“But, in the ‘free’ West, there existed an abundance of economic opportunity – so much economic opportunity that it became far more valuable to present yourself in a certain way, even if it was false, than to actually be that way. Trust lost its value.”
(By the way, I love this history lesson, however I’m not sure whether it’s the complete truth. It’s just what Manson learned from his Russian teacher. Keep that in mind. Remember, be doubtful.)
“This is why it became the norm in Western cultures to smile and say polite things even when you don’t feel like it, to tell little white lies and agree with someone whom you don’t actually agree with.”
“The downside of this is that you never know, in the West, if you can completely trust the person you’re talking to.”
This is the reason why people often say Yes and Amen to things they don’t really want. Just to please the others. It gets clear that it’s important to say No at times (it’s either Hell Yeah or No Thanks).
“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 live our life without any purpose.”
“The point is this: 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.”
“No one trusts a yes-man.”
Chapter 9: …And Then You Die (Contemplation of One’s Mortality)
“Death scares us. And because it scares us, we avoid thinking about it, talking about it, sometimes even acknowledging it, even when it’s happening to someone close to us.
Yet, in a bizarre, backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.”
Do you ever talk about death?
Probably not. We just don’t. And there are two underlying reasons that the author of the book The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker, found:
- Death Terror: Humans can think about what they think. And they can imagine themselves in hypothetical situations. At some point humans become aware of the inevitability of death. This leads to “Death Terror”, a deep existential anxiety that underlies everything we think or do.
- Immortality Projects: Humans have two selves. A physical self that eats, sleeps, snores, and poops, and a conceptual self which is our identity or how we see ourselves. As we know that our physical self is mortal, we try to make sure that our conceptual self will not be forgotten. “This is why people try so hard to get their names on buildings, statues, on spines of books.”
The point is that people do not really live for life purposes but for immortality projects. We live with the desire to never truly die. Therefore we do not truly live.
“The fear of death follows the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” – Mark Twain
“The only way to be comfortable with death is to understand and see yourself as something bigger than yourself; to choose values that stretch beyond serving yourself, that are simple and immediate and controllable and tolerant of the chaotic world around you. This is the basic root of all happiness.”
But because we feel entitled, and that we are the center of the universe, that we suffer most, and that we deserve greatness more than anybody else, because of that we are not comfortable with death. And that’s why we do not truly live.
Prioritize your fucks wisely.
“The pampering of the modern mind has resulted in a population that feels deserving of something without earning that something, a population that feels they have a right to something without sacrificing for it. And they do this not because they actually think they are greater than everybody else; they do it because they feel that they need to be great to be accepted in a world that broadcasts only the extraordinary.”
P.S. What’s Your Reading Game?
Want to know one habit highly successful people have in common?
They read. A lot.
Warren Buffett was once asked about the key to success. He pointed to a stack of nearby books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it.”
In his recent HBO documentary, Becoming Warren Buffett, he says, “I still probably spend five or six hours a day reading.”
His business partner and fellow billionaire, Charlie Munger, shares that passion and commitment to reading. He once said, “In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.”
And these two are not alone. Here are just a few more ultra-successful people who make reading a major part of their days:
- Mark Zuckerberg aims at reading a book every two weeks
- Bill Gates reads one book per week or about 50 books per year
- Elon Musk is another voracious reader and when asked how he learned to build rockets, he simply said, “I read books.”
- Mark Cuban writes on his blog that he reads more than 3 hours every day
- Oprah Winfrey is famous for her book club and is well-known for being an avid reader
Reading is a big deal.
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