One of the best books I've read lately. I know that the title seems like one of those bullshit self-improvement books but here are a few paragraphs that I hope to change your opinion and make you read the book.
How social media and the world around us affects our thinking
Back in Grandpa’s day, he would feel like shit and think to himself, “Gee whiz, I sure do feel like a cow turd today. But hey, I guess that’s just life. Back to shoveling hay.” But now? Now if you feel like shit for even five minutes, you’re bombarded with 350 images of people totally happy and having amazing fucking lives, and it’s impossible to not feel like there’s something wrong with You.
It’s this last part that gets us into trouble. We feel bad about feeling bad. We feel guilty for feeling guilty. We get angry about getting angry. We get anxious about feeling anxious. What is wrong with me?
This is why not giving a fuck is so key. This is why it’s going to save the world. And it’s going to save it by accepting that the world is totally fucked and that’s all right, because it’s always been that way, and always will be.
We tend to focus on feeling good all the time while trying to avoid pain.
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.
What’s interesting about the backwards law is that it’s called “backwards” for a reason: not giving a fuck works in reverse. If pursuing the positive is a negative, then pursuing the negative generates the positive. The pain you pursue in the gym results in better all-around health and energy. The failures in business are what lead to a better understanding of what’s necessary to be successful. Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.
Understanding life and attaining enlightenment(not the spiritual one)
I see practical enlightenment as becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable—that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets, and even death. Because once you become comfortable with all the shit that life throws at you (and it will throw a lot of shit, trust me), you become invincible in a sort of low-level spiritual way. After all, the only way to overcome pain is to first learn how to bear it.
One of those realizations was this: that life itself is a form of suffering. The rich suffer because of their riches. The poor suffer because of their poverty. People without a family suffer because they have no family. People with a family suffer because of their family. People who pursue worldly pleasures suffer because of their worldly pleasures. People who abstain from worldly pleasures suffer because of their abstention (the author is talking about buddha)
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 premise, though, is the problem. Happiness is not a solvable equation. Dissatisfaction and unease are inherent parts of human nature and, as we’ll see,
necessary components to creating consistent happiness.
Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded. Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable. If you feel like you have problems that you can’t solve, you will likewise make yourself miserable. The secret sauce is in the solving of the 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 or from any specific guru or teacher.Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, because solving problems is a constant work-in-progress—the solutions to today’s problems will lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems, and so on. True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.
why do we suffer
We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change. We have evolved to always live with a certain degree of dissatisfaction and insecurity, because it’s the mildly dissatisfied and insecure creature that’s going to do the most work to innovate and survive. We are wired to become dissatisfied with whatever we have and satisfied by only what we do not have. This constant dissatisfaction has kept our species fighting and striving, building and conquering. So no—our own pain and misery aren’t a bug of human evolution; they’re a feature. Pain, in all of its forms, is our body’s most effective means of spurring action.
Why people say life is about the journey and not the destination
What determines your success isn’t, “What do you want to enjoy?” The relevant question is, “What pain do you want to sustain?” The path to happiness is a path full of shitheaps and shame.
You have to choose something. You can’t have a pain-free life. It can’t all be roses and unicorns all the time. Pleasure is the easy question. And pretty much all of us have a similar answer.
The more interesting question is the pain. What is the pain that you want to sustain? That’s the hard question that matters, the question that will actually get you somewhere. It’s the question that can change a perspective, a life. It’s what makes me, me, and you, you. It’s what defines us and separates us and ultimately brings us together.
Our problems birth our happiness, along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems. See: it’s a never-ending upward spiral. And if you think at any point you’re allowed to stop climbing, I’m afraid you’re missing the point. Because the joy is in the climb itself.
How your values determine your happiness and success
But there’s another, even deeper level of the self-awareness onion. And that one is full of fucking tears. The third level 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.
Values underlie everything we are and do. If what we value is unhelpful, if what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based upon those values—the thoughts, the emotions, the day-to-day feelings—will all be out of whack. Everything we think and feel about a situation ultimately comes back to how valuable we perceive it to be.
Example of the above?
And because of this, in a rare intimate interview in 2003, a tearful Mustaine(guy from megadeth, a successful band) admitted that he couldn’t help but still consider himself a failure. Despite all that he had accomplished, in his mind he would always be the guy who got kicked out of Metallica.
We’re apes. We think we’re all sophisticated with our toaster ovens and designer footwear, but we’re just a bunch of finely ornamented apes. And because we are apes, we instinctually measure ourselves against others and vie for status. The question is not whether we evaluate ourselves against others;rather, the question is by what standard do we measure ourselves?
YOU are responsible for 100% everything of your life, either in the form of action or reaction.
Despite all the advantages and opportunities he’d been given in life, everything had fallen apart. The only constants in his life seemed to be suffering and disappointment. James fell into a deep depression and began making plans to take his own life.
But one night, while reading lectures by the philosopher Charles Peirce, James decided to conduct a little experiment. In his diary, he wrote that he would spend one year believing that he was 100 percent responsible for everything that occurred in his life, no matter what. During this period, he would do everything in his power to change his circumstances, no matter the likelihood of failure. If nothing improved in that year, then it would be apparent that he was truly powerless to the circumstances around him, and then he would take his own life.
The punch line? William James went on to become the father of American psychology. His work has been translated into a bazillion languages, and he’s regarded as one of the most influential intellectuals/philosophers/psychologists of his generation
“With great responsibility comes great power.”
The more we choose to accept responsibility in our lives, the more power we will exercise over our lives. Accepting responsibility for our problems is thus the first step to solving them.
I once knew a man who was convinced that the reason no woman would date him was because he was too short. He was educated, interesting, and goodlooking—a good catch, in principle—but he was absolutely convinced that women found him too short to date.
And because he felt that he was too short, he didn’t often go out and try to meet women. The few times he did, he would home in on the smallest behaviors from any woman he talked with that could possibly indicate he wasn’t attractive enough for her and then convince himself that she didn’t like him, even if she really did. As you can imagine, his dating life sucked. What he didn’t realize was that he had chosen the value that was hurting him: height. Women, he assumed, are attracted only to height. He was screwed, no matter what he did.
Why you shouldn't blame your genetics, situation , height or whatever
I see life in the same terms. We all get dealt cards. Some of us get better cards than others. And while it’s easy to get hung up on our cards, and feel we got screwed over, the real game lies in the choices we make with those cards, the risks we decide to take, and the consequences we choose to live with. People who consistently make the best choices in the situations they’re given are the ones who eventually come out ahead in poker, just as in life. And it’s not necessarily the people with the best cards.
There are those who suffer psychologically and emotionally from neurological and/or genetic deficiencies. But this changes nothing. Sure, they inherited a bad hand and are not to blame. No more than the short guy wanting to get a date is to blame for being short. Or the person who got robbed is to blame for being robbed. But it’s still their responsibility. Whether they choose to seek psychiatric treatment, undergo therapy, or do nothing, the choice is ultimately theirs to make. There are those who suffer through bad childhoods. There are those who are abused and violated and screwed over, physically, emotionally, financially. They are not to blame for their problems and their hindrances, but they are still responsible—always responsible—to move on despite their problems and to make the best choices they can, given their circumstances.
YOU are not special. In fact, don't try to be special. Ever see Bill gates or Buffet talk about how 'special' they are?
My recommendation: don’t be special; don’t be unique. Redefine your metrics in mundane and broad ways. Choose to measure yourself not as a rising star or an undiscovered genius. Choose to measure yourself not as some horrible victim or dismal failure. Instead, measure yourself by more mundane identities: a student, a partner, a friend, a creator.
The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.
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. If someone is worse than you, it’s likely because he hasn’t been through all of the painful learning experiences you have.
At some point, most of us reach a place where we’re afraid to fail, where we instinctively avoid failure and stick only to what is placed in front of us or only what we’re already good at. This confines us and stifles us. 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.
A lot of this fear of failure comes from having chosen shitty values. For instance, if I measure myself by the standard “Make everyone I meet like me,” I will be anxious, because failure is 100 percent defined by the actions of others, not by my own actions. I am not in control; thus my self-worth is at the mercy of judgments by others.
Why defining your values based on a goal (instead of a process) is a bad idea.
Picasso remained prolific his entire life. He lived into his nineties and continued to produce art up until his final years. Had his metric been “Become famous” or “Make a buttload of money in the art world” or “Paint one thousand pictures,” he would have stagnated at some point along the way. He would have been overcome by anxiety or self-doubt. He likely wouldn’t have improved and innovated his craft in the ways he did decade after decade. The reason for Picasso’s success is exactly the same reason why, as an old man, he was happy to scribble drawings on a napkin alone in a café. His underlying value was simple and humble. And it was endless.
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, like this:
Emotional inspiration → Motivation → Desirable action
If you want to accomplish something but don’t feel motivated or inspired, then you assume you’re just screwed. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not until a major emotional life event occurs that you can generate enough motivation to actually get off the couch and do something. 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.
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. Whether you’re listening to Aristotle or the psychologists at Harvard or Jesus Christ or the goddamn Beatles, they all say that happiness comes from the same thing: caring about something greater than yourself, believing that you are a contributing component in some much larger entity, that your life is but a mere side process of some great unintelligible production. This feeling is what people go to church for; it’s what they fight in wars for; it’s what they raise families and save pensions and build bridges and invent cell phones for: this fleeting sense of being part of something greater and more unknowable than themselves. And entitlement strips this away from us. The gravity of entitlement sucks all attention inward, toward ourselves, causing us to feel as though we are at the center of all of the problems in the universe, that we are the one suffering all of the injustices, that we are the one who deserves greatness over all others.
But these were side effects of a deeper, more primary lesson. And the primary lesson was this: there is nothing to be afraid of. Ever. And reminding myself of my own death repeatedly over the years—whether it be through meditation, through reading philosophy, or through doing crazy shit like standing on a cliff in South Africa—is the only thing that has helped me hold this realization front and center in my mind. This acceptance of my death, this understanding of my own fragility, has made everything easier—untangling my addictions, identifying and confronting my own entitlement, accepting responsibility for my own problems—suffering through my fears and uncertainties, accepting my failures and embracing rejections—it has all been made lighter by the thought of my own death. The more I peer into the darkness, the brighter life gets, the quieter the world becomes, and the less unconscious resistance I feel to, well, anything.
I'm sorry for the long post but the book is too good to skip anything.