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Episode 72 — Mark Manson — The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

"Whatever it is in your life that you're most afraid to do, that causes you the most amount of anxiety — usually, that's the exact thing that you need to be doing." - Mark Manson

  • Why can’t you create an algorithmic process for happiness?
  • How does freedom require limitation?
  • Why are the things you're willing to sacrifice more important than the things you want?
  • How can you set goals that are intrinsic, not extrinsic?
  • Why are people so distrustful and tribal right now?

Go Ahead, Help Yourself!

Mark Manson didn't plan to be a best-selling author. He certainly didn't plan to be in the self-development space. But when you're a thoughtful voice on the internet, people start asking you for advice. Three books and 13 million copies later, it's clear that it's pretty good advice.

Mark's best-sellers, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and “Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope” provide a researched, grounded approach to what he calls "the crisis of self-actualization." Unlike other self-help books, Mark doesn't offer systems or a quick fix. The path he lays out is a straightforward, common-sense evaluation of your life, based on scientific evidence and drawing on philosophy from Eastern and Western traditions. It's like talking about life with an old friend — an old friend who's up-to-date on all the latest research.

The Struggle is Real

One of the foundational arguments of Mark's book is that happiness isn't just given. Meaning is earned through trial and tribulation. As Mark puts it, "There's not a single thing that you're proud of that didn't require some degree of struggle or sacrifice. It's a one-to-one relationship."

This may seem counterintuitive — that to be happy, you have to go through something difficult — but Mark says if we compare it to things outside of our emotional lives, it makes sense. "To have a healthy body, you have to constantly put it through stress and strain. To have a healthy career, you have to consistently surmount and overcome challenges. So it's like in every other aspect of life. We just understand it as obvious that you need struggle to progress."

Giving Up

Another seemingly counterintuitive message that Mark preaches is that to gain, you need to sacrifice. This can be true with freedom, as he found out himself after traveling the world. "One of the things I discovered is, I believe that freedom requires limitation. Freedom is not meaningful unless there's some sort of limitation that you put on yourself."

In fact, these sacrifices are key to finding your way. Mark says it's not the things that we want that make us unique. We're all working towards essentially the same stuff: a nice house, a good car, a loving relationship, security, a few material knickknacks. What makes us different from the next person is the type of things we're willing to sacrifice. "Find problems you enjoy having. That's essentially what happiness is: finding the struggle that enlivens you, makes you excited to get up in the morning, that feels meaningful."

Key takeaways:

  • Any exceptional behavior will be polarizing. To make a difference, you're going to make some people mad.
  • Find the problems you enjoy having. We all want the same things; what makes us different is what we're willing to put up with along the way.
  • Go towards what you're afraid of. Big changes make us nervous, but sometimes big changes are exactly what we need.

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