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Not your typical book on how to live a good life, but one with a solid basis in reality. If you want to live a good life, care less about the stupid things and more about what's actually important. It's a fairly quick read that's well worth it.
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.
What's interesting about the backwards law is that it's called "backwards" for a reason: not giving a fuck works in revers. 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.
Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires.
...if you're able to not give a fuck about the pain, you become unstoppable.
You and everyone you know are going to be dead soon. And in the short amount of time between here and there, you have a limited amount of fucks to give. Very few, in fact. And if you go around giving a fuck about everything and everyone without conscious thought or choice—well, then you're going to get fucked.
Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different.
Subtlety #2: To no give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity.
Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a fuck about.
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.
...research has found that our brains don't register much difference between physical pain and psychological pain.
"Don't hope for a life without problems,"..."There's no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems."
Happiness comes from solving problems
Happiness is therefore a form of action; it's an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you...
Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, because solving problems is a constant work-in-progress...
Whatever your problems are, the concept is the same: solve problems; be happy. Unfortunately, for many people, life doesn't feel that simple. That's because they fuck thing up in at least one of two ways:
- Victim Mentality
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.
Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.
...negative emotions are a call to action. When you feel them, 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.
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.
Decision-making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks.
...the "hedonic treadmill": the idea that we're always working hard to change our life situation, but we actually never feel very different.
...happiness requires struggle. It grows from problems.
Real, serious, lifelong fulfillment and meaning have to be earned through the choosing and managing of our struggles.
The path to happiness is a path full of shit-heaps and shame.
Who you are is defined by what you're willing to struggle for.
...our struggles determine our successes. Our problems birth our happiness, along with slightly better, slightly upgraded problems.
A person who actually has a high self-worth is able to look at the negative parts of his character frankly...and then acts to improve upon them.
Honest self-questioning is difficult. It requires asking yourself simple questions that are uncomfortable to answer.
Our values determine the metrics by which we measure ourselves and everyone else.
If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.
...people who base their self-worth on being right about everything prevent themselves from learning from their mistakes.
...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.
As Freud once said, "One day, in retrospect, the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful."
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.
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.
We don't always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond.
To not give a fuck about anything is still to give a fuck about something.
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.
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.
We can be truly successful only at something we're willing to fail at.
Our pain often makes us stronger, more resilient, more grounded.
Our most radical changes in perspective often happen at the tail end of our worst moments. It's only when we feel intense pain that we're willing to look at our values and question why they seem to be failing us. We need some sort of existential crisis to take an objective look at how we've been deriving meaning in our life, and then consider changing course.
Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this. It never changes.
Don't just sit there. Do something. The answers will follow.
Action isn't just the effect of motivation; it's also the cause of it.
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.
The "do something" principle not only helps us overcome procrastination, but it's also the process by which we adopt new values. If you're in the midst of an existential shitstorm and everything feels meaningless—if all the ways you used to measure yourself have come up short and you have no idea what's next, if you know that you've been hurting yourself chasing false dreams, or if you know that there's some better metric you should be measuring yourself with but you don't know how—the answer is the same: Do something.
Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it. Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one's life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.
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