(Breather) “Mindless positivity isn’t practical or helpful for most people,” Mark Manson writes in his first book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. He is, as usual, right on with this observation. Realizing that, “our modern, and maddening, urge to always find happiness only serves to make us unhappier,” Manson communicates clearly and concisely throughout his books about why we need to change the way we look at things like personal identity, hope, shame, and happiness.
The reason why Manson’s message works so well is not just the power of the message itself, but the fact that, instead of trying to push the power of positivity onto his readers, he offers an entirely new perspective ― what if everything you thought you knew about happiness and success and yourself was wrong? And what if that was actually a good thing?
Here’s the thing: as humans, we are all naturally inclined to feel attached to various parts of ourselves, especially the parts of ourselves that receive praise. Whether you’re a standout student or worker, an amazing athlete, a math genius, or a truly great dancer, it’s important to not fixate on the things about ourselves that we identify with the most. Why? Because Manson argues that identity is an arbitrary facade. He suggests looking at your life as a series of decisions and actions and try to maintain an identity that is defined by as little as possible.
Our emotional feeling brain actually rules over our rational, thinking brain. Yet we think, or pretend, that the opposite is true! According to Manson, emotions drive our consciousness, and it is emotion only that can motivate us into action. “Emotions convince your thinking brain that you’re right,” Manson says. When emotions rule over the thinking brain, it can lead to narcissism, addiction, compulsion, self-righteous anger, and so on. This is because a person ruled by their emotions has no independent thought, so they only pursue things that bring them instant gratification. Ultimately the goal is not to suppress your emotional brain, but to get your thinking brain connected to your emotional brain. Manson says do not try to suppress your emotions, but instead, try to convince your feeling brain that you will benefit from whatever decision that you are asking yourself about. A good example of this is when people often fail to succeed with lifestyle changes ― this is because our “feeling brain” feels like we don’t deserve the success.
Which leads us to self-worth. “Our self-worth is the sum of our emotions over time. If we can’t equalize, we accept inferiority, shame, and low self-worth,” Manson writes. Interestingly, both high and low self-worth are narcissistic, and self-worth is also an illusion. I know a thing or two about tying your accomplishments and/or abilities to your self-worth, so here’s a funny story from my college days: One day, the lockers got totally looted, so I had no choice but to jog home down a busy boulevard, for a mile and a half….in nothing but a Speedo and swimming goggles (and no shoes!). This was only one day after being the champion of a big tournament ― talk about being taken down a peg!
“Your identity will stay your identity until an event changes it,” Manson writes. “It’s a network of value-based narratives that determines our identity.” There are two ways to heal from this:
- Examine the narratives of your life, and reposition them.
- Visualize the future you want for yourself, and make that your new identity.
Let the feeling brain “try on” your new identity so it can become accustomed to it. This can be difficult, because it signifies that you’re really ready to change. “The stories of our future define our hopes, and the stories of our past define our identity” Manson notes, and he advises we take a look at both of those, so we can straighten them out, and get them right! Catch up with my recent interview with man himself, Mark Manson, here and if you haven’t yet read his books, check out The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope.
It doesn’t work to try to be constantly happy. [04:11]
Carefully choose what you give a fuck about and then reject the social pressures. [07:06]
Identity doesn’t exist. It is arbitrary. It is a façade. [08:14]
Some of the chapter titles of this book are intriguing: Don’t Try, Happiness is a Problem, You are Not Special, etc. [10:37]
If you don’t have hope, you are basically headed toward depression and anxiety. [11:14]
A quick history of the 20th century gives an idea of what many people have lived through and helps put things in perspective. [13:37]
When life gets too comfortable, we have to pick a cause to worry about to give us meaning. [16:18]
Our emotional feeling brain actually rules over the rational thinking brain. [17:42]
The history of humanity features a major effort to conquer the emotional feeling brain with self-control. [19:50]
There’s a common notion in spiritual psychology that the affluence and love we achieve in life equates to our level of self -worth. [24:04]
Every emotional reaction has an equal and opposite reaction. [25:11]
Both high and low self-worth are narcissistic because they imagine themselves as something special. [27:25]
Your identity will stay your identity until an event changes it. [29:52]
- Brad’s Shopping
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
- Mark Smelly Bell
- Podcast with Mark Manson
- Podcast with John Gray
- Podcast with Luke Storey
- “Struggle gives richness to life.” – Roger Bannister
- “Our modern and maddening urge to always find happiness only serves to make us unhappier.” – Mark Manson
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Get Over Yourself Podcast
Hey listeners. I hope you love. Love. Love my show with the super cool dude. Mark Manson, mega bestselling author of the The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and his sequel book, Everything is Fucked. A book about hope and look at all the people that copied his spicy title from several years ago when, uh, the first book launched and now, Oh my gosh, we’re all about the getting unfucked, being confident is fucked. Uh, but he started it all. And I wanted to share some summary insights from the content of the book that will give you some practical advice right away, but also inspire you to dig in and read, uh, this great work from this young author that’s gone into extreme popularity. And I think he’s one of the great philosophers of modern times putting a lot of, uh, history and, uh, referencing the great minds of the past, into the unique circumstances of daily life. So the first book, the The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is kind of a reaction to the self help industry. And what Manson saw is a culture of mindless positivity that isn’t practical or helpful for most people. This is a quote from a book description, and then my own insights will be sprinkled in throughout this breather show. Manson uses many of his own personal experiences to illustrate how life’s struggles often give it more meaning, which he argues is a better approach than constantly trying to be happy.
So we have that distinction that other philosophers have shared with us as well, uh, between being trying to constantly be happy and positive and carry through this disposition that might not as valid or authentic as, uh, persevering through struggle and appreciating struggle, uh, as one of the great areas of richness in life. Uh, I like to quote Roger Banister, the first sub four minute miler the late Sir Roger Bannister. Um, and he, uh, wrote a wonderful book about his running career that was published back in the fifties when he was still a young man and had retired and pursue into a pursuit of a career in medicine. And he said, struggle gives meaning and richness to life. And of course he was talking about his, uh, athletic pursuits and striving to break the magical sub four minute mile barrier and compete in the Olympics world, world level events. sut to have that compelling goal of trying to be his best in the athletic realm, and then applying that mindset, that mentality to all other goals that you face in life, whether it’s relationship goals, being a parent, uh, staying fit and healthy, uh, controlling the wayward, uh, negative thoughts and ruminations and FOMO that we suffer from in today’s culture.
You know, finding something that’s meaningful to struggle for is a great insight that came out of, Manson’s book. And then of course the title of the The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck really means this subtle art of choosing very carefully to choose what you give a fuck about. And then kind of rejecting a lot of the, uh, societal pressures and forces that, uh, measure and judge us and kind of draw us into those, uh, horrible disease states like FOMO. So back to the written description. Manson’s approach and writing style had been categorized by some as contrarian to the general self help industry using blunt honesty and profanity to illustrate his ideas, our modern and maddening urge to always find happiness only serves to make us unhappier. Instead, The Subtle Art, uh, turned out. It turns out to be a bold challenge to choose your struggles and to narrow and focus and find the pain that you want to sustain the positive aspects of having a life of rich, meaningful struggles.
Okay. A few more details about the theme in the book, a Manson argues that identity doesn’t exist. It’s arbitrary, it’s a facade quote, maintain an identity that is defined by as little as possible instead see your life as a series of decisions and actions. And he gives the example of someone wishing they could be better about their commitment to fitness, working out, going to the gym and the shift from being a person who’s lazy and non committed to becoming a fitness enthusiast is more difficult because you’re attaching your identity to various things in life. And by doing so, the stakes are higher.
You get discouraged, you get negative, and then you tail spin away from your, uh, best intentions to, uh, become a different person, become a better person. Now, if you instead just saw your life as a series of decisions and actions, and weren’t wedded to the outcome in the way that you are, when you form your identity around being a lawyer or being a school teacher or being the president of the, uh, neighborhood, uh, society, all these things that we, uh, get our egos involved with and then are less effective and set ourselves up for more pain, suffering, disappointment, and failure to achieve, uh, tangible goals instead see your life as a series of decisions and actions. So you wake up one day and you say, ah, I’m going to decide to go to the gym. Uh, the stakes are more reasonable and you can, uh, just take action and kind of cruise along without the emotional baggage that often comes when our identity is attached to, uh, the things that we do. So this is kind of in line with his, uh, overarching theme of, uh, choosing what to give a fuck about, and then, uh, not worrying about the rest, being precise on what you choose to give a fuck about. Uh, here’s some chapter titles to intrigue you to grab this, uh, mega bestselling book that was just off the charts with, uh, record-breaking numbers of sales and translations around the world.
So chapter One is called Don’t Try. Chapter Two is Happiness is a Problem. Three: You Are Not Special. Four: The Value of Suffering. Five: You are Always Choosing. Six: You are Wrong About Everything, (but so am I). Seven: Failure is the Way Forward. Eight: The Importance of Saying No. Nine: And Then You Die. So I thought I would recite the chapter titles because they’re clever and they give you a little bit of insight, hopefully with my description, helping as well, uh, as to what the book’s all about and the message they’re conveying.
Okay. So then the, uh, the most recent book, Everything is Fucked. A Book about Hope, uh, took a little bit more notes cause I wanted to share that one, cause it’s probably less, uh, less popular at this point than the crazy first book. But if you love the first book definitely grabbed the second book and it really drew me in, I refer to these concepts often to help navigate the wild times of modern life. I want my kids to read it, good stuff. So in this book, Manson looks at our relationships with money entertainment and the internet, how too much of a good thing can eat us alive. He openly defies our definitions of faith, happiness, freedom, and even hope itself. So the idea of this book, a book about hope is that you want to create a quote string of hope narratives as your defining purpose in life.
If you don’t have hope, you are basically headed toward depression and anxiety. So all the things that we do, all the things that we care about sort of emanate from hope is the wonderful point that he makes persuasively in the book. And here’s the thing about today’s world, uh, by many, uh, practical measurements, uh, life is better today than any other time in the history of humanity. We have a more sustained period of peace. There’s no world Wars. There’s not a ton of minor conflicts. Of course there’s always something going on, but by comparison today’s world is better than ever, uh, compared to the middle ages compared to the, our, our grandparents and great grandparents generations. Mark Bell put this incredible, uh, post up on Instagram. And I’m going to read some of that too. Uh, just to give you a little bit of context when the argument that Manson advances that today’s better than ever, uh, falls flat because you don’t like our president or you think that North Korea is going to launch the bombs any moment, all those things might be relevant, but whew, compared to a generations ago, yeah, we’ve really managed to progress as a, as a global society, despite all the things that still have a needs to improve Mark by them.
So go look at the great Instagram site of Mark Smelly Bell. Uh, my main man, the meathead millionaire, a leader in the fitness community. He’s got a lot of great posts on there. And in this one, he’s, uh, posting a picture of some really distressed looking, uh, refugees, all young children emaciated, starving, dressed in tatters. And, uh, the title of the post is perspective. Imagine you were an American born in 1900. That’s the exact year my grandfather was born. And so this was his life. Uh, that’s me talking. And then back to Mark Bell’s post, when you’re 14 World War I starts and ends on your 18th birthday, 22 million people killed later in the year of Spanish flu pandemic hits the planet and runs until you’re age 20. 50 million people die in two years. Then when you’re 29, the great depression begins.
Unemployment hits 25%. global GDP drops 27%. And this runs until you’re age 33, the country nearly collapses along with the world economy. Then when you turn 39 World War II starts. When you’re 41, the United States is fully involved in World War II. And between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perished in the war. The Holocaust kills 6 million. At age 52, the Korean war starts and 5 million people perish when you’re 64 years old, the Vietnam war begins. It doesn’t end for many years, 4 million people die in that conflict. Then at your 62nd birthday, you have the Cuban missile crisis, a tipping point in the cold war life on the planet. As we know it could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening. Then when you’re 75, the Vietnam war finally ends. Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that?
A kid in 1985, didn’t think their 85 year old grandparent understood how hard school was yet. Those grandparents and great grandparents survived through everything listed above perspective is an amazing art. Let’s try to keep things in perspective. This was written during the time of the quarantine, social isolation, the economy struggling accordingly. But if we can keep things in perspective, let’s be smart. Try to help each other out. And we’ll get through all this in the history of the world. There has never been a storm that lasted and this too shall pass. That’s Mark Bell on Instagram. And back to Mark Manson’s argument that this is a better time in the world than ever before. Here’s the thing. We have something called a paradox of progress.
Life gets too easy, too comfortable. And when that happens, we have to pick a cause to worry about, to give us meaning. John Gray mentioned this in my show with him. He said that affluent couples have a higher rate of marital conflict because they have the time and energy to worry about nitpicky relationship issues rather than just, you know, fighting the battle together to make ends meet and to pay the rent at their apartment. So, yeah, interesting perspective that we kind of trend toward drama conflict in our lives when things get easy. So to create a string of hope narratives, this goal, to become our defining purpose in life, what do we need for hope? First, a sense of control. Second, believing in and valuing something. And third, a sense of community. So think about that and apply that to the things that you care about. Your sense of community is a huge one. Believing in caring about something, valuing something. I’m thinking of like fitness goals and people that are members of CrossFit community, or endurance training teams, and have that amazing connection of people, uh, working toward a common goal that’s challenging, involves struggle and giving meaning and richness to life like Roger Banister said.
So then Manson gets into this really interesting argument that our emotional feeling brain actually rules over the rational thinking brain. But because we have this rational thinking brain, the thinking brain concludes that it’s the one in charge of the show. We pretend that the rational thinking brain rules over the emotional brain, but it’s actually not true. We’re taught to suppress our emotions, but this too is a fallacy. When you suppress your emotions, that’s getting a lobotomy. So the emotions are always there. And Manson argues that emotions drive our consciousness. Only emotion motivates us to action, not rational conclusions of which car we’re going to buy because it got better ratings on consumer reports. That is the illusion. It’s the emotions that trigger these purchasing decisions and a good example, or also summoning, the motivation to get off the couch and get into the gym and get in shape.
So since only emotion motivates us to action, we need to get buy in from our emotional brain in order to take action toward a goal emotions, convince your thinking brain that you’re right. This is the essence of self-serving bias or confirmation bias right here. Emotions convincing your thinking brain that you’re right, this kind of behavior where the emotions are ruling over the thinking brain leads to huh? Not so many good things, huh? Can you guess it leads to narcissism, addiction, compulsion, self righteous anger, and so on a person ruled by emotions has no independent thought and only pursues instant gratification. So the idea, the goal here is to get your thinking brain connected with your emotional brain, not to suppress your emotions or steam, roll them with your powerful intellect that knows everything, what to do. And you don’t have to listen to your emotions.
No. The history of humanity features a major effort to conquer the emotional feeling brain with self-control. So we’ve known this for a long time that we have to not let our emotions rule our behavior, right? Otherwise we get narcissism addiction, compulsion, self righteous anger. And so how have we tried this throughout the history of humanity? Yes. Religion is the big one, right? Suppress your emotions, suppress your instincts. Follow the rules, go to confession if you stray a little bit. He also references cultism as an extreme example of trying to conquer the emotional feeling brain that’s actually in control with self-controlling guidelines. Okay. So what happened in the 20th century was this awakening occurred and people rebelled against the long time centuries, old self control mechanisms in society like religious doctrine. And they began to express their emotions and passions. We had the rebellious decades of the sixties and the freedom of the seventies, right?
Uh, here’s Manson making the argument that, uh, when you swing the pendulum too far in the other direction, the emotional feeling brain starts to run amok again. Right? So on the two edges of the continuum, we have the emotionally driven human delving into narcissism addiction, compulsive, and self righteous anger. And then on the other end of the spectrum, we have the, uh, controlled, suppressed think about the gender roles that John Gray talked about a little bit, where we have the male breadwinner who comes home, pops open a beer and gets waited on by the dutiful female partner. Who’s supposed to be a barefoot in the kitchen, making food and making babies, right? All that kind of nonsense that we’ve had to grow through, uh, in recent decades. Geez. How about the suppression of one’s sexuality? He can’t get any deeper of a suppression than that.
And the great giant religious bodies and political bodies trying to strong arm people into that deep of a emotional suppression hole. So we have that end of the spectrum. And then we have a today’s common problem since the pendulum has swung away from all that nonsense. But then we get today’s stereotypical, affluent entitled, spoiled millennial or spoiled adult. And let’s not pick on the millennials, right? Uh, these kind of the narcissism that’s running amok. So this solution get your thinking brain connected with your feeling brain when pondering logical life decisions, ask your feeling brain to weigh in. Weigh all logical decisions by asking yourself how you feel about whatever consequence quitting your job, moving to a new city, getting involved in a relationship, severing a relationship, and assess the emotional answer without judgment. Don’t try to suppress your emotions. You need to convince your feeling brain, that you’ll benefit from whatever decision you’re asking yourself about you need buy in from the feeling brain.
The reason we don’t succeed with lifestyle change is our feeling brain feels like we don’t deserve the success. And we get stuck in a repeating pattern of suffering that comes from past programming. I got into this a little bit with Luke Story in that great, uh, discussion near the end of our interview when he was talking about the, uh, manifestation of a wealth of your dreams and how we commonly misinterpret that to think that, uh, we try to manifest wealth so that we can be happy. And he says, no, you have to come from a position of gratitude and then see yourself into with great specificity the life that you dream about. So that’s kind of convincing your feeling brain that it will benefit from rather than deep down feeling undeserving of happiness, wealth, peace of mind, contentment, a life well lived.
Don’t pass this stuff off as silly. There’s a common notion in spiritual psychology that the affluence and love we achieve in life equates to our level of self worth. In his book, The Big Leap, psychologist, Gay Hendricks advances, the compelling argument that we bump up against what he calls an upper limit in life. And this is described in Hendrick’s words as quote, it’s an inner thermostat setting that determines how much love success and creativity we allow ourselves to enjoy. The thermostat setting usually gets programmed in early childhood. Once programmed our upper limit thermostat setting holds us back from enjoying all the love, financial abundance and creativity. That’s rightfully ours end quote. Whew! Okay. So get that feeling brain to buy in, right? Just like the scenes in the movies. Yeah, I deserve it. That sounds good. All right, let’s do this. Okay. So otherwise you get stuck in patterns of past programming and suffering.
So Manson has a clever device where he’s talking about, uh, Isaac Newton’s laws of gravity. And then because we’re talking about the emotional brain, he talks a lot about the amazing life of Isaac Newton. And, um, he draws in this new idea of Newton’s laws of emotion, of course, that he made up to kind of counterbalance the, uh, the rational brain, the thinking brain and all the great work that Newton did, but he had a rough life. And it was very interesting story, but he’d come up with this concept of Newton’s laws of emotion. Here’s the first one, every emotional reaction has an equal and opposite reaction. If it doesn’t, we develop what’s called a moral gap. So if you can think about being bullied as a child in middle school and, uh, suffering these intense, painful emotions, but not able to fight back or lash back at the bullies, that’s the nature of bullying, right?
Then the equal and opposite emotional reaction is going to be a suppression, uh, that leads to low self esteem and continued pain and suffering throughout life. Okay. So when you have a chance to equalize an emotional reaction with a corresponding emotional reaction, then you don’t have that moral gap. And this could be another example could be a passive aggressive dynamic where there’s a conflict and then the equal and opposite emotional reaction comes in the form of passive rather than going toe to toe in a more, a classic example of a conflict. The next law of emotion is our self worth is the sum of our emotions over time. If we can’t equalize, like I discussed with the bully example, we accept inferiority shame and low self worth. I’m thinking of the great work of Berne Brown, talking about the sources of shame and how to get through that kind of challenge here, where we’re you know, adding up the, some of our emotional experiences and then forming a negative self image because of the moral gap, because we didn’t, uh, you know, fully processed these emotions.
Oh, guess what? The flip side is diluted high self worth. Both high and low self worth are narcissistic because they imagine themselves as something special, something separate from the world. So I remember going back to the first book of identities and illusion, self worth is also an illusion. And if you Harbor self-worth, if you cultivate self worth self worth, then you should get a dog. Woof, woof, okay. Self worth. If you are trafficking in self worth, this is a form of persistent low level narcissism, right? Make sense? Hey, I was an athlete. I was pretty caught up and, uh, the importance of my pursuits as a competitive triathlete. And at times making it very easy to attach self worth to what place I got in the most recent race, right? You’re on a winning streak, you get some diluted high self worth, and then you’re on a losing streak and you get delusional, low self worth, both are narcissistic because they imagine themselves as something special, something separate from the world.
And one of my favorite examples of getting recalibrated from a potentially diluted high self worth was the day after I won this big race on the professional triathlon circuit. And then I jogged over to the swimming pool to do a workout feeling pretty good about myself, getting a little stretch in for the muscles after the great performance the previous day. And I got out of the pool and went to my locker at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, California. And everything was stolen. The, the locker was looted. So my shoes, my clothes, my expensive sunglasses, thankfully sponsor gave them to me. Remember, I just want a big race. And so I had to jog home about a mile and a half on a busy Boulevard wearing a Speedo. And of course my goggles barefoot. And so that was getting taken down from being the champ the day before and give it a nice victory speech to the adoring crowd at the triathlon gathering. Whoever stole the stuff out of my locker, didn’t give a crap about who won the race the day before and there I was getting looked at by passing cars jogging along in a Speedo.
Oh yeah. Okay. so that was the second law of emotion. Our self worth is a sum of our emotions over time. And if we can’t equalize, we accept inferiority shame and low self worth. Finally, the third one, your identity will stay your identity until an event changes. It’s a network of value based narratives that determines our identity. So there’s two ways to heal. First, examine the narratives of your life and reposition them. Second, visualize the future that you want for yourself and make that your new identity. Okay. That’s pretty awesome. Pretty simple. The first one, right? Go back and process things and realize just because you were bullied in middle school, doesn’t mean you have to accept inferiority, shame and low self worth today. Second, visualize the future that you want for yourself. Single people visualize the ideal relationship. My recent podcast guest Dude Spellings did an exercise with his girlfriend to write out their view of an ideal partner and then share it with each other what great stuff.
So visualize the future you want and make that your new identity. Let the feeling brain, try it on and become accustomed to it. Hey, you know what? This could be a difficult exercise, Manson says, because if you’re going to do it, that means you really are ready to change. And the stories of our future define our hopes, the stories of our past define our identity. And let’s take a look at both of those and get them right. Get them straight. It’s a book about hope after all. I hope you enjoyed this little summary and will intrigue you to go get the audio book narrated by the author himself or the written book. Great stuff. Thank you so much, Mark Manson for taking the time to join me on the podcast and get that great interview out there. So please go listen to the interview if you haven’t already. Thanks for listening to the breather show. Yeah, you can find Mark Manson on Instagram. He published his great quotes every day and all over the place. Of course the books are everywhere and they have a two book package you can get on. Amazon of Everything is Fucked. A book about hope and the The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. So go grab it. Have a great day. Thanks for listening. Bye.
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