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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

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In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.
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006245773X (ISBN13: 9780062457738)
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this book is legit. I don't even give a fuck any more! wow. It feels amazing.
puts "Just read the fucking book"
09 April 2019 (17:59) 
amrit malviya
I read this book written by Mark Manson, its change my perspective about everything. must read this book before you die.
05 April 2020 (11:09) 
The state of the art of perceptional consultation anyone could get is from Every thing is f*cked by mark manson
13 June 2020 (10:21) 
Where do I download the rest of the pages from?
27 August 2020 (19:34) 
Just started reading it ,and am loving it
17 September 2020 (12:37) 
A friend recommended it to me ...hope I love it
11 November 2020 (22:49) 
Merryson Gaius
Recommended and approved?❤️
23 February 2021 (04:11) 
Ankush petwal
If you guys facing any trouble downloading these books just send it to your google drive and boom read any book offline and without any problem.
08 March 2021 (06:06) 
Ndidi Uzoigwe
A friend recommended it to me. Let's see how it goes...

14 April 2021 (00:37) 
Thank you!!! <3 It's a must read.
04 May 2021 (19:32) 
Ana Cipriano
The book is worth to read, it's amazing and I feel amazing about not giving fuck
"Just read it or you will regret it"
08 June 2021 (21:18) 
Como pegar ele em português??
07 July 2021 (16:24) 
Wow... Ijust started reading this and I'm gonna read this. I don't give a fuck!
01 August 2021 (10:26) 
It actually is a great book
26 August 2021 (20:46) 
A marvelous choice to the ones looking for self-improvement. I did love the way Mark Manson referred to his personal experiences to enunciate points, the ones that resonated with me.
18 November 2021 (06:37) 
The book can’t be downloaded and nobody seems to give a fuuck on it
26 November 2021 (04:26) 

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CHAPTER 1: Don’t Try
The Feedback Loop from Hell
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck
So Mark, What the Fuck Is the Point
of This Book Anyway?
CHAPTER 2: Happiness Is a Problem
The Misadventures of Disappointment
Happiness Comes from Solving

Emotions Are Overrated
Choose Your Struggle
CHAPTER 3: You Are Not Special
Things Fall Apart
The Tyranny of Exceptionalism
B-b-b-but, If I’m Not Going to Be
Special or Extraordinary, What’s
the Point?
CHAPTER 4: The Value of Suffering
The Self-Awareness Onion
Rock Star Problems
Shitty Values
Defining Good and Bad Values
CHAPTER 5: You Are Always Choosing
The Choice
The Responsibility/Fault Fallacy

Responding to Tragedy
Genetics and the Hand We’re Dealt
Victimhood Chic
There Is No “How”
CHAPTER 6: You’re Wrong About
Everything (But So Am I)
Architects of Our Own Beliefs
Be Careful What You Believe
The Dangers of Pure Certainty
Manson’s Law of Avoidance
Kill Yourself
How to Be a Little Less Certain of
CHAPTER 7: Failure Is the Way Forward
The Failure/Success Paradox
Pain Is Part of the Process
The “Do Something” Principle

CHAPTER 8: The Importance of Saying
Rejection Makes Your Life Better
How to Build Trust
Freedom Through Commitment
CHAPTER 9: . . . And Then You Die
Something Beyond Our Selves
The Sunny Side of Death
About the Author
About the Publisher


Don’t Try

Charles Bukowski was an alcoholic, a
womanizer, a chronic gambler, a lout, a
cheapskate, a deadbeat, and on his worst
days, a poet. He’s probably the last
person on earth you would ever look to
for life advice or expect to see in any
sort of self-help book.
Which is why he’s the perfect place

to start.
Bukowski wanted to be a writer. But
for decades his work was rejected by
almost every magazine, newspaper,
journal, agent, and publisher he
submitted to. His work was horrible,
they said. Crude. Disgusting. Depraved.
And as the stacks of rejection slips piled
up, the weight of his failures pushed him
deep into;  an alcohol-fueled depression
that would follow him for most of his
Bukowski had a day job as a letterfiler at a post office. He got paid shit
money and spent most of it on booze. He
gambled away the rest at the racetrack.
At night, he would drink alone and

sometimes hammer out poetry on his
beat-up old typewriter. Often, he’d wake
up on the floor, having passed out the
night before.
Thirty years went by like this, most
of it a meaningless blur of alcohol,
drugs, gambling, and prostitutes. Then,
when Bukowski was fifty, after a
lifetime of failure and self-loathing, an
editor at a small independent publishing
house took a strange interest in him. The
editor couldn’t offer Bukowski much
money or much promise of sales. But he
had a weird affection for the drunk loser,
so he decided to take a chance on him. It
was the first real shot Bukowski had
ever gotten, and, he realized, probably

the only one he would ever get.
Bukowski wrote back to the editor: “I
have one of two choices—stay in the
post office and go crazy . . . or stay out
here and play at writer and starve. I have
decided to starve.”
Upon signing the contract, Bukowski
wrote his first novel in three weeks. It
was called simply Post Office. In the
dedication, he wrote, “Dedicated to
Bukowski would make it as a
novelist and poet. He would go on and
publish six novels and hundreds of
poems, selling over two million copies
of his books. His popularity defied
everyone’s expectations, particularly his

Stories like Bukowski’s are the
bread and butter of our cultural
narrative. Bukowski’s life embodies the
American Dream: a man fights for what
he wants, never gives up, and eventually
achieves his wildest dreams. It’s
practically a movie waiting to happen.
We all look at stories like Bukowski’s
and say, “See? He never gave up. He
never stopped trying. He always
believed in himself. He persisted against
all the odds and made something of
It is then strange that on Bukowski’s
tombstone, the epitaph reads: “Don’t

See, despite the book sales and the
fame, Bukowski was a loser. He knew it.
And his success stemmed not from some
determination to be a winner, but from
the fact that he knew he was a loser,
accepted it, and then wrote honestly
about it. He never tried to be anything
other than what he was. The genius in
Bukowski’s work was not in overcoming
unbelievable odds or developing himself
into a shining literary light. It was the
opposite. It was his simple ability to be
completely, unflinchingly honest with
himself—especially the worst parts of
himself—and to share his failings
without hesitation or doubt.
This is the real story of Bukowski’s

success: his comfort with himself as a
failure. Bukowski didn’t give a fuck
about success. Even after his fame, he
still showed up to poetry readings
hammered and verbally abused people
in his audience. He still exposed himself
in public and tried to sleep with every
woman he could find. Fame and success
didn’t make him a better person. Nor
was it by becoming a better person that
he became famous and successful.
Self-improvement and success often
occur together. But that doesn’t
necessarily mean they’re the same thing.
Our culture today is obsessively
focused on unrealistically positive
expectations: Be happier. Be healthier.

Be the best, better than the rest. Be
smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more
popular, more productive, more envied,
and more admired. Be perfect and
amazing and crap out twelve-karat-gold
nuggets before breakfast each morning
while kissing your selfie-ready spouse
and two and a half kids goodbye. Then
fly your helicopter to your wonderfully
fulfilling job, where you spend your
days doing incredibly meaningful work
that’s likely to save the planet one day.
But when you stop and really think
about it, 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 in 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. You
follow dating and relationship advice
because you feel that you’re unlovable
already. You try goofy visualization
exercises about being more successful
because you feel as though you aren’t
successful enough 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.
There’s a saying in Texas: “The
smallest dog barks the loudest.” A
confident man doesn’t feel a need to
prove that he’s confident. A rich woman
doesn’t feel a need to convince anybody
that she’s rich. Either you are or you are
not. And if you’re dreaming of something
all the time, then you’re reinforcing the
same unconscious reality over and over:
that you are not that.

Everyone and their TV commercial
wants you to believe that the key to a
good life is a nicer job, or a more
rugged car, or a prettier girlfriend, or a
hot tub with an inflatable pool for the
kids. The world is constantly telling you
that the path to a better life is more,
more, more—buy more, own more, make
more, fuck more, be more. You are
constantly bombarded with messages to
give a fuck about everything, all the
time. Give a fuck about a new TV. Give
a fuck about having a better vacation
than your coworkers. Give a fuck about
buying that new lawn ornament. Give a
fuck about having the right kind of selfie

Why? My guess: because giving a
fuck about more stuff is good for
And while there’s nothing wrong
with good business, the problem is that
giving too many fucks is bad for your
mental health. It causes you to become
overly attached to the superficial and
fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a
mirage of happiness and satisfaction.
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.

The Feedback Loop from

There’s an insidious quirk to your brain
that, if you let it, can drive you
absolutely batty. Tell me if this sounds
familiar to you:
You get anxious about confronting
somebody in your life. That anxiety
cripples you and you start wondering
why you’re so anxious. Now you’re
becoming anxious about being anxious.
Oh no! Doubly anxious! Now you’re
anxious about your anxiety, which is
causing more anxiety. Quick, where’s the
Or let’s say you have an anger
problem. You get pissed off at the
stupidest, most inane stuff, and you have
no idea why. And the fact that you get

pissed off so easily starts to piss you off
even more. And then, in your petty rage,
you realize that being angry all the time
makes you a shallow and mean person,
and you hate this; you hate it so much
that you get angry at yourself. Now look
at you: you’re angry at yourself getting
angry about being angry. Fuck you, wall.
Here, have a fist.
Or you’re so worried about doing
the right thing all the time that you
become worried about how much you’re
worrying. Or you feel so guilty for every
mistake you make that you begin to feel
guilty about how guilty you’re feeling.
Or you get sad and alone so often that it
makes you feel even more sad and alone

just thinking about it.
Welcome to the Feedback Loop from
Hell. Chances are you’ve engaged in it
more than a few times. Maybe you’re
engaging in it right now: “God, I do the
Feedback Loop all the time—I’m such a
loser for doing it. I should stop. Oh my
God, I feel like such a loser for calling
myself a loser. I should stop calling
myself a loser. Ah, fuck! I’m doing it
again! See? I’m a loser! Argh!”
Calm down, amigo. Believe it or not,
this is part of the beauty of being human.
Very few animals on earth have the
ability to think cogent thoughts to begin
with, but we humans have the luxury of
being able to have thoughts about our

thoughts. So I can think about watching
Miley Cyrus videos on YouTube, and
then immediately think about what a
sicko I am for wanting to watch Miley
Cyrus videos on YouTube. Ah, the
miracle of consciousness!
Now here’s the problem: Our society
today, through the wonders of consumer
culture and hey-look-my-life-is-coolerthan-yours social media, has bred a
whole generation of people who believe
that having these negative experiences—
anxiety, fear, guilt, etc.—is totally not
okay. I mean, if you look at your
Facebook feed, everybody there is
having a fucking grand old time. Look,
eight people got married this week! And

some sixteen-year-old on TV got a
Ferrari for her birthday. And another kid
just made two billion dollars inventing
an app that automatically delivers you
more toilet paper when you run out.
Meanwhile, you’re stuck at home
flossing your cat. And you can’t help but
think your life sucks even more than you
The Feedback Loop from Hell has
become a borderline epidemic, making
many of us overly stressed, overly
neurotic, and overly self-loathing.
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.
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 fuckgiving fairy dust, you stop hating
yourself for feeling so bad.
George Orwell said that to see
what’s in front of one’s nose requires a
constant struggle. Well, the solution to
our stress and anxiety is right there in
front of our noses, and we’re too busy
watching porn and advertisements for ab
machines that don’t work, wondering
why we’re not banging a hot blonde with

a rocking six-pack, to notice.
We joke online about “first-world
problems,” but we really have become
victims of our own success. Stressrelated health issues, anxiety disorders,
and cases of depression have
skyrocketed over the past thirty years,
despite the fact that everyone has a flatscreen TV and can have their groceries
delivered. Our crisis is no longer
material; it’s existential, it’s spiritual.
We have so much fucking stuff and so
many opportunities that we don’t even
know what to give a fuck about anymore.
Because there’s an infinite amount of
things we can now see or know, there
are also an infinite number of ways we

can discover that we don’t measure up,
that we’re not good enough, that things
aren’t as great as they could be. And this
rips us apart inside.
Because here’s the thing that’s wrong
with all of the “How to Be Happy” shit
that’s been shared eight million times on
Facebook in the past few years—here’s
what nobody realizes about all of this
The desire for more
positive experience is itself
a negative experience. And,
negative experience is
itself a positive experience.

This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give
you a minute to unpretzel your brain and
maybe read that again: Wanting positive
experience is a negative experience;
accepting negative experience is a
positive experience. It’s what the
philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to
as “the backwards law”—the idea that
the more you pursue feeling better all the
time, the less satisfied you become, as
pursuing something only reinforces the
fact that you lack it in the first place. The
more you desperately want to be rich,
the more poor and unworthy you feel,
regardless of how much money you
actually make. The more you desperately
want to be sexy and desired, the uglier

you come to see yourself, regardless of
your actual physical appearance. The
more you desperately want to be happy
and loved, the lonelier and more afraid
you become, regardless of those who
surround you. The more you want to be
spiritually enlightened, the more selfcentered and shallow you become in
trying to get there.
It’s like this one time I tripped on
acid and it felt like the more I walked
toward a house, the farther away the
house got from me. And yes, I just used
my LSD hallucinations to make a
philosophical point about happiness. No
fucks given.
As the existential philosopher Albert

Camus said (and I’m pretty sure he
wasn’t on LSD at the time): “You will
never be happy if you continue to search
for what happiness consists of. You will
never live if you are looking for the
meaning of life.”
Or put more simply:
Don’t try.
Now, I know what you’re saying:
“Mark, this is making my nipples all
hard, but what about the Camaro I’ve
been saving up for? What about the
beach body I’ve been starving myself
for? After all, I paid a lot of money for
that ab machine! What about the big
house on the lake I’ve been dreaming of?
If I stop giving a fuck about those things

—well, then I’ll never achieve
anything. I don’t want that to happen, do
So glad you asked.
Ever notice that sometimes when you
care less about something, you do better
at it? Notice how it’s often the person
who is the least invested in the success
of something that actually ends up
achieving it? Notice how sometimes
when you stop giving a fuck, everything
seems to fall into place?
What’s with that?
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
Seriously, I could keep going, but
you get the point. 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. The avoidance
of suffering is a form of suffering. The
avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The
denial of failure is a failure. Hiding
what is shameful is itself a form of
Pain is an inextricable thread in the
fabric of life, and to tear it out is not
only impossible, but destructive:
attempting to tear it out unravels
everything else with it. To try to avoid
pain is to give too many fucks about
pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not

give a fuck about the pain, you become
In my life, I have given a fuck about
many things. I have also not given a fuck
about many things. And like the road not
taken, it was the fucks not given that
made all the difference.
Chances are you know somebody in
your life who, at one time or another, did
not give a fuck and then went on to
accomplish amazing feats. Perhaps there
was a time in your own life when you
simply did not give a fuck and excelled
to some extraordinary height. For
myself, quitting my day job in finance
after only six weeks to start an Internet
business ranks pretty high up there in my

own “didn’t give a fuck” hall of fame.
Same with deciding to sell most of my
possessions and move to South America.
Fucks given? None. Just went and did it.
These moments of non-fuckery are
the moments that most define our lives.
The major switch in careers; the
spontaneous choice to drop out of
college and join a rock band; the
decision to finally dump that deadbeat
boyfriend whom you caught wearing
your pantyhose a few too many times.
To not give a fuck is to stare down
life’s most terrifying and difficult
challenges and still take action.
While not giving a fuck may seem
simple on the surface, it’s a whole new

bag of burritos under the hood. I don’t
even know what that sentence means, but
I don’t give a fuck. A bag of burritos
sounds awesome, so let’s just go with it.
Most of us struggle throughout our
lives by giving too many fucks in
situations where fucks do not deserve to
be given. We give too many fucks about
the rude gas station attendant who gave
us our change in nickels. We give too
many fucks when a show we liked was
canceled on TV. We give too many fucks
when our coworkers don’t bother asking
us about our awesome weekend.
Meanwhile, our credit cards are
maxed out, our dog hates us, and Junior
is snorting meth in the bathroom, yet

we’re getting pissed off about nickels
and Everybody Loves Raymond.
Look, this is how it works. You’re
going to die one day. I know that’s kind
of obvious, but I just wanted to remind
you in case you’d forgotten. 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.
There is a subtle art to not giving a
fuck. And though the concept may sound
ridiculous and I may sound like an

asshole, what I’m talking about here is
essentially learning how to focus and
prioritize your thoughts effectively—
how to pick and choose what matters to
you and what does not matter to you
based on finely honed personal values.
This is incredibly difficult. It takes a
lifetime of practice and discipline to
achieve. And you will regularly fail. But
it is perhaps the most worthy struggle
one can undertake in one’s life. It is
perhaps the only struggle in one’s life.
Because when you give too many
fucks—when you give a fuck about
everyone and everything—you will feel
that you’re perpetually entitled to be
comfortable and happy at all times, that

everything is supposed to be just exactly
the fucking way you want it to be. This
is a sickness. And it will eat you alive.
You will see every adversity as an
injustice, every challenge as a failure,
every inconvenience as a personal
slight, every disagreement as a betrayal.
You will be confined to your own petty,
skull-sized hell, burning with entitlement
and bluster, running circles around your
very own personal Feedback Loop from
Hell, in constant motion yet arriving

The Subtle Art
Giving a Fuck



When most people envision giving no

fucks whatsoever, they imagine a kind of
serene indifference to everything, a calm
that weathers all storms. They imagine
and aspire to be a person who is shaken
by nothing and caves in to no one.
There’s a name for a person who
finds no emotion or meaning in anything:
a psychopath. Why you would want to
emulate a psychopath, I have no fucking
So what does not giving a fuck
mean? Let’s look at three “subtleties”
that should help clarify the matter.
Subtlety #1: Not giving a fuck does
not mean being indifferent; it
means being comfortable with
being different.

Let’s be clear. There’s absolutely
nothing admirable or confident about
indifference. People who are indifferent
are lame and scared. They’re couch
potatoes and Internet trolls. In fact,
indifferent people often attempt to be
indifferent because in reality they give
way too many fucks. They give a fuck
about what everyone thinks of their hair,
so they never bother washing or combing
it. They give a fuck about what everyone
thinks of their ideas, so they hide behind
sarcasm and self-righteous snark.
They’re afraid to let anyone get close to
them, so they imagine themselves as
some special, unique snowflake who has
problems that nobody else would ever

Indifferent people are afraid of the
world and the repercussions of their
own choices. That’s why they don’t
make any meaningful choices. 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.
Because here’s a sneaky truth about
life. There’s no such thing as not giving a
fuck. You must give a fuck about
something. It’s part of our biology to
always care about something and
therefore to always give a fuck.
The question, then, is, What do we

give a fuck about? What are we
choosing to give a fuck about? And how
can we not give a fuck about what
ultimately does not matter?
My mother was recently screwed out
of a large chunk of money by a close
friend of hers. Had I been indifferent, I
would have shrugged my shoulders,
sipped my mocha, and downloaded
another season of The Wire. Sorry, Mom.
But instead, I was indignant. I was
pissed off. I said, “No, screw that, Mom.
We’re going to lawyer the fuck up and go
after this asshole. Why? Because I don’t
give a fuck. I will ruin this guy’s life if I
have to.”
This illustrates the first subtlety of

not giving a fuck. When we say, “Damn,
watch out, Mark Manson just don’t give
a fuck,” we don’t mean that Mark
Manson doesn’t care about anything; on
the contrary, we mean that Mark Manson
doesn’t care about adversity in the face
of his goals, he doesn’t care about
pissing some people off to do what he
feels is right or important or noble. We
mean that Mark Manson is the type of
guy who would write about himself in
third person just because he thought it
was the right thing to do. He just doesn’t
give a fuck.
This is what is so admirable. No, not
me, dumbass—the overcoming adversity
stuff, the willingness to be different, an

outcast, a pariah, all for the sake of
one’s own values. The willingness to
stare failure in the face and shove your
middle finger back at it. The people who
don’t give a fuck about adversity or
failure or embarrassing themselves or
shitting the bed a few times. The people
who just laugh and then do what they
believe in anyway. Because they know
it’s right. They know it’s more important
than they are, more important than their
own feelings and their own pride and
their own ego. They say, “Fuck it,” not to
everything in life, but rather to
everything unimportant in life. They
reserve their fucks for what truly
matters. Friends. Family. Purpose.

Burritos. And an occasional lawsuit or
two. And because of that, because they
reserve their fucks for only the big things
that matter, people give a fuck about
them in return.
Because here’s another sneaky little
truth about life. You can’t be an
important and life-changing presence for
some people without also being a joke
and an embarrassment to others. You just
can’t. Because there’s no such thing as a
lack of adversity. It doesn’t exist. The
old saying goes that no matter where you
go, there you are. Well, the same is true
for adversity and failure. No matter
where you go, there’s a five-hundredpound 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.
Subtlety #2: To not give a fuck
about adversity, you must first give
a fuck about something more
important than adversity.
Imagine you’re at a grocery store,
and you watch an elderly lady scream at
the cashier, berating him for not
accepting her thirty-cent coupon. Why
does this lady give a fuck? It’s just thirty
I’ll tell you why: That lady probably
doesn’t have anything better to do with
her days than to sit at home cutting out
coupons. She’s old and lonely. Her kids

are dickheads and never visit. She hasn’t
had sex in over thirty years. She can’t
fart without extreme lower-back pain.
Her pension is on its last legs, and she’s
probably going to die in a diaper
thinking she’s in Candy Land.
So she snips coupons. That’s all
she’s got. It’s her and her damn coupons.
It’s all she can give a fuck about because
there is nothing else to give a fuck about.
And so when that pimply-faced
seventeen-year-old cashier refuses to
accept one of them, when he defends his
cash register’s purity the way knights
used to defend maidens’ virginity, you
can bet Granny is going to erupt. Eighty
years of fucks will rain down all at

once, like a fiery hailstorm of “Back in
my day” and “People used to show more
respect” stories.
The problem with people who hand
out fucks like ice cream at a goddamn
summer camp is that they don’t have
anything more fuck-worthy to dedicate
their fucks to.
If you find yourself consistently
giving too many fucks about trivial shit
that bothers you—your ex-boyfriend’s
new Facebook picture, how quickly the
batteries die in the TV remote, missing
out on yet another two-for-one sale on
hand sanitizer—chances are you don’t
have much going on in your life to give a
legitimate fuck about. And that’s your

real problem. Not the hand sanitizer. Not
the TV remote.
I once heard an artist say that when a
person has no problems, the mind
automatically finds a way to invent
some. I think what most people—
especially educated, pampered middleclass white people—consider “life
problems” are really just side effects of
not having anything more important to
worry about.
It then follows that 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.
Subtlety #3: Whether you realize it
or not, you are always choosing
what to give a fuck about.
People aren’t just born not giving a
fuck. In fact, we’re born giving way too
many fucks. Ever watch a kid cry his
eyes out because his hat is the wrong
shade of blue? Exactly. Fuck that kid.
When we’re young, everything is
new and exciting, and everything seems
to matter so much. Therefore, we give
tons of fucks. We give a fuck about
everything and everyone—about what
people are saying about us, about
whether that cute boy/girl called us back
or not, about whether our socks match or

not, or what color our birthday balloon
As we get older, with the benefit of
experience (and having seen so much
time slip by), we begin to notice that
most of these sorts of things have little
lasting impact on our lives. Those
people whose opinions we cared about
so much before are no longer present in
our lives. Rejections that were painful in
the moment have actually worked out for
the best. We realize how little attention
people pay to the superficial details
about us, and we choose not to obsess so
much over them.
Essentially, we become more
selective about the fucks we’re willing

to give. This is something called
maturity. It’s nice; you should try it
sometime. Maturity is what happens
when one learns to only give a fuck
about what’s truly fuckworthy. As Bunk
Moreland said to his partner Detective
McNulty in The Wire (which, fuck you, I
still downloaded): “That’s what you get
for giving a fuck when it wasn’t your
turn to give a fuck.”
Then, as we grow older and enter
middle age, something else begins to
change. Our energy level drops. Our
identity solidifies. We know who we are
and we accept ourselves, including some
of the parts we aren’t thrilled about.
And, in a strange way, this is

liberating. We no longer need to give a
fuck about everything. Life is just what it
is. We accept it, warts and all. We
realize that we’re never going to cure
cancer or go to the moon or feel Jennifer
Aniston’s tits. And that’s okay. Life goes
on. We now reserve our ever-dwindling
fucks for the most truly fuck-worthy
parts of our lives: our families, our best
friends, our golf swing. And, to our
astonishment, this is enough. This
simplification actually makes us really
fucking happy on a consistent basis. And
we start to think, Maybe that crazy
alcoholic Bukowski was onto something.
Don’t try.

So Mark, What the Fuck Is
the Point of This Book
This book will help you think a little bit
more clearly about what you’re choosing
to find important in life and what you’re
choosing to find unimportant.
I believe that today we’re facing a
psychological epidemic, one in which
people no longer realize it’s okay for
things to suck sometimes. I know that
sounds intellectually lazy on the surface,
but I promise you, it’s a life/death sort of
Because when we believe that it’s
not okay for things to suck sometimes,
then we unconsciously start blaming

ourselves. We start to feel as though
something is inherently wrong with us,
which drives us to all sorts of
overcompensation, like buying forty
pairs of shoes or downing Xanax with a
vodka chaser on a Tuesday night or
shooting up a school bus full of kids.
This belief that it’s not okay to be
inadequate sometimes is the source of
the growing Feedback Loop from Hell
that is coming to dominate our culture.
The idea of not giving a fuck is a
simple way of reorienting our
expectations for life and choosing what
is important and what is not. Developing
this ability leads to something I like to
think of as a kind of “practical

No, not that airy-fairy, eternal bliss,
end-of-all-suffering, bullshitty kind of
enlightenment. On the contrary, 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 lowlevel spiritual way. After all, the only
way to overcome pain is to first learn
how to bear it.
This book doesn’t give a fuck about

alleviating your problems or your pain.
And that is precisely why you will know
it’s being honest. This book is not some
guide to greatness—it couldn’t be,
because greatness is merely an illusion
in our minds, a made-up destination that
we obligate ourselves to pursue, our
own psychological Atlantis.
Instead, this book will turn your pain
into a tool, your trauma into power, and
your problems into slightly better
problems. That is real progress. Think of
it as a guide to suffering and how to do it
better, more meaningfully, with more
compassion and more humility. It’s a
book about moving lightly despite your
heavy burdens, resting easier with your

greatest fears, laughing at your tears as
you cry them.
This book will not teach you how to
gain or achieve, but rather how to lose
and let go. It will teach you to take
inventory of your life and scrub out all
but the most important items. It will
teach you to close your eyes and trust
that you can fall backwards and still be
okay. It will teach you to give fewer
fucks. It will teach you to not try.


Happiness Is a Problem

About twenty-five hundred years ago,
in the Himalayan foothills of present-day
Nepal, there lived in a great palace a
king who was going to have a son. For
this son the king had a particularly grand
idea: he would make the child’s life
perfect. The child would never know a
moment of suffering—every need, every

desire, would be accounted for at all
The king built high walls around the
palace that prevented the prince from
knowing the outside world. He spoiled
the child, lavishing him with food and
gifts, surrounding him with servants who
catered to his every whim. And just as
planned, the child grew up ignorant of
the routine cruelties of human existence.
All of the prince’s childhood went
on like this. But despite the endless
luxury and opulence, the prince became
kind of a pissed-off young man. Soon,
every experience felt empty and
valueless. The problem was that no
matter what his father gave him, it never

seemed enough, never meant anything.
So late one night, the prince snuck
out of the palace to see what was beyond
its walls. He had a servant drive him
through the local village, and what he
saw horrified him.
For the first time in his life, the
prince saw human suffering. He saw sick
people, old people, homeless people,
people in pain, even people dying.
The prince returned to the palace and
found himself in a sort of existential
crisis. Not knowing how to process what
he’d seen, he got all emo about
everything and complained a lot. And, as
is so typical of young men, the prince
ended up blaming his father for the very

things his father had tried to do for him.
It was the riches, the prince thought, that
had made him so miserable, that had
made life seem so meaningless. He
decided to run away.
But the prince was more like his
father than he knew. He had grand ideas
too. He wouldn’t just run away; he
would give up his royalty, his family,
and all of his possessions and live in the
streets, sleeping in dirt like an animal.
There he would starve himself, torture
himself, and beg for scraps of food from
strangers for the rest of his life.
The next night, the prince snuck out
of the palace again, this time never to
return. For years he lived as a bum, a

discarded and forgotten remnant of
society, the dog shit caked to the bottom
of the social totem pole. And as planned,
the prince suffered greatly. He suffered
through disease, hunger, pain, loneliness,
and decay. He confronted the brink of
death itself, often limited to eating a
single nut each day.
A few years went by. Then a few
more. And then . . . nothing happened.
The prince began to notice that this life
of suffering wasn’t all that it was
cracked up to be. It wasn’t bringing him
the insight he had desired. It wasn’t
revealing any deeper mystery of the
world or its ultimate purpose.
In fact, the prince came to know

what the rest of us have always kind of
known: that suffering totally sucks. And
it’s not necessarily that meaningful
either. As with being rich, there is no
value in suffering when it’s done without
purpose. And soon the prince came to
the conclusion that his grand idea, like
his father’s, was in fact a fucking
terrible idea and he should probably go
do something else instead.
Totally confused, the prince cleaned
himself up and went and found a big tree
near a river. He decided that he would
sit under that tree and not get up until he
came up with another grand idea.
As the legend goes, the confused
prince sat under that tree for forty-nine

days. We won’t delve into the biological
viability of sitting in the same spot for
forty-nine days, but let’s just say that in
that time the prince came to a number of
profound realizations.
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

This isn’t to say that all suffering is
equal. Some suffering is certainly more
painful than other suffering. But we all
must suffer nonetheless.
Years later, the prince would build
his own philosophy and share it with the
world, and this would be its first and
central tenet: that pain and loss are
inevitable and we should let go of trying
to resist them. The prince would later
become known as the Buddha. And in
case you haven’t heard of him, he was
kind of a big deal.
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. The
Buddha argued this from a theological
and philosophical perspective. I will
make the same argument in this chapter,
but I will make it from a biological
perspective, and with pandas.

Disappointment Panda


If I could invent a superhero, I would
invent one called Disappointment Panda.
He’d wear a cheesy eye mask and a shirt
(with a giant capital T on it) that was
way too small for his big panda belly,
and his superpower would be to tell
people harsh truths about themselves that
they needed to hear but didn’t want to
He would go door-to-door like a
Bible salesman and ring doorbells and
say things like, “Sure, making a lot of
money makes you feel good, but it won’t
make your kids love you,” or “If you
have to ask yourself if you trust your

wife, then you probably don’t,” or
“What you consider ‘friendship’ is really
just your constant attempts to impress
people.” Then he’d tell the homeowner
to have a nice day and saunter on down
to the next house.
It would be awesome. And sick. And
sad. And uplifting. And necessary. After
all, the greatest truths in life are usually
the most unpleasant to hear.
Disappointment Panda would be the
hero that none of us would want but all
of us would need. He’d be the
proverbial vegetables to our mental diet
of junk food. He’d make our lives better
despite making us feel worse. He’d
make us stronger by tearing us down,

brighten our future by showing us the
darkness. Listening to him would be like
watching a movie where the hero dies in
the end: you love it even more despite
making you feel horrible, because it
feels real.
So while we’re here, allow me to
put on my Disappointment Panda mask
and drop another unpleasant truth on
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. Take something as simple as
stubbing your toe. If you’re like me,
when you stub your toe you scream
enough four-letter words to make Pope
Francis cry. You also probably blame
some poor inanimate object for your

suffering. “Stupid table,” you say. Or
maybe you even go so far as to question
your entire interior design philosophy
based on your throbbing foot: “What
kind of idiot puts a table there anyway?
But I digress. That horrible stubbedtoe-induced pain, the one you and I and
the pope hate so much, exists for an
important reason. Physical pain is a
product of our nervous system, a
feedback mechanism to give us a sense
of our own physical proportions—where
we can and cannot move and what we
can and cannot touch. When we exceed
those limits, our nervous system duly
punishes us to make sure that we pay

attention and never do it again.
And this pain, as much as we hate it,
is useful. Pain is what teaches us what to
pay attention to when we’re young or
careless. It helps show us what’s good
for us versus what’s bad for us. It helps
us understand and adhere to our own
limitations. It teaches us to not fuck
around near hot stoves or stick metal
Therefore, it’s not always beneficial to
avoid pain and seek pleasure, since pain
can, at times, be life-or-death important
to our well-being.
But pain is not merely physical. As
anyone who has had to sit through the
first Star Wars prequel can tell you, we

humans are capable of experiencing
acute psychological pain as well. In fact,
research has found that our brains don’t
register much difference between
physical pain and psychological pain. So
when I tell you that my first girlfriend
cheating on me and leaving me felt like
having an ice pick slowly inserted into
the center of my heart, that’s because,
well, it hurt so much I might as well
have had an ice pick slowly inserted into
the center of my heart.
psychological pain is an indication of
something out of equilibrium, some
limitation that has been exceeded. And
like our physical pain, our psychological

pain is not necessarily always bad or
even undesirable. In some cases,
experiencing emotional or psychological
pain can be healthy or necessary. Just
like stubbing our toe teaches us to walk
into fewer tables, the emotional pain of
rejection or failure teaches us how to
avoid making the same mistakes in the
And this is what’s so dangerous
about a society that coddles itself more
and more from the inevitable
discomforts of life: we lose the benefits
of experiencing healthy doses of pain, a
loss that disconnects us from the reality
of the world around us.
You may salivate at the thought of a

problem-free life full of everlasting
happiness and eternal compassion, but
back here on earth the problems never
cease. Seriously, problems don’t end.
Disappointment Panda just dropped by.
We had margaritas, and he told me all
about it: problems never fucking go
away, he said—they just improve.
Warren Buffett’s got money problems;
the drunk hobo down at Kwik-E Mart’s
got money problems. Buffett’s just got
better money problems than the hobo.
All of life is like this.
“Life is essentially an endless series
of problems, Mark,” the panda told me.
He sipped his drink and adjusted the
little pink umbrella. “The solution to one

problem is merely the creation of the
next one.”
A moment passed, and then I
wondered where the fuck the talking
panda came from. And while we’re at it,
who made these margaritas?
“Don’t hope for a life without
problems,” the panda said. “There’s no
such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of
good problems.”
And with that, he set his glass down,
adjusted his sombrero, and sauntered off
into the sunset.

Happiness Comes
Solving Problems


Problems are a constant in life. When

you solve your health problem by buying
a gym membership, you create new
problems, like having to get up early to
get to the gym on time, sweating like a
meth-head for thirty minutes on an
elliptical, and then getting showered and
changed for work so you don’t stink up
the whole office. When you solve your
problem of not spending enough time
with your partner by designating
Wednesday night “date night,” you
generate new problems, such as figuring
out what to do every Wednesday that you
both won’t hate, making sure you have
enough money for nice dinners,
rediscovering the chemistry and spark
you two feel you’ve lost, and unraveling

the logistics of fucking in a small bathtub
filled with too many bubbles.
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. It
doesn’t magically appear when you
finally make enough money to add on
that extra room to the house. You don’t
find it waiting for you in a place, an
idea, a job—or even a book, for that
Happiness is a constant work-inprogress, because solving problems is a
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.
Sometimes those problems are
simple: eating good food, traveling to
some new place, winning at the new
video game you just bought. Other times
those problems are abstract and
complicated: fixing your relationship
with your mother, finding a career you
can feel good about, developing better
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 things up in at least
one of two ways:

1. Denial. Some people deny that their
problems exist in the first place. And
because they deny reality, they must
constantly delude or distract
themselves from reality. This may
make them feel good in the short
term, but it leads to a life of
emotional repression.
2. Victim Mentality. Some choose to
believe that there is nothing they can
do to solve their problems, even
when they in fact could. Victims seek
to blame others for their problems or
blame outside circumstances. This
may make them feel better in the
short term, but it leads to a life of

anger, helplessness, and despair.
People deny and blame others for
their problems for the simple reason that
it’s easy and feels good, while solving
problems is hard and often feels bad.
Forms of blame and denial give us a
quick high. They are a way to
temporarily escape our problems, and
that escape can provide us a quick rush
that makes us feel better.
Highs come in many forms. Whether
it’s a substance like alcohol, the moral
righteousness that comes from blaming
others, or the thrill of some new risky
adventure, highs are shallow and
unproductive ways to go about one’s
life. Much of the self-help world is

predicated on peddling highs to people
rather than solving legitimate problems.
Many self-help gurus teach you new
forms of denial and pump you up with
exercises that feel good in the short term,
while ignoring the underlying issue.
Remember, nobody who is actually
happy has to stand in front of a mirror
and tell himself that he’s happy.
Highs also generate addiction. The
more you rely on them to feel better
about your underlying problems, the
more you will seek them out. In this
sense, almost anything can become
addictive, depending on the motivation
behind using it. We all have our chosen
methods to numb the pain of our

problems, and in moderate doses there is
nothing wrong with this. But the longer
we avoid and the longer we numb, the
more painful it will be when we finally
do confront our issues.

Emotions Are Overrated
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
Much as the pain of touching a hot
stove teaches you not to touch it again,
the sadness of being alone teaches you

not to do the things that made you feel so
alone again. Emotions are simply
biological signals designed to nudge you
in the direction of beneficial change.
Look, I don’t mean to make light of
your midlife crisis or the fact that your
drunk dad stole your bike when you
were eight years old and you still
haven’t gotten over it, but when it comes
down to it, if you feel crappy it’s
because your brain is telling you that
there’s a problem that’s unaddressed or
unresolved. In other words, 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. Then, like everything
else, the positive emotions go away,
because more problems inevitably
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. In fact, I believe we should
make a habit of questioning them.

Many people are taught to repress
their emotions for various personal,
social, or cultural reasons—particularly
negative emotions. Sadly, to deny one’s
negative emotions is to deny many of the
feedback mechanisms that help a person
solve problems. As a result, many of
these repressed individuals struggle to
deal with problems throughout their
lives. And if they can’t solve problems,
then they can’t be happy. Remember,
pain serves a purpose.
But then there are those people who
overidentify with their emotions.
Everything is justified for no other
reason than they felt it. “Oh, I broke your
windshield, but I was really mad; I

couldn’t help it.” Or “I dropped out of
school and moved to Alaska just
because it felt right.” Decision-making
based on emotional intuition, without the
aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty
much always sucks. You know who
bases their entire lives on their
emotions? Three-year-old kids. And
dogs. You know what else three-yearolds and dogs do? Shit on the carpet.
An obsession and overinvestment in
emotion fails us for the simple reason
that emotions never last. Whatever
makes us happy today will no longer
make us happy tomorrow, because our
biology always needs something more. A
fixation on happiness inevitably amounts

to a never-ending pursuit of “something
else”—a new house, a new relationship,
another child, another pay raise. And
despite all of our sweat and strain, we
end up feeling eerily similar to how we
started: inadequate.
Psychologists sometimes refer to this
concept as the “hedonic treadmill”: the
idea that we’re always working hard to
change our life situation, but we actually
never feel very different.
This is why our problems are
recursive and unavoidable. The person
you marry is the person you fight with.
The house you buy is the house you
repair. The dream job you take is the job
you stress over. Everything comes with

an inherent sacrifice—whatever makes
us feel good will also inevitably make
us feel bad. What we gain is also what
we lose. What creates our positive
experiences will define our negative
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
of our
permanently. We like the idea that we
can feel fulfilled and satisfied with our
lives forever.
But we cannot.

Choose Your Struggle

If I ask you, “What do you want out of
life?” and you say something like, “I
want to be happy and have a great family
and a job I like,” your response is so
common and expected that it doesn’t
really mean anything.
Everybody enjoys what feels good.
Everyone wants to live a carefree,
happy, and easy life, to fall in love and
have amazing sex and relationships, to
look perfect and make money and be
popular and well-respected and admired
and a total baller to the point that people
part like the Red Sea when they walk
into the room.
Everybody wants that. It’s easy to
want that.

A more interesting question, a
question that most people never
consider, is, “What pain do you want in
your life? What are you willing to
struggle for?” Because that seems to be a
greater determinant of how our lives turn
For example, most people want to
get the corner office and make a
boatload of money—but not many
people want to suffer through sixty-hour
workweeks, long commutes, obnoxious
paperwork, and arbitrary corporate
hierarchies to escape the confines of an
infinite cubicle hell.
Most people want to have great sex
and an awesome relationship, but not

everyone is willing to go through the
tough conversations, the awkward
silences, the hurt feelings, and the
emotional psychodrama to get there. And
so they settle. They settle and wonder,
“What if?” for years and years, until the
question morphs from “What if?” into
“What else?” And when the lawyers go
home and the alimony check is in the
mail, they say, “What for?” If not for
their lowered standards and expectations
twenty years prior, then what for?
Because happiness requires struggle.
It grows from problems. Joy doesn’t just
sprout out of the ground like daisies and
rainbows. Real, serious, lifelong
fulfillment and meaning have to be

earned through the choosing and
managing of our struggles. Whether you
suffer from anxiety or loneliness or
obsessive-compulsive disorder or a
dickhead boss who ruins half of your
waking hours every day, the solution lies
in the acceptance and active engagement
of that negative experience—not the
avoidance of it, not the salvation from it.
People want an amazing physique.
But you don’t end up with one unless you
legitimately appreciate the pain and
physical stress that come with living
inside a gym for hour upon hour, unless
you love calculating and calibrating the
food you eat, planning your life out in
tiny plate–sized portions.

People want to start their own
business. But you don’t end up a
successful entrepreneur unless you find a
way to appreciate the risk, the
uncertainty, the repeated failures, the
insane hours devoted to something that
may earn absolutely nothing.
People want a partner, a spouse. But
you don’t end up attracting someone
amazing without appreciating the
emotional turbulence that comes with
weathering rejections, building the
sexual tension that never gets released,
and staring blankly at a phone that never
rings. It’s part of the game of love. You
can’t win if you don’t play.
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.
For most of my adolescence and
young adulthood, I fantasized about
being a musician—a rock star, in
particular. Any badass guitar song I
heard, I would always close my eyes
and envision myself up on stage, playing
it to the screams of the crowd, people
absolutely losing their minds to my
sweet finger-noodling glory. This fantasy
could keep me occupied for hours on
end. For me, it was never a question of
if I’d ever be up playing in front of
screaming crowds, but when. I had it all
planned out. I was simply biding my
time before I could invest the proper
amount of energy and effort into getting

out there and making my mark. First I
needed to finish school. Then I needed to
make some extra money to buy gear.
Then I needed to find enough free time to
practice. Then I had to network and plan
my first project. Then . . . and then
Despite my fantasizing about this for
over half my lifetime, the reality never
came to fruition. And it took me a long
time and a lot of struggle to finally figure
out why: I didn’t actually want it.
I was in love with the result—the
image of me on stage, people cheering,
me rocking out, pouring my heart into
what I was playing—but I wasn’t in love
with the process. And because of that, I

failed at it. Repeatedly. Hell, I didn’t
even try hard enough to fail at it. I hardly
tried at all. The daily drudgery of
practicing, the logistics of finding a
group and rehearsing, the pain of finding
gigs and actually getting people to show
up and give a shit, the broken strings, the
blown tube amp, hauling forty pounds of
gear to and from rehearsals with no car.
It’s a mountain of a dream and a milehigh climb to the top. And what it took
me a long time to discover is that I
didn’t like to climb much. I just liked to
imagine the summit.
The common cultural narratives
would tell me that I somehow failed
myself, that I’m a quitter or a loser, that I

just didn’t “have it,” that I gave up on my
dream and that maybe I let myself
succumb to the pressures of society.
But the truth is far less interesting
than any of these explanations. The truth
is, I thought I wanted something, but it
turns out I didn’t. End of story.
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.
And life doesn’t work that way.
Who you are is defined by what
you’re willing to struggle for. People
who enjoy the struggles of a gym are the
ones who run triathlons and have
chiseled abs and can bench-press a

small house. People who enjoy long
workweeks and the politics of the
corporate ladder are the ones who fly to
the top of it. People who enjoy the
stresses and uncertainties of the starving
artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones
who live it and make it.
This is not about willpower or grit.
This is not another admonishment of “no
pain, no gain.” This is the most simple
and basic component of life: our
struggles determine our successes. Our
problems birth our happiness, along with
slightly better, slightly upgraded
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.


You Are Not Special


once knew a guy; we’ll call him
Jimmy always had various business
ventures going. On any given day, if you
asked him what he was doing, he’d rattle
off the name of some firm he was
consulting with, or he’d describe a
promising medical app he was looking

for angel investors to fund, or he’d talk
about some charity event he was
supposed to be the keynote speaker for,
or how he had an idea for a more
efficient type of gas pump that was going
to make him billions. The guy was
always rolling, always on, and if you
gave him an inch of conversational
daylight, he’d pulverize you about how
world-spinning his work was, how
brilliant his latest ideas were, and he’d
name-drop so much it felt like you were
talking to a tabloid reporter.
Jimmy was all positivity all the time.
Always pushing himself, always
working an angle—a real go-getter,
whatever the fuck that means.

The catch was that Jimmy was also a
total deadbeat—all talk and no walk.
Stoned a majority of the time, and
spending as much money in bars and fine
restaurants as he did on his “business
ideas,” Jimmy was a professional leech,
living off his family’s hard-won money
by spinning them as well as everybody
else in the city on false ideas of future
tech glory. Sure, sometimes he’d put in
some token effort, or pick up the phone
and cold-call some bigwig and namedrop until he ran out of names, but
nothing ever actually happened. None of
these “ventures” ever blossomed into
Yet the guy kept this up for years,

living off girlfriends and more and more
distant relatives well into his late
twenties. And the most screwed-up part
was that Jimmy felt good about it. He
had a delusional level of selfconfidence. People who laughed at him
or hung up on him were, in his mind,
“missing the opportunity of their lives.”
People who called him out on his bogus
business ideas were “too ignorant and
inexperienced” to understand his genius.
People who pointed out his deadbeat
lifestyle were “jealous”; they were
“haters” who envied his success.
Jimmy did make some money,
although it was usually through the
sketchiest of means, like selling another

person’s business idea as his own, or
finagling a loan from someone, or
worse, talking someone into giving him
equity in their start-up. He actually
occasionally talked people into paying
him to do some public speaking. (About
what, I can’t even imagine.)
The worst part was that Jimmy
believed his own bullshit. His delusion
was so bulletproof, it was honestly hard
to get mad at him, it was actually kind of
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. Many researchers and
policymakers at the time came to believe
that raising a population’s self-esteem
could lead to some tangible social
benefits: lower crime, better academic
records, greater employment, lower
budget deficits. As a result, beginning in
the next decade, the 1970s, self-esteem
practices began to be taught to parents,
emphasized by therapists, politicians,
and teachers, and instituted into
educational policy. Grade inflation, for
example, was implemented to make lowachieving kids feel better about their
lack of achievement. Participation

awards and bogus trophies were
invented for any number of mundane and
expected activities. Kids were given
inane homework assignments, like
writing down all the reasons why they
thought they were special, or the five
things they liked most about themselves.
Pastors and ministers told their
congregations that they were each
uniquely special in God’s eyes, and
were destined to excel and not be
average. Business and motivational
seminars cropped up chanting the same
paradoxical mantra: every single one of
us can be exceptional and massively
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 actually useful
and even necessary for developing
strong-minded and successful adults. It
turns out that teaching people to believe
they’re exceptional and to feel good
about themselves no matter what doesn’t
lead to a population full of Bill Gateses
and Martin Luther Kings. It leads to a
population full of Jimmys.
Jimmy, the delusional start-up
founder. Jimmy, who smoked pot every
day and had no real marketable skills

other than talking himself up and
believing it. Jimmy, the type of guy who
yelled at his business partner for being
“immature,” and then maxed out the
company credit card at Le Bernardin
trying to impress some Russian model.
Jimmy, who was quickly running out of
aunts and uncles who could loan him
more money.
Yes, that confident, high-self-esteem
Jimmy. The Jimmy who spent so much
time talking about how good he was that
he forgot to, you know, actually do
The problem with the self-esteem
movement is that it measured self-esteem
by how positively people felt about

themselves. But a true and accurate
measurement of one’s self-worth is how
people feel about the negative aspects of
themselves. If a person like Jimmy feels
absolutely fucking great 99.9 percent of
the time, despite his life falling apart
around him, then how can that be a valid
metric for a successful and happy life?
Jimmy is entitled. That is, he feels as
though he deserves good things without
actually earning them. He believes he
should be able to be rich without
actually working for it. He believes he
should be liked and well-connected
without actually helping anyone. He
believes he should have an amazing
lifestyle without actually sacrificing

People like Jimmy become so
fixated on feeling good about themselves
that they manage to delude themselves
accomplishing great things even when
they’re not. They believe they’re the
brilliant presenter on stage when
actually they’re making a fool of
themselves. They believe they’re the
successful start-up founder when, in fact,
they’ve never had a successful venture.
They call themselves life coaches and
charge money to help others, even though
they’re only twenty-five years old and
haven’t actually accomplished anything
substantial in their lives.

Entitled people exude a delusional
confidence can be alluring to others, at
least for a little while. In some
delusional level of confidence can
become contagious and help the people
around the entitled person feel more
confident in themselves too. Despite all
of Jimmy’s shenanigans, I have to admit
that it was fun hanging out with him
sometimes. You felt indestructible
around him.
But the problem with entitlement is
that it makes people need to feel good
about themselves all the time, even at the
expense of those around them. And

because entitled people always need to
feel good about themselves, they end up
spending most of their time thinking
about themselves. After all, it takes a lot
of energy and work to convince yourself
that your shit doesn’t stink, especially
when you’ve actually been living in a
Once people have developed the
thought pattern to constantly construe
what happens around them as selfaggrandizing, it’s extremely hard to
break them out of it. Any attempt to
reason with them is seen as simply
another “threat” to their superiority by
another person who “can’t handle” how

they are.
Entitlement closes in upon itself in a
kind of narcissistic bubble, distorting
anything and everything in such a way as
to reinforce itself. 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 is impervious. People
who are entitled delude themselves into
whatever feeds their sense of
superiority. They keep their mental

facade standing at all costs, even if it
sometimes requires being physically or
emotionally abusive to those around
But entitlement is a failed strategy.
It’s just another high. It’s not happiness.
The true measurement of self-worth
is not how a person feels about her
positive experiences, but rather how she
feels about her negative experiences. A
person like Jimmy hides from his
problems by making up imagined
successes for himself at every turn. And
because he can’t face his problems, no
matter how good he feels about himself,
he is weak.
A person who actually has a high

self-worth is able to look at the negative
parts of his character frankly—“Yes,
sometimes I’m irresponsible with
money,” “Yes, sometimes I exaggerate
my own successes,” “Yes, I rely too
much on others to support me and should
be more self-reliant”—and then acts to
improve upon them. But entitled people,
because they are incapable of
acknowledging their own problems
openly and honestly, are incapable of
improving their lives in any lasting or
meaningful way. They are left chasing
high after high and accumulate greater
and greater levels of denial.
But eventually reality must hit, and
the underlying problems will once again

make themselves clear. It’s just a
question of when, and how painful it
will be.

Things Fall Apart
I sat in my 9:00 A.M. biology class, arms
cradling my head on my desk as I stared
at the clock’s second hand making laps,
each tick syncopated with the teacher’s
dronings-on about chromosomes and
mitosis. Like most thirteen-year-olds
stuck in a stuffy, fluorescent classroom, I
was bored.
A knock came on the door. Mr. Price,
the school’s assistant principal, stuck his
head in. “Excuse me for interrupting.
Mark, can you step outside with me for a

moment? Oh, and bring your things with
Strange, I thought. Kids get sent to
the principal, but the principal rarely
gets sent to them. I gathered my things
and stepped out.
The hallway was empty. Hundreds of
beige lockers converged on the horizon.
“Mark, can you take me to your locker,
“Sure,” I say, and slug myself down
the hall, baggy jeans and moppy hair and
oversized Pantera T-shirt and all.
We get to my locker. “Open it,
please,” Mr. Price says; so I do. He
steps in front of me and gathers my coat,
my gym bag, my backpack—all of the

locker’s contents, minus a few
notebooks and pencils. He starts walking
away. “Come with me, please,” he says,
without looking back. I start to get an
uneasy feeling.
I follow him to his office, where he
asks me to sit down. He closes the door
and locks it. He goes over to the
window and adjusts the blinds to block
the view from outside. My palms begin
to sweat. This is not a normal principal
Mr. Price sits down and quietly
rummages through my things, checking
pockets, unzipping zippers, shaking out
my gym clothes and placing them on the

Without looking up at me, Mr. Price
asks, “Do you know what I’m looking
for, Mark?”
“No,” I say.
The word shocks me into nervous
“D-d-drugs?” I stammer. “What
He looks at me sternly. “I don’t
know; what kind do you have?” He
opens one of my binders and checks the
small pockets meant for pens.
My sweat blossoms like a fungal
growth. It spreads from my palms to my
arms and now my neck. My temples
pulsate as blood floods my brain and

face. Like most thirteen-year-olds
freshly accused of possessing narcotics
and bringing them to school, I want to
run away and hide.
“I don’t know what you’re talking
about,” I protest, the words sounding far
meeker than I’d like. I feel as if I should
be sounding confident in myself right
now. Or maybe not. Maybe I should be
scared. Do liars sound more scared or
confident? Because however they sound,
I want to sound the opposite. Instead, my
unconfidence about my sounding
unconfident. That fucking Feedback
Loop from Hell.

“We’ll see about that,” he says,
turning his attention to my backpack,
which seemingly has one hundred
pockets. Each is loaded with its own
silly teen desiderata—colored pens, old
notes passed in class, early-nineties CDs
with cracked cases, dried-up markers,
an old sketchpad with half its pages
missing, dust and lint and crap
accumulated during a maddeningly
circuitous middle school existence.
My sweat must be pumping at the
speed of light, because time extends
itself and dilates such that what is mere
seconds on that 9:00 A.M. second-period
biology clock now feels like Paleolithic
eons, and I’m growing up and dying

every minute. Just me and Mr. Price and
my bottomless backpack.
Somewhere around the Mesolithic
Age, Mr. Price finishes searching the
backpack. Having found nothing, he
seems flustered. He turns the pack
upside down and lets all of my crap
crash onto his office floor. He’s now
sweating as profusely as I am, except in
place of my terror, there is his anger.
“No drugs today, eh?” He tries to
sound casual.
“Nope.” So do I.
He spreads my stuff out, separating
each item and coagulating them into little
piles beside my gym gear. My coat and
backpack now lie empty and lifeless on

his lap. He sighs and stares at the wall.
Like most thirteen-year-olds locked in
an office with a man angrily throwing
their shit all over the floor, I want to cry.
Mr. Price scans the contents
organized on the floor. Nothing illicit or
illegal, no narcotics, not even anything
against school policy. He sighs and then
throws the coat and backpack on the
floor too. He bends over and puts his
elbows on his knees, making his face
level with mine.
“Mark, I’m going to give you one
last chance to be honest with me. If you
are honest, this will turn out much better
for you. If it turns out you’re lying, then
it’s going to be much worse.”

As if on cue, I gulp.
“Now tell me the truth,” Mr. Price
demands. “Did you bring drugs to school
Fighting back tears, screams clawing
at my throat, I stare my tormentor in the
face and, in a pleading voice, dying to
be relieved of its adolescent horrors, I
say, “No, I don’t have any drugs. I have
no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Okay,” he says, signaling surrender.
“I guess you can collect your things and
He takes one last, longing gaze at my
deflated backpack, lying like a broken
promise there on his office floor. He
casually puts one foot down on the pack,

stomping lightly, a last-ditch effort. I
anxiously wait for him to get up and
leave so I can get on with my life and
forget this whole nightmare.
But his foot stops on something.
“What is this?” he asks, tapping with his
“What is what?” I say.
“There’s still something in here.” He
picks up the bag and starts feeling
around the bottom of it. For me the room
gets fuzzy; everything goes wobbly.
When I was young, I was smart. I
was friendly. But I was also a shithead. I
mean that in the most loving way
possible. I was a rebellious, lying little
shithead. Angry and full of resentment.

When I was twelve, I hacked my house’s
security system with refrigerator
magnets so I could sneak out undetected
in the middle of the night. My friend and
I would put his mom’s car in neutral and
push it into the street so we could drive
around without waking her up. I would
write papers about abortion because I
knew my English teacher was a hardcore
conservative Christian. Another friend
and I stole cigarettes from his mom and
sold them to kids out behind the school.
And I also cut a secret compartment
into the bottom of my backpack to hide
my marijuana.
That was the same hidden
compartment Mr. Price found after

stepping on the drugs I was hiding. I had
been lying. And, as promised, Mr. Price
didn’t go easy on me. A few hours later,
like most thirteen-year-olds handcuffed
in the back of a police car, I thought my
life was over.
And I was kind of right, in a way.
My parents quarantined me at home. I
was to have no friends for the
foreseeable future. Having been
expelled from school, I was to be
homeschooled for the rest of the year.
My mom made me get a haircut and
threw out all of my Marilyn Manson and
Metallica shirts (which, for an
adolescent in 1998, was tantamount to
being sentenced to death by lameness).

My dad dragged me to his office with
him in the mornings and made me file
papers for hours on end. Once
homeschooling was over, I was enrolled
in a small, private Christian school,
where—and this may not surprise you—
I didn’t exactly fit in.
And just when I had finally cleaned
up my act and turned in my assignments
and learned the value of good clerical
responsibility, my parents decided to get
I tell you all of this only to point out
that my adolescence sucked donkey
balls. I lost all of my friends, my
community, my legal rights, and my
family within the span of about nine

months. My therapist in my twenties
would later call this “some real
traumatic shit,” and I would spend the
next decade-and-change working on
unraveling it and becoming less of a
self-absorbed, entitled little prick.
The problem with my home life back
then was not all of the horrible things
that were said or done; rather, it was all
of the horrible things that needed to be
said and done but weren’t. My family
stonewalls the way Warren Buffett
makes money or Jenna Jameson fucks:
we’re champions at it. The house could
have been burning down around us and it
would have been met with, “Oh no,
everything’s fine. A tad warm in here,

perhaps—but really, everything’s fine.”
When my parents got divorced, there
were no broken dishes, no slammed
doors, no screaming arguments about
who fucked whom. Once they had
reassured my brother and me that it
wasn’t our fault, we had a Q&A session
—yes, you read that right—about the
logistics of the new living arrangements.
Not a tear was shed. Not a voice was
raised. The closest peek my brother and
I got into our parents’ unraveling
emotional lives was hearing, “Nobody
cheated on anybody.” Oh, that’s nice. It
was a tad warm in the room, but really,
everything was fine.
My parents are good people. I don’t

blame them for any of this (not anymore,
at least). And I love them very much.
They have their own stories and their
own journeys and their own problems,
just as all parents do. And just as all of
their parents do, and so on. And like all
parents, my parents, with the best of
intentions, imparted some of their
problems to me, as I probably will to my
When “real traumatic shit” like this
happens in our lives, we begin to
unconsciously feel as though we have
problems that we’re incapable of ever
solving. And this assumed inability to
solve our problems causes us to feel
miserable and helpless.

But it also causes something else to
happen. If we have problems that are
unsolvable, our unconscious figures that
we’re either uniquely special or
uniquely defective in some way. That
we’re somehow unlike everyone else
and that the rules must be different for
Put simply: we become entitled.
The pain from my adolescence led
me down a road of entitlement that
lasted through much of my early
adulthood. Whereas Jimmy’s entitlement
played out in the business world, where
he pretended to be a huge success, my
entitlement played
out in my
relationships, particularly with women.

My trauma had revolved around
intimacy and acceptance, so I felt a
constant need to overcompensate, to
prove to myself that I was loved and
accepted at all times. And as a result, I
soon took to chasing women the same
way a cocaine addict takes to a
snowman made out of cocaine: I made
sweet love to it, and then promptly
suffocated myself in it.
I became a player—an immature,
selfish, albeit sometimes charming
player. And I strung up a long series of
superficial and unhealthy relationships
for the better part of a decade.
It wasn’t so much the sex I craved,
although the sex was fun. It was the

validation. I was wanted; I was loved;
for the first time since I could remember,
I was worthy. My craving for validation
quickly fed into a mental habit of selfaggrandizing and overindulgence. I felt
entitled to say or do whatever I wanted,
to break people’s trust, to ignore
people’s feelings, and then justify it later
with shitty, half-assed apologies.
While this period certainly had its
moments of fun and excitement, and I met
some wonderful women, my life was
more or less a wreck the whole time. I
was often unemployed, living on friends’
couches or with my mom, drinking way
more than I should have been, alienating
a number of friends—and when I did

meet a woman I really liked, my selfabsorption
The deeper the pain, the more
helpless we feel against our problems,
and the more entitlement we adopt to
compensate for those problems. This
entitlement plays out in one of two ways:
1. I’m awesome and the rest of you all
suck, so I deserve special treatment.
2. I suck and the rest of you are all
awesome, so I deserve special
Opposite mindset on the outside, but
the same selfish creamy core in the
middle. In fact, you will often see

entitled people flip back and forth
between the two. Either they’re on top of
the world or the world is on top of them,
depending on the day of the week, or
how well they’re doing with their
particular addiction at that moment.
Most people correctly identify a
person like Jimmy as a raging
narcissistic ass-hat. That’s because he’s
pretty blatant in his delusionally high
self-regard. What most people don’t
correctly identify as entitlement are
those people who perpetually feel as
though they’re inferior and unworthy of
the world.
Because construing everything in life
so as to make yourself out to be

constantly victimized requires just as
much selfishness as the opposite. It takes
just as much energy and delusional selfaggrandizement to maintain the belief
that one has insurmountable problems as
that one has no problems at all.
The truth is that there’s no such thing
as a personal problem. If you’ve got a
problem, chances are millions of other
people have had it in the past, have it
now, and are going to have it in the
future. Likely people you know too. That
doesn’t minimize the problem or mean
that it shouldn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean you
aren’t legitimately a victim in some
It just means that you’re not special.

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.
But for some reason, it appears that
more and more people, particularly
young people, are forgetting this.
Numerous professors and educators
have noted a lack of emotional
resilience and an excess of selfish
demands in today’s young people. It’s
not uncommon now for books to be
removed from a class’s curriculum for
no other reason than that they made
someone feel bad. Speakers and
professors are shouted down and banned

from campuses for infractions as simple
as suggesting that maybe some
Halloween costumes really aren’t that
offensive. School counselors note that
more students than ever are exhibiting
severe signs of emotional distress over
what are otherwise run-of-the-mill daily
college experiences, such as an argument
with a roommate, or getting a low grade
in a class.
It’s strange that in an age when we
are more connected than ever,
entitlement seems to be at an all-time
high. Something about recent technology
seems to allow our insecurities to run
amok like never before. The more
freedom we’re given to express

ourselves, the more we want to be free
of having to deal with anyone who may
disagree with us or upset us. The more
exposed we are to opposing viewpoints,
the more we seem to get upset that those
other viewpoints exist. The easier and
more problem-free our lives become, the
more we seem to feel entitled for them to
get even better.
The benefits of the Internet and
social media are unquestionably
fantastic. In many ways, this is the best
time in history to be alive. But perhaps
these technologies are having some
unintended social side effects. Perhaps
these same technologies that have
liberated and educated so many are

simultaneously enabling people’s sense
of entitlement more than ever before.



Most of us are pretty average at most
things we do. Even if you’re exceptional
at one thing, chances are you’re average
or below average at most other things.
That’s just the nature of life. To become
truly great at something, you have to
dedicate shit-tons of time and energy to
it. And because we all have limited time
and energy, few of us ever become truly
exceptional at more than one thing, if
anything at all.
We can then say that it’s a statistical

improbability that any single person will
be an extraordinary performer in all
areas of life, or even in many areas of
their life. Brilliant businesspeople are
often fuckups in their personal lives.
Extraordinary athletes are often shallow
and as dumb as a lobotomized rock.
Many celebrities are probably just as
clueless about life as the people who
gawk at them and follow their every
We’re all, for the most part, pretty
average people. But it’s the extremes
that get all of the publicity. We kind of
know this already, but we rarely think
and/or talk about it, and we certainly
never discuss why this could be a

Having the Internet, Google,
Facebook, YouTube, and access to five
hundred–plus channels of television is
amazing. But our attention is limited.
There’s no way we can process the tidal
waves of information flowing past us
constantly. Therefore, the only zeroes
and ones that break through and catch
our attention are the truly exceptional
pieces of information—those in the
99.999th percentile.
All day, every day, we are flooded
with the truly extraordinary. The best of
the best. The worst of the worst. The
greatest physical feats. The funniest
jokes. The most upsetting news. The

scariest threats. Nonstop.
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.
This flood of extreme information
has conditioned us to believe that
exceptionalism is the new normal. And
because we’re all quite average most of
the time, the deluge of exceptional
information drives us to feel pretty damn
insecure and desperate, because clearly

we are somehow not good enough. So
more and more we feel the need to
compensate through entitlement and
addiction. We cope the only way we
know how: either through selfaggrandizing
Some of us do this by cooking up
get-rich-quick schemes. Others do it by
taking off across the world to save
starving babies in Africa. Others do it by
excelling in school and winning every
award. Others do it by shooting up a
school. Others do it by trying to have sex
with anything that talks and breathes.
This ties in to the growing culture of
entitlement that I talked about earlier.

Millennials often get blamed for this
cultural shift, but that’s likely because
millennials are the most plugged-in and
visible generation. In fact, the tendency
toward entitlement is apparent across all
of society. And I believe it’s linked to
mass-media-driven exceptionalism.
pervasiveness of technology and mass
marketing is screwing up a lot of
people’s expectations for themselves.
The inundation of the exceptional makes
people feel worse about themselves,
makes them feel that they need to be
more extreme, more radical, and more
self-assured to get noticed or even

When I was a young man, my
insecurities around intimacy were
exacerbated by all the ridiculous
narratives of masculinity circulating
throughout pop culture. And those same
narratives are still circulating: to be a
cool guy, you have to party like a rock
star; to be respected, you have to be
admired by women; sex is the most
valuable thing a man can attain, and it’s
worth sacrificing anything (including
your own dignity) to get it.
This constant stream of unrealistic
media dogpiles onto our existing
feelings of insecurity, by overexposing
us to the unrealistic standards we fail to
live up to. Not only do we feel subjected

to unsolvable problems, but we feel like
losers because a simple Google search
shows us thousands of people without
those same problems.
Technology has solved old economic
psychological problems. The Internet
has not just open-sourced information; it
has also open-sourced insecurity, selfdoubt, and shame.

B-b-b-but, If I’m Not Going
Extraordinary, What’s the
It has become an accepted part of our

culture today to believe that we are all
destined to do something truly
extraordinary. Celebrities say it.
Business tycoons say it. Politicians say
it. Even Oprah says it (so it must be
true). Each and every one of us can be
extraordinary. We all deserve greatness.
The fact that this statement is
inherently contradictory—after all, if
everyone were extraordinary, then by
extraordinary—is missed by most
people. And instead of questioning what
we actually deserve or don’t deserve,
we eat the message up and ask for more.
Being “average” has become the
new standard of failure. The worst thing

you can be is in the middle of the pack,
the middle of the bell curve. When a
culture’s standard of success is to “be
extraordinary,” it then becomes better to
be at the extreme low end of the bell
curve than to be in the middle, because
at least there you’re still special and
deserve attention. Many people choose
this strategy: to prove to everyone that
they are the most miserable, or the most
oppressed, or the most victimized.
A lot of people are afraid to accept
mediocrity because they believe that if
they accept it, they’ll never achieve
anything, never improve, and that their
life won’t matter.
This sort of thinking is dangerous.

Once you accept the premise that a life
is worthwhile only if it is truly notable
and great, then you basically accept the
fact that most of the human population
(including yourself) sucks and is
worthless. And this mindset can quickly
turn dangerous, to both yourself and
The rare people who do become
truly exceptional at something do so not
exceptional. On the contrary, they
become amazing because they’re
obsessed with improvement. And that
obsession with improvement stems from
an unerring belief that they are, in fact,
not that great at all. It’s anti-entitlement.

People who become great at something
become great because they understand
that they’re not already great—they are
mediocre, they are average—and that
they could be so much better.
All of this “every person can be
extraordinary and achieve greatness”
stuff is basically just jerking off your
ego. It’s a message that tastes good going
down, but in reality is nothing more than
empty calories that make you
emotionally fat and bloated, the
proverbial Big Mac for your heart and
your brain.
The ticket to emotional health, like
that to physical health, comes from
eating your veggies—that is, accepting

the bland and mundane truths of life:
truths such as “Your actions actually
don’t matter that much in the grand
scheme of things” and “The vast
majority of your life will be boring and
not noteworthy, and that’s okay.” This
vegetable course will taste bad at first.
Very bad. You will avoid accepting it.
But once ingested, your body will
wake up feeling more potent and more
alive. After all, that constant pressure to
be something amazing, to be the next big
thing, will be lifted off your back. The
stress and anxiety of always feeling
inadequate and constantly needing to
prove yourself will dissipate. And 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
You will have a growing
experiences: the pleasures of simple
friendship, creating something, helping a
person in need, reading a good book,
laughing with someone you care about.
Sounds boring, doesn’t it? That’s
because these things are ordinary. But
maybe they’re ordinary for a reason:
because they are what actually matters.


The Value of Suffering


the closing months of 1944, after
almost a decade of war, the tide was
turning against Japan. Their economy
overstretched across half of Asia, and
the territories they had won throughout
the Pacific were now toppling like
dominoes to U.S. forces. Defeat seemed

On December 26, 1944, Second
Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda of the Japanese
Imperial Army was deployed to the
small island of Lubang in the
Philippines. His orders were to slow the
United States’ progress as much as
possible, to stand and fight at all costs,
and to never surrender. Both he and his
commander knew it was essentially a
suicide mission.
In February 1945, the Americans
arrived on Lubang and took the island
with overwhelming force. Within days,
most of the Japanese soldiers had either
surrendered or been killed, but Onoda
and three of his men managed to hide in

the jungle. From there, they began a
guerrilla warfare campaign against the
U.S. forces and the local population,
attacking supply lines, shooting at stray
soldiers, and interfering with the
American forces in any way that they
That August, half a year later, the
United States dropped atomic bombs on
the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Japan surrendered, and the deadliest war
in human history came to its dramatic
However, thousands of Japanese
soldiers were still scattered among the
Pacific isles, and most, like Onoda,
were hiding in the jungle, unaware that

the war was over. These holdouts
continued to fight and pillage as they had
before. This was a real problem for
rebuilding eastern Asia after the war,
and the governments agreed something
must be done.
The U.S. military, in conjunction
with the Japanese government, dropped
thousands of leaflets throughout the
Pacific region, announcing that the war
was over and it was time for everyone to
go home. Onoda and his men, like many
others, found and read these leaflets, but
unlike most of the others, Onoda decided
that they were fake, a trap set by the
American forces to get the guerrilla
fighters to show themselves. Onoda

burned the leaflets, and he and his men
stayed hidden and continued to fight.
Five years went by. The leaflets had
stopped, and most of the American
forces had long since gone home. The
local population on Lubang attempted to
return to their normal lives of farming
and fishing. Yet there were Hiroo Onoda
and his merry men, still shooting at the
farmers, burning their crops, stealing
their livestock, and murdering locals
who wandered too far into the jungle.
The Philippine government then took to
drawing up new flyers and spreading
them out across the jungle. Come out,
they said. The war is over. You lost.
But these, too, were ignored.

In 1952, the Japanese government
made one final effort to draw the last
remaining soldiers out of hiding
throughout the Pacific. This time, letters
and pictures from the missing soldiers’
families were air-dropped, along with a
personal note from the emperor himself.
Once again, Onoda refused to believe
that the information was real. Once
again, he believed the airdrop to be a
trick by the Americans. Once again, he
and his men stood and continued to fight.
Another few years went by and the
Philippine locals, sick of being
terrorized, finally armed themselves and
began firing back. By 1959, one of
Onoda’s companions had surrendered,

and another had been killed. Then, a
decade later, Onoda’s last companion, a
man called Kozuka, was killed in a
shootout with the local police while he
was burning rice fields—still waging
war against the local population a full
quarter-century after the end of World
War II!
Onoda, having now spent more than
half of his life in the jungles of Lubang,
was all alone.
In 1972, the news of Kozuka’s death
reached Japan and caused a stir. The
Japanese people thought the last of the
soldiers from the war had come home
years earlier. The Japanese media began
to wonder: if Kozuka had still been on

Lubang until 1972, then perhaps Onoda
himself, the last known Japanese holdout
from World War II, might still be alive
as well. That year, both the Japanese and
Philippine governments sent search
parties to look for the enigmatic second
lieutenant, now part myth, part hero, and
part ghost.
They found nothing.
As the months progressed, the story
of Lieutenant Onoda morphed into
something of an urban legend in Japan—
the war hero who sounded too insane to
actually exist. Many romanticized him.
Others criticized him. Others thought he
was the stuff of fairy tale, invented by
those who still wanted to believe in a

Japan that had disappeared long ago.
It was around this time that a young
man named Norio Suzuki first heard of
Onoda. Suzuki was an adventurer, an
explorer, and a bit of a hippie. Born
after the war ended, he had dropped out
of school and spent four years
hitchhiking his way across Asia, the
Middle East, and Africa, sleeping on
park benches, in stranger’s cars, in jail
cells, and under the stars. He
volunteered on farms for food, and
donated blood to pay for places to stay.
He was a free spirit, and perhaps a little
bit nuts.
In 1972, Suzuki needed another
adventure. He had returned to Japan

after his travels and found the strict
cultural norms and social hierarchy to be
stifling. He hated school. He couldn’t
hold down a job. He wanted to be back
on the road, back on his own again.
For Suzuki, the legend of Hiroo
Onoda came as the answer to his
problems. It was a new and worthy
adventure for him to pursue. Suzuki
believed that he would be the one who
would find Onoda. Sure, search parties
conducted by the Japanese, Philippine,
and American governments had not been
able to find Onoda; local police forces
had been scavenging the jungle for
almost thirty years with no luck;
thousands of leaflets had met with no

response—but fuck it, this deadbeat,
college-dropout hippie was going to be
the one to find him.
Unarmed and untrained for any sort
of reconnaissance or tactical warfare,
Suzuki traveled to Lubang and began
wandering around the jungle all by
himself. His strategy: scream Onoda’s
name really loudly and tell him that the
emperor was worried about him.
He found Onoda in four days.
Suzuki stayed with Onoda in the
jungle for some time. Onoda had been
alone by that point for over a year, and
once found by Suzuki he welcomed the
companionship and was desperate to
learn what had been happening in the

outside world from a Japanese source he
could trust. The two men became sortakinda friends.
Suzuki asked Onoda why he had
stayed and continued to fight. Onoda
said it was simple: he had been given
the order to “never surrender,” so he
stayed. For nearly thirty years he had
simply been following an order. Onoda
then asked Suzuki why a “hippie boy”
like himself came looking for him.
Suzuki said that he’d left Japan in search
of three things: “Lieutenant Onoda, a
panda bear, and the Abominable
Snowman, in that order.”
The two men had been brought
together under the most curious of

circumstances: two well-intentioned
adventurers chasing false visions of
glory, like a real-life Japanese Don
Quixote and Sancho Panza, stuck
together in the damp recesses of a
Philippine jungle, both imagining
themselves heroes, despite both being
alone with nothing, doing nothing. Onoda
had already by then given up most of his
life to a phantom war. Suzuki would give
his up too. Having already found Hiroo
Onoda and the panda bear, he would die
a few years later in the Himalayas, still
in search of the Abominable Snowman.
Humans often choose to dedicate
large portions of their lives to seemingly
useless or destructive causes. On the

surface, these causes make no sense. It’s
hard to imagine how Onoda could have
been happy on that island for those thirty
years—living off insects and rodents,
sleeping in the dirt, murdering civilians
decade after decade. Or why Suzuki
trekked off to his own death, with no
money, no companions, and no purpose
other than to chase an imaginary Yeti.
Yet, later in his life, Onoda said he
regretted nothing. He claimed that he
was proud of his choices and his time on
Lubang. He said that it had been an
honor to devote a sizable portion of his
life in service to a nonexistent empire.
Suzuki, had he survived, likely would
have said something similar: that he was

doing exactly what he was meant to do,
that he regretted nothing.
These men both chose how they
wished to suffer. Hiroo Onoda chose to
suffer for loyalty to a dead empire.
Suzuki chose to suffer for adventure, no
matter how ill-advised. To both men,
their suffering meant something; it
fulfilled some greater cause. And
because it meant something, they were
able to endure it, or perhaps even enjoy
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?”

Hiroo Onoda returned to Japan in
1974 and became a kind of celebrity in
his home country. He was shuttled
around from talk show to radio station;