Great book about becoming more self-aware and finding our meaning in life. Mark makes a good point that no matter what we do in life there will always be some adversity or pain so it is best that we find what the pain or adversity is that we want to put up with so we can strive to get past it and get what we want out of life. He also mentions the importance of having values and he tells you what his are. The book is overall a good, simple and short read.
The key to a good life is not give a fuck about more; it’s giving a fuck about less, giving a fuck about only what is true and immediate and important.
The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.
Alan Watts and 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.
So Mark, what the fuck is the point of this book anyway? 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.
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.
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 out.
I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted to 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 starting artist lifestyle are ultimately the ones who live it and make it.
The self-awareness onion:
Layer 1: understanding of one’s emotions
Layer 2: ability to ask why we feel a certain way
Layer 3: personal values
Our values determine the nature of our problems, and the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives.
Despite being depressed and distraught by getting kicked out of the Beatles, as he grew older he learned to reprioritize what he cared about and was able to measure his life in a new light. Because of this, [Pete] Best grew into a happy and healthy old man, with an easy life and great family – things that, ironically, the four Beatles would spend decades struggling to achieve or maintain.
The 5 values that Mark believes are the most beneficial that one can adopt: radical form of responsibility, uncertainty, failure, rejection, and contemplation of one’s own mortality.
There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.
Personal growth can actually be quite scientific. Our values are our hypothesis: the behavior is good and important; that other behavior is not. Our actions are the experiments; the resulting emotions and thought patterns are our data.
Instead of striving for certainty, we should be in constant search of doubt: doubt about our own beliefs, doubt about our own feelings, doubt about what the future may hold for us unless we get out there and create it for ourselves. Instead of looking to be right all the time, we should be looking for how we’re wrong all the time. Because we are.
The unfortunate fact is, most of what we come to “know” and believe is the product of the innate inaccuracies and biases present in our brains.
Uncertainty also relieves us of our judgement of ourselves. We don’t know if we’re lovable or not; we don’t know how attractive we are; we don’t know how successful we could potentially become. The only way to achieve these things is to remain uncertain of them and be open to finding them out through experience. Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth.
We can be truly successful only at something we’re willing to fail at.
Better values, as we saw, are process-oriented. Something like “express myself honestly to others,” a metric for the value of “honesty,” is never completely finished; it’s a problem that must continuously be reengaged.
While most people whittle their days chasing another buck, or a little bit more fame and attention, or a little bit more assurance that they’re right or loved, death confronts all of us with a far more painful and important question: what is your legacy? How will the world be different when you’re gone? What mark will you have made? What influence will you have caused?