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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

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The feedback loop from hell

In our pursuit of positivity, we self-amplify negative experiences. We get angry for being angry, become more anxious for feeling anxious, more sad for being sad. Ah, the feedback loop from hell.

This is the problem with all the “how to be happier” bullshit. In the end, wanting more and more positive experiences is a negative experience. Accepting and embracing your negative experiences is, in a way, a positive experience.

Seeking something on an emotional level only reinforces how much you’re lacking it.

The subtleties of not giving a fuck

One: Not giving a fuck doesn’t mean being indifferent. That would be crazy. It means being comfortable with being different and choosing your own path.

Two: It means not caring about adversity or pissing someone off — precisely because we give a fuck about something more important, something we think is right.

Three: There’s a limited amount of fucks you can give. So to focus on what truly matters, you have no choice but to not give a fuck about everything that doesn’t.

On happiness

Pain is an evolutionary feature, not a bug. It signals we’ve done something wrong, and creates an opportunity to learn and improve. Yes, it can run amok, but most of the time, it’s useful. Don’t cut yourself off from it.

Solve problems. (okay duh I’m an engineer)

Our struggles birth our successes. Success requires work, long hours of practice, discipline, challenging our believes. Embrace the discomfort, don’t shy away from it.

Exceptionalism. The internet amplifies everything that’s exceptional — both good and bad. The good can be amazing, but amplifying the bad is catastrophic. Even the good, though, is making us all feel like shit. In this world, average is the new standard for failure. We forget that, by definition, it’s perfectly fine to be average.

Values

Many of our struggles and (perceived) failures stem from our messed up values. But we can choose to change our values. Few people do.

Pick values whose outcomes come from within. If you value being respected or well-liked, for example, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, because you can’t control the external world.

Three values in particular worth considering:

  1. Accepting uncertainty
  2. Seeking discomfort
  3. Awareness of your mortality

Your values will never be quite right. That’s okay. The goal should be to always improve — become slightly less wrong, one step at a time. (This is true for anything else, too.)

Responsibility

You’re ALWAYS responsible. Always. It doesn’t matter if it’s your fault or if someone else can be blamed. Ultimately, you’re the only person responsible for your own life. Take it. No one else will.

Even if you have no control over the bad things that happen to you, you still choose how to interpret them, and how to respond to them.

Identity

Don’t know yourself. Cementing your identity makes you incapable of changing. It causes you to reject great opportunities and potential you simply haven’t discovered yet. Keep striving, stay open, humble, curious.

Give yourself a simple, non-unique identity. Here’s why:

When you have money, it’s always smart to diversify your investments. That way if one of them goes south, you don’t lose everything. It’s also smart to diversify your identity, to invest your self-esteem and what you care about into a variety of different areas — business, social life, relationships, philanthropy, athletics — so that when one goes south, you’re not completely screwed over and emotionally wrecked.

Avoidance. The more something threatens your identity, the more you avoid it.

This is classic cognitive dissonance at play: the reality about us is incompatible with how we view ourselves, so we avoid the discomfort. In the process, we rob ourselves of the ability to change and improve. Keeping your identity small and staying open to changing your values makes this easier.

Question yourself

Question yourself. If you’re wrong, is that a better or worse problem to have then the alternative? This causes people a lot of discomfort, but shouldn’t. You gotta be able to entertain thoughts without accepting them.

And if you are wrong, it’s better to swallow the pill on your own, than to have reality catch up to you force it down your throat.

VCR questions. Those that seem impossible to solve by the one asking, but obvious to everybody else. This is just another form of avoidance. The problem at hand seems unsolvable because of the unwillingness to experience discomfort, and the threat to our identity.

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