A selection of my favourite passages from the book
On Accepting Rejection, Failure & Uncertainty
- 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.
- 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.
- To not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.
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.
- It’s the backwards law again: the more you try to be certain about something, the more uncertain and insecure you will feel
- We are defined by what we choose to reject. And if we reject nothing (perhaps in fear of being rejected by something ourselves), we essentially have no identity at all.
Negative emotions are a necessary component of emotional health. To deny that negativity is to perpetuate problems rather than solve them.
- Certainty is the enemy of growth. Nothing is for certain until it has already happened
- Our minds are constantly whirring, generating more and more associations to help us understand and control the environment around us. Everything about our experiences, both external and internal, generates new associations and connections within our minds
- The premise is that happiness is algorithmic, that it can be worked for and earned and achieved
- This constant dissatisfaction has kept our species fighting and striving, building and conquering.
Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you
- And yet, pleasure is what’s marketed to us, twenty-four/seven. It’s what we fixate on. It’s what we use to numb and distract ourselves. But pleasure, while necessary in life (in certain doses), isn’t, by itself, sufficient.
- Once people have developed the thought pattern to constantly construe what happens around them as self-aggrandizing, it’s extremely hard to break them out of it.
- 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.
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 treatment. Opposite mindset on the outside, but the same selfish creamy core in the middle.
- 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 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 amazing.
- If you’re miserable in your current situation, chances are it’s because you feel like some part of it is outside your control—that there’s a problem you have no ability to solve, a problem that was somehow thrust upon you without your choosing.
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.
- A lot of people hesitate to take responsibility
- they believe that to be responsible for your problems is to also be at fault for your problems.
- Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making, every second of every day.
“Victimhood chic” is in style on both the right and the left today, among both the rich and the poor. In fact, this may be the first time in human history that every single demographic group has felt unfairly victimized simultaneously.
- Decision-making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks.
- The more people there are who proclaim themselves victims over tiny infractions, the harder it becomes to see who the real victims actually are.
- Until we change how we view ourselves, what we believe we are and are not, we cannot overcome our avoidance and anxiety. We cannot change
The narrower and rarer the identity you choose for yourself, the more everything will seem to threaten you. For that reason, define yourself in the simplest and most ordinary ways possible.
- 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.
- Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.
Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.
- There is such pressure in the West to be likable that people often reconfigure their entire personality depending on the person they’re dealing with.
Basically, the more options we’re given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose, because we’re aware of all the other options we’re potentially forfeiting.
- But while investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth of experience.
- At three feet, your body goes into full-scale red alert. You are now within an errant shoelace-trip of your life ending. It feels as though a hefty gust of wind could send you sailing off into that blue-bisected eternity. Your legs shake. As do your hands. As does your voice, in case you need to remind yourself you’re not about to plummet to your death.
- The older you get, the more experienced you get, the less significantly each new experience affects you.
Food for Thought
- Our crisis is no longer material; it’s existential, it’s spiritual.
Self-improvement and success often occur together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the same thing.
- Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others.
- The Feedback Loop from Hell has become a borderline epidemic, making many of us overly stressed, overly neurotic, and overly self-loathing.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- the more something threatens to change how you view yourself, how successful/unsuccessful you believe yourself to be, how well you see yourself living up to your values, the more you will avoid ever getting around to doing it
Travel is a fantastic self-development tool, because it extricates you from the values of your culture and shows you that another society can live with entirely different values and still function and not hate themselves.
- Unhealthy love is based on two people trying to escape their problems through their emotions for each other—in other words, they’re using each other as an escape. Healthy love is based on two people acknowledging and addressing their own problems with each other’s support.
- Yet, in a bizarre, backwards way, death is the light by which the shadow of all of life’s meaning is measured. Without death, everything would feel inconsequential, all experience arbitrary, all metrics and values suddenly zero.
Our culture today confuses great attention and great success, assuming them to be the same thing. But they are not.
The comedian Emo Philips once said, “I used to think the human brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this.”
- Parkinson’s law: “Work expands so as to fill up the time available for its completion.”
- Murphy’s law: “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.”
- Aristotle wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Pleasure is a false god.