In this episode of MarieTV, we do have some adult language. So if you do have little ones around, grab your headphones now.
Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business and life you love. You know, last year I stumbled across a blog post that I loved so much. And it wasn’t just me, about a million other people loved it too. Now, little warning, if you are not a fan of the F-word I need you just shut off this episode right now, press stop, press pause, change the channel or something, because this does contain a lot of the F-word and I don’t wanna get any emails, tweets, or messages that I didn’t warn you. Ok? But if you’re ok with that word, I do think you should stick around because we’re talking about something important today, which is about how to hone in on the things that really matter so you can stop caring about the things that don’t.
Mark Manson is a New York Times bestselling author, blogger, and entrepreneur. Mark is known for his unique brand of life advice or, as he puts it, personal development that doesn’t suck. His writing has been featured on Forbes, Time, and CNN among others and his website, MarkManson.net, boasts over 2 million readers a month. His new bestselling book is called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, where he talks about how the key to living a better life isn’t caring about more, but rather focusing on less.
Mark, thank you so much for being on the show.
Thanks for having me.
So I’m really curious, I want you to take me back to the blog post that inspired all of this goodness.
What inspired you to write the original blog post that inspired the book?
I had the idea for the title for years, and the way I work with my articles is I don’t… I don’t plan them. I just kinda brainstorm a bunch of different ideas and then when it comes time to write something I just look at it and pick whatever feels good. So this title sat on my little sheet for like 2, 3 years, and it’s such a good title that I was like I need to come up with something that, you know, deserves the fucks. I can say fuck, right?
We’ve totally given the best warning ever and I’ve told everyone, like, if they give me any shit about saying fuck that they need to shut the fuck up because we’ve already warned them.
Alright, cool. So it was actually… it was, like, a dreary Saturday and I just started feeling very… I was kind of down and when I get down I start feeling very sarcastic and irreverent and just like to write a bunch of bullshit. And so I was like I’m gonna sit down, I’m going to write an article, and it’s gonna do two things. One, it’s going to be the most offensive and vulgar thing anybody’s ever read. And two, it’s going to give the best life advice that anybody’s ever read. And I’m gonna do it at the same time and I want to create this, like, mixture of emotion. And so yeah, I sat down, banged it out, and it went crazy. It went… I mean, it was shared I think over a million times.
When I first read it I laughed so many times. It was like howling out loud. And I looked back in my email chain and to see, like, all the people that I sent it to, because I just thought it was genius and it was lovely and wonderful and insightful, and so much of what many of us think and feel but haven’t necessarily sat down to take the time to articulate or to look at through that particular perspective. So you make an important distinction about the subtle art of not giving a fuck near the top of your book. You say not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent. It means being comfortable with being different. Talk to us about that.
And this is a big hang up, because when people hear not giving a fuck they imagine, like, a guy drinking beer at a funeral with sunglasses on and, like, just being really disrespectful and indifferent to what’s going on around him. And the truth is that indifference is not… it doesn’t solve any of your life problems. Indifference is actually just another form of avoidance of life’s problems. And so a healthy form of not giving a fuck, like, what people aspire to when they say, like, I just wish I didn’t give a fuck about this is they wish that they didn’t give a fuck about whatever adversity or struggles that they need to deal with to accomplish their goals, and they have a hard time doing that. So it’s… not giving a fuck is all about learning how to simply be comfortable with the adversity.
Yeah. And I also think… again, I read your book and loved it. It’s about parsing down to what really matters so that you can focus and devote your life’s heart, and energy, and attention, and creative ability to the things that genuinely matter to you. You have this little term in the book called the feedback loop from hell. I want to talk about that and how to short circuit it. You wrote, “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 fuck-giving fairy dust, you stop hating yourself for feeling so bad.” There was something about this that I thought was so incredibly insightful because especially in the world of personal development, of self development, of spiritual growth, people seem to always be striving for the state of happiness or joy or satisfaction. And there’s absolute value in that, however, there is also value in another perspective of not beating yourself up for not being in those states. I was wondering if you could unpack that a little bit for us.
Yeah, I mean, one of the big points I wanted to get across with the book is that it’s ok to feel bad. Like, it… we’re all… you’re gonna feel bad sometimes. I don’t care how successful you are, I don’t care how amazing your life is, how great your relationships are, everybody’s gonna feel bad sometimes. And a huge component of living a healthy life is being good at accepting that. Because when you stop accepting that, you know, when you try to deny your anger or you get mad at yourself because you’re anxious or you feel bad because you feel bad, it creates this feedback loop. You know? You start feeling guilty at how guilty you feel all the time or you start getting angry at the fact that you’re angry, which makes you even more angry. And then you just… it starts spiraling out of control. And the whole problem is this judgment that negative emotions are not acceptable. You know, if you feel anxious, say fuck it. Being anxious is part of life. It’s normal to be anxious. You’re probably anxious for a good reason. If you’re angry you might be angry for a good reason. It’s… these negative emotions aren’t necessarily negative. A lot of times they’re very helpful. And so it’s just learning how to care about something deeper than the emotion itself.
And I think for me what I got out of that particular part of it was not beating yourself up, thinking that you’re a bad successful person or you’re not a healthy, striving human being who is, you know, joyful all the time. And there was such relief in that sentence. I just thought it was an incredibly fresh perspective to bring to the conversation of whether it’s how to have a fantastic life or a great life or a healthy life or whatever kind of umbrella people want to stick it in. The other part that really made me chuckle, I loved disappointment panda. The superhero… the truth telling superhero that nobody wants around, but everyone really needs. And I love his sage wisdom. Don’t hope for a life without problems, there’s no such thing. Instead, hope for a life full of good problems. What is the disappointment panda, which I believe is really you, Mr. Mark Manson?
Tell us about that.
Disappointment panda, there’s a section in the book. I said I want to create a superhero that tells people uncomfortable truths about themselves. And it would be a superhero that nobody would want around because it would just ruin the party. And… but it’s stuff we need to hear because, honestly, the most important things that we ever hear in our life are often extremely painful to hear. And I think when people think about some of their key breakthroughs, they can relate to that. It’s often really uncomfortable to, like, learn that thing about yourself that kind of sets you free. And so disappointment panda would be the superhero that walks around knocking on doors and, like, telling people, like, “Hey, making more money is not going to make your kids love you.” And it’s like a stab in the chest and the person, like, slams the door, but it’s what they need to hear. And it’s… in a sense, the whole… this whole book, I kind of see this whole book or my work in general as being disappointment panda. And that’s why you have all the humor, you have all the fucks, you have all the silly language and the superheroes and everything, because ultimately I try to talk about really painful stuff and it’s… the only way you get people to listen to it or to read it or be interested in reading it is to make it fun and to make it kind of shocking.
I thought the insight about problems though is a really important one, you know, to try and get rid of problems is not really the goal because, A, that’s not possible.
But, B, that actually happiness, from your perspective, and let me know if I got this wrong or if there’s an adjustment, but so much happiness or satisfaction or fulfillment comes from the solving of problems. So to eliminate that you actually are doing yourself a disservice.
Yeah. So problems is… that’s exactly right. Problems are basically the building block of happiness, and that is really counterintuitive to most people because most people think of happiness is, like, no problems, you know, sitting on the beach with a piña colada doing whatever. And… but the truth is that we need some sort of struggle in our life. And the point I try to make in the book is that the key to living a good life isn’t getting rid of struggle, it’s finding good struggles. Struggles that invigorate you, struggles that feel important to you, struggles that can contribute to the people around you. Because that’s where meaning comes from and, ultimately, meaning is, you know, what we all need.
So I can hear people potentially listening to this and they say, “Ok Mark, I kinda get that. But what if my struggles or my problems right now are really sucky? You know, what if they’re really difficult and I don’t really see how they can produce meaning or contribution?” What would you say to that audience member?
Well, it’s… ultimately you need to find a way to solve them. I mean, you can’t… you’re never gonna get away from the problems. And so really what it’s about is choosing your problems. You know, so if there’s a problem, if people listening to this, like, feel stuck in some way, generally when people feel stuck it’s because they’re in a situation where they believe that they don’t have the power to solve whatever is going on in their life. And the truth is that you always have the power to, A, react to whatever is going on in your life or, B, create the meaning around whatever is happening in your life. So it’s usually just a matter of, first, changing perspective and then, B, doing something to set about solving it. And again it’s… what gets people stuck is that they just… they want to eliminate their problems. It’s not about eliminating problems, it’s about simply finding something more meaningful, more worthwhile. If that makes sense.
It does make sense. You know, another philosophy that I think you and I share is this question, and you think it’s the most important question that one can ask themselves, and I tend to agree. It’s not about what will make you happy, but what pain are you willing to sustain? You know, what are you willing to suffer for? I would love you to tell us the story about your rockstar fantasies, because I think that sets the context and the meaning for the question.
I… so it’s easy for people to dream and envision, like, some big success. You know, we all sit around and have these big visions for ourselves. That feels good. That’s great. The problem is is that what actually produces success is our ability to enjoy the struggle involved in it. So when I was young I wanted to be a rock star. I played guitar, I wanted to be in bands, I always, you know, used to fantasize about myself onstage and rocking out and people cheering and going crazy and everything. And it took me years and years and years to realize that I didn’t really like to practice, I didn’t like rehearsing, I didn’t like dealing with, like, gear and figuring out, like, how to hook everything up. I didn’t like getting gigs. And so it turned out that really the only thing I liked was sitting around envisioning myself being this awesome rock star where I didn’t actually like the work. And so unsurprisingly, nothing ever came from it. You know, I spent over a decade dreaming about it, telling myself I was going to do it, and I never did it. The counterpoint I tell people is with writing. So I never dreamed of being a successful writer, I never had any ambition to be a successful writer. The reason I became a successful writer is because I enjoyed the work of writing. I… since I was a kid I was always the guy sitting on forums writing pages explaining why everybody else was wrong. And like, you know, being that annoying guy on Facebook who, like, starts political arguments just because, you know, I just… I love just spilling words out. And when I started my online businesses, that just naturally started to take over everything. And it wasn’t ever a conscious fantasy of mine, it was just… I enjoyed the struggle of writing. Like, things that other people hate about writing, I enjoyed. Like, I just naturally thrive at. You know?
I thought it was interesting because I had Elizabeth Gilbert on and she had mentioned it because she had referenced that idea in Big Magic and we had a lot of fun with that.
I’m the shit sandwich guy.
You are the shit sandwich guy. Which is awesome. But it’s such an important conversation to have because I think one of the prevalent situations in the time we’re living in right now is people, not all people, but some people that are watching the show have access to a lot of potential career choices, business choices, and there’s so much freedom there’s almost… it’s a paralyzing nature. Well, I could do anything. And they think about the fantasies of being on stage and having thousands or millions of people chanting their name for whatever reason. But the shit sandwich that comes along with that career or that business, they never quite give it enough attention. And they don’t realize that most jobs or professions or businesses are not glamorous 99% of the time. It’s hard work. And so I would ask you this, you said that you enjoy writing, you enjoy pouring words out. Do you struggle with that ever? Like, do you ever find… meaning do you like the shit sandwich that comes along with writing?
I absolutely struggle with it but I enjoy it.
You know, there’s a difference. So, for instance, like, I could never do what you do. Like, I’m fine coming here doing an interview, but just video, the whole thing. I’ve tried it and it’s just…
Not your jam.
Yeah. It’s just, like, the struggles involved in doing all of this, it’s just… yeah. It’s not for me. It’s like it’s just… it feels stifling, it feels difficult, it feels like I don’t know what I’m doing. Whereas with the writing stuff, it’s like I kind of I get this sick pleasure out of, like, sitting in my room until 4 in the morning, like, deleting a paragraph over and over and over again. Like, there’s something… it hurts, but there’s, like, something invigorating about it for me. And so it makes sense. In hindsight, it makes sense that I ended up there. So yeah, the… the pain is totally still there it’s just… it’s the pain you want. It’s the pain you enjoy. I mean, I… to make… Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen…
So there’s a part in Pumping Iron, it’s the documentary about him as a bodybuilder. There’s a part in Pumping Iron where they’re ask… so, like, he would go to the gym for, like, 4 hours a day. And he would literally, like, do squats until he passed out and, like, all this crazy stuff. And so the interview, the documentary guy is asking him, he’s like, “Doesn’t this…? Like, this looks… you’re torturing yourself. Like, this looks horrible.” And Schwarzenegger is like, “Yeah, but,” he’s like, “I love the pain.” Like he’s like, “I love the pain of, like, lifting weights.” He compared it to having an orgasm. He’s like I come… every day in the gym is an orgasm. He said it differently, but you could find it on YouTube if you really care. But it’s… like, that’s what I’m talking about. Like, we all have that pain that, like, we get some sick pleasure out of. And in it we have to leverage that. You know, because that’s what’s gonna bring us the success.
I love it. I want to move on to the topic of uncertainty, which is another topic that you cover in the book. And I think it’s a really important topic because it freaks a lot of people out.
You said something I thought was very insightful. Certainty is the enemy of growth. And so let’s talk about that for a minute, and then I have something else under certainty.
Yeah, there’s like… there’s an old adage, I think it’s like some Greek philosopher, somebody much smarter than I am, said something like “a man who thinks he knows everything learns nothing.” And it’s true. I mean, if you… if you think you know everything that’s true about your life, then you’re never… you’re going to be less motivated to try something different. You’re going to be less motivated to take different perspectives. And this plays into especially, like, a lot of people who struggle with, like, fear or anxiety. You know, if you take someone who has, like, social anxiety, usually there’s some certainty underlying that. Like, they’re certain that these people are going to think they’re a loser, or they’re certain that these people don’t want to talk to them. And they never actually think to question that certainty that, you know, maybe actually people in a room aren’t thinking about you. Maybe they’re just as nervous as you are. Maybe the conversation you just had where you had ketchup on your shirt, like, doesn’t really matter and everybody’s going to forget it in 10 minutes. And so it’s actually this constant questioning of your assumptions becomes very liberating in many ways once you’re able to do it.
I think that’s very true in business as well.
It’s essential. You know, if you think you’re certain of your business model, of your audience, of how things are going to look over the next year, especially if you have a business model that has any interaction with the digital space. That certainty will kill you.
Oh, yeah. It changes really fast. And it’s, you know, one of the most important lessons in sales is you meet the customer where they are, not where you are. You know? So if I think my book is great I could walk around all day and night being like, “This is the best thing ever. You should read this.” But it’s… it doesn’t… if I’m so certain in myself, if I’m not paying attention to the people I’m trying to reach and the audience and the readers and what they’re thinking and what they’re feeling and I’m not willing to question my own assumptions about what’s good, what works, what helps people, you’re just gonna end up with a crappy book that only you like and nobody else does.
Well, thankfully that’s not the case here, because it now is a New York Times bestseller, which is awesome. You know, there’s another bit of uncertainty that I pulled from the book. This was really powerful. You can’t be an important and life-changing presence for some people without also being a joke and an embarrassment to others. What do you mean by that?
Boldness, doing anything boldly, taking any sort of bold action or stance on anything by its very nature is polarizing. So you’re going to cause a very positive reaction in some people, but you’ll also cause a very negative reaction in other people. And the reasons why, it doesn’t really matter. I mean, the point is that there’s always, you know, just to boil it down to, like, internet memes, haters gonna hate. Like, there’s always gonna be haters. No matter what. No matter what you do. Unless you just sit at home and do nothing. You know, there’s gonna be haters for everything. And it’s important to understand that dichotomy that you can’t do anything great and not be criticized by somebody somewhere. And accepting that has been very helpful for me in a lot of times in my life. And not even just in business or with my writing, but in my personal relationships, dating for instance. Like, if you’re gonna put yourself out there and really show your personality, you’re going to turn some people off. And so I think a lot of people, not to get off too much on a tangent, but a lot of people who struggle in dating, it’s because they want to be liked by everybody. But the result is that they’re loved by no one. Because they’re so afraid of being rejected.
I think it’s true in many areas of life. Ok, I’m moving on to the meat of everything, and this is, I think, what I love most about the book. You said, “Giving too many fucks is bad for your mental health,” and I could not agree more. One of the things for me in my life that I’m constantly working on is simplicity. How can I make things more simple, more simple? Especially in a world that is shoving more, bigger, do all these things down your throat all the time. So I’m curious, what have you personally learned to not give a fuck about? That’s question number one. Like, from doing this work, from writing this, from having millions of people read it, and then also turning it into a full fledged book, what are some of the highlights?
Well, a lot of it, I mean, the first and most obvious one that comes to mind is a lot of the criticism. I mean, there’s a difference between smart criticism, thoughtful criticism, and then just, you know, neanderthals banging a keyboard calling you 4 letter names. And it’s actually, it’s very hard to let go of that at first. But interestingly, I would also say that throughout, you know, my writing and you could probably relate to this, like building a big platform online, being so visible, you almost have to be a little bit skeptical of anything that’s said about you. You can’t… because if you listen too much to the good stuff it starts going to your head and you start thinking, like, “Oh, I got it. This is the right stuff.” And you can’t let that happen either. And so I try to be very careful in how I gauge the reactions to my work. I want to hear criticisms, I want to hear support, but I want it to be… I want it to be of a certain kind of like thoughtfulness. And just for me personally, like getting away from the business stuff, I mean, I’ve… I spent most of my 20s pursuing things that sound really cool and fun. So I traveled to tons of countries, went to a bunch of big parties, dated a lot of girls, started some businesses, started making money. Like, it was all this really cool, fun stuff. Basically all these goals that I established when I was, like, 22, 23. It’s like this is what I want to do. And by the time I was 27, 28, I’d accomplished a lot of them. And the funny thing was is I kind of went into this identity crisis because I suddenly realized that none of those things really mattered that much. You know? It’s like, ok, that was fun, but none of that really…
Yeah. None of it meant anything. Like, that was the thing I kept coming back to. It’s like it didn’t really mean anything. And so I had this, like, a year long period where I was like alright, what do I do that’s meaningful? You know, like, what… I had all this stuff going on in my life, like, where am I gonna find that meaning? And so this book is very much a reflection of that process I went through myself of letting go of a lot of those very sexy headline grabbing life goals, you know, that, I don’t know, maybe, like, sell a lot on Facebook or something. But just learning that that’s not actually what would mattered in the end. You know?
I’m curious for anyone who has either read the article or by this time has read the book, or maybe they haven’t and they’re saying to themselves I love this. You know, like I feel like I’m giving way too many fucks away to things that don’t really matter. Do you have any advice for people how to start parsing through like this is the column of things that I do give a fuck about and this is the column, should be much longer. Right? Of things that are like a no go.
Yeah. So usually the starting point, and I know you had Simon Sinek on here, is… and he wrote a book about this. It’s the basically starting with why. Like, take the things in your life that you’re doing, that you’re pursuing, that you aspire to, start by asking why. Just see what the motivation behind that is. And just right there you’ll find that a lot of stuff is, if you’re being really, really honest with yourself, a lot of stuff is it’s motivated by insecurity, it’s motivated by ego, it’s motivated by, I don’t know, your friends went and did it and so…
Competition, wanting to get ahead.
Yeah. And that right there will show a lot to you. And the book dives much deeper into getting into values and how we measure success and failure for ourselves and how these things are very arbitrary, but that’s usually the starting point is just simply start asking why about everything and start asking what if I’m wrong? What if my assumption is wrong? You know, what if making, I don’t know, a hundred thousand dollars a year, what if that actually doesn’t really matter? You know? Like, what would that mean for my life? And these questions are very hard and I think few people ask them regularly.
I want to congratulate you because while I love the title of the book and it’s really fun and the original blog post is super fun and it’s hilarious, what I think you’ve done such a fantastic job at, it is giving us some very deep things to look at that many people don’t stop and take the time to question or to answer for themselves. And I love that you’ve married some really important ideas with so much humor and irreverence and I just want to congratulate you on that. Thank you so much for coming on.
Thanks for having me.
Now Mark and I would love to hear from you. So in the comments below, tell us what’s one specific thing in your business or your life that it would actually be great to give more of a fuck about? And then what’s one specific thing that you should be giving zero fucks to at all? And if there’s more than one, of course, you can let us know.
Now, as always, the best conversation happens after the episode over at MarieForleo.com, so head on over there and leave a comment now. And once you’re there, be sure to subscribe and become an MF insider. You’re gonna get instant access to a fantastic audio called How to Get Anything You Want, plus some exclusive content, special giveaways, and personal updates from me that I just don’t share anywhere else.
Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams, because the world needs that special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for watching and I’ll catch you next time on MarieTV.
It’s ok to feel bad. Like, it… we’re all… you’re gonna feel bad sometimes. I don’t care how successful you are, I don’t care how amazing your life is, how great your relationships are, everybody’s gonna feel bad sometimes. And a huge component of living a healthy life is being good at accepting that.