Transcript for Mark Manson – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck


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human experiences in session my guest

today is mr. mark manson mark my good

sir welcome to hxp

thanks for having me good to be here

mark it’s it’s pretty interesting when

your your career has shifted so much I

mean you be short off as a blogger and

now you’ve moved into this sort of

entrepreneurship and you’ve written a a

couple books out right yeah this is my

second book but it’s the first with a

publisher the book has a not-so-subtle

title it’s called the subtle art of not

giving a fuck a counterintuitive

approach to living a good life was was

the self-help industry something that

was I think you said this think that the

self-help industry is pretty saturated

when you say yeah it’s very crowded did

you feel like you had to put this book

out because because of that reason so I

have a certain style of writing which is

I tend to be very irreverent vulgar

incorporate a lot of humor into my work

and I think on the one hand that that

has helped me differentiate myself but I

also think it’s it’s integral in some

ways to to the topics that I write about

yeah absolutely

the the back flap of your your cover

says in life we have a limited amount of

fucks to give so you must choose your

Fox wisely which is hilarious I mean but

I mean let’s dig into that I mean how

how do we choose our Fox wisely as you

say well essentially it’s what we’re

talking about it is values and

what the really what the book is about

is our values like what are we choosing

to find important what are we choosing

is like the drivers and motivators in

our lives and I think a lot of people

don’t consciously decide those so there

are very few people actually sit down

and think about those like where they

came from why they adopted them this

book is very much designed that help

people ask those questions do you think

I mean do you think that there’s a lot

of snake oil going on in industry where

people are kind of running seminars and

they’re moving into coaching and kind of

doing these different things to kind of

lure people in yeah I think I think

snake oil is kind of it’s a pretty

strong word I I’m sure there’s some of

that I think there’s a lot of good

intentions that are misguided misguided

good intentions in this industry a lot

of people who honestly believe that they

are helping others and that they want to

help others but it there’s a little bit

of like a blind leading the blind yeah

going back to your values what is what

are those some of those core values that

we can kind of identify with so the book

makes an argument or things that are

pretty simple and ordinary you know it’s

a lot of a lot of our culture not just

self-help but a lot of our culture in

general is built on this idea of doing

incredible things having incredible

experiences pursuing more more and more

all the time and I wanted to make the

argument that you know maybe a happy and

stable life doesn’t come down to always

achieving or having more maybe it comes

down to simplifying and being satisfied

with less and that’s a very

uncomfortable idea for many people to

consider hence why all the humor and the

fucks that are flying around basically

it’s I make an argument for for the

mundane it’s the stuff that really

matters the stuff that really drives

happiness and this isn’t just my opinion

it’s research backs us up it’s it’s very

mundane things good relationships with

your family and friends having being

good at something like working on

something that you’re good at feeling as

though you’re contributing through the

people and community around you like it

it really doesn’t get much more

complicated than that the second chapter

of the book is called happy

is a problem and how does how is

happiness a problem the argument I make

is that to be happy you need to have

problem because happiness is a byproduct

of solving or overcoming problems and

and basically that that whole chapter in

a very core message of the book is that

struggle pain and struggle are necessary

for happiness to exist and I think a lot

of people one of the first places that

people get misguided is that they assume

that happiness is a lack of problems

it’s by just not having any struggles in

their life or avoiding all the struggles

in their life and and actually the

opposite is true

I mean you’ve had if we can bounce over

to you know your career you’ve you

started blogging pretty early on right

yeah like 2007-2008 and and then you you

gained a lot of traction in sort of the

dating approach kind of community right

yeah how does a person move from kind of

guiding people to become better at with

women then to you know that what you’re

doing now so what happened was I I

started back in 2008 I read so I read

the 4-hour workweek by Tim Ferriss time

frame and and I was like sweet that

sounds easy I’ll start a website and and

I started a few websites and what I

quickly learned is that making money

online is extremely difficult and

requires an insane amount of work but

one of those websites that created I

created I tried to create a number of

online businesses around my own

interests and being a 24 year old single

guy at the time I was like cool I’ll

start a blog about dating and the first

few years it was very is a very generic

site you know it was the articles were

things like oh three things to do on a

first date you know or like how to get

her to call you back you know this shit

that you would see on Cosmo basically

and and the funny thing is that as the

years went on I kind of I started to get

a lot deep

more personal with the stuff that I

wrote about and as I did that people

responded and a readership started to

grow and by 2011 or 2012 to my surprise

I discovered that a large percentage of

my readers were actually women so I had

I was writing this dating advice site

for men and whereas I had started out

talking about like first dates and text

messaging stuff but after a few years

I’d kind of entered into this place of

talking about identity self-worth

honesty vulnerability all these like

very kind of heavy psychological topics

that I felt were being discussed in the

men’s dating world or just by men in

general that I felt like needed to be

addressed and it started attracting a

lot of women to it that’s surprising

yeah I was very surprised and I started

actually sending so my first book is

called models attract women through

honesty and a lot of these women were

telling me they’re like your date your

advice is great not just for men but for

for us too and so I actually started

sending a number of women models and I

was like can you read this and like tell

me if it’s good so maybe if like if this

makes sense and if this actually applies

to you and and so some women started

reading it and they they all came back

and they’re like yeah actually this is

even though this was written for men

it’s better dating advice than I’ve ever

seen in any woman’s book and so I

started asking myself oh my god well why

the hell am I just writing for men so in

2013 early 2013 I rebranded the website

relaunched everything to be

gender-neutral and to just talk about

life issues in general and the other

thing too the other thing that kind of

drove it is that dating advice people

who struggle on they’re in there with

dating and relationships their

perception of their problem is something

very simple so their perception is like

oh like men never call me back after the

first date or you know women are they

like to be my friend but they’re not

sexually attracted but once you actually

like start getting deep into the problem

it turns out that really it’s it’s a

very

problem underneath their dating problem

is actually just a general life problem

you know it’s their their lifestyle or

their identity isn’t completely sorted

out for themselves or that they have

trust issues or they have a lot of

sexual shame that they need to deal with

and and the symptoms that the things

that they thought were the actual

problems are actually just symptoms of

some sort of deeper problems so I wanted

to write about those deeper problems um

and how they apply in life just in

general yeah I mean it seems like that

it happens a lot when I when there’s a

problem it’sit’s something actually

deeper rooted that is actually affecting

you know kind of my life output I mean

one of the one of the chapters in your

book is just the value of suffering it’s

called the value of suffering

how does suffering help us is kind of a

general kind of question I make the

argument in the book that pain exists

for a reason I kind of go through this

funny little biological summary of like

why panics this you know if you think of

something as simple as like stubbing

your toe or like or when you’re a kid

you touch a hot stove it hurts it hurts

really bad

and the reason it hurts is because it’s

your biologies way of teaching you not

to do that again

it’s your biologies way of teaching you

how to to learn how to how to do

something different in the future or how

to adapt and the same is true for

psychological pain you know whether it’s

a breakup or a business failure or an

insecurity or an anxiety what these

things really are is that they’re their

psychological feedback they’re a they

are feedback coming from your brain

telling you hey you need to look at this

in a different way you need to try a

different method or try a different

approach to whatever you’re doing and so

in that sense it’s it’s actually pain is

incredibly important and if we try to

avoid it or forget it we are actually

depriving ourselves of that ability to

evolve and grow past it yeah there’s a

great quote art that you say our lives

hinge not on the ability to turn lemons

into lemonade but learning to

make lemons better it’s basically

learning the art of resilience because

and look optimism is great I think

people should be optimistic positive

thinking and a lot of situations it’s

good it’s good to like stay on the sunny

side but I think and this is one problem

I have with the cell like a lot of the

self-help world is that life just sucks

sometimes like there’s really no way

around it you know it’s like if my dog

dies there’s nothing good about that

there’s no there’s no silver lining

there’s no you know it’s it just hurts

and it sucks and a lot of things in life

are like that and that I think that

needs to be okay it needs to be okay to

hurt because one like I said earlier

like a lot of our biggest lessons and a

lot of our strength comes from our

ability to withstand a lot of this pain

but um but to its we need to stay

grounded in reality we need to stay

realistic about what’s going on around

us so that we can make good decisions

for ourselves and I think a lot of

people when they get caught up on in

kind of this like delusional level of

positive thinking they start ignoring or

denying the rip the reality around them

yeah I agree 100% I mean you talk about

how growth is an endlessly iterative

process we don’t shift from being wrong

to just being right it’s kind of

something that just builds and you learn

that I mean it’s what I say is we never

go from being wrong that being right we

go from being wrong to be slightly less

wrong at another way I put it in the

book is that problems are never

permanently solved because the solution

to one problem is the genesis of the

next problem you know so maybe I have

money problems and I solve that by going

and getting a job well the job creates

new problems I the deal was politics at

work I have a really frustrating commute

every morning I have stress of the

projects I’m assigned and and then my

solutions to those problems will create

the next

higher-level problems and so what I say

is that the the key to a good life is

not getting rid of your problems the key

is actually just having very good

problems and that process of solving one

problem in creating a better

higher-level problem it in my opinion

that’s that process is actually what

brings a sense of accomplishment and

fulfillment to our lives

yeah do you think that I mean when you

were when you were coming out with

models and books like that I mean do you

see do you think that you were kind of

polarized in your perception to kind of

the comedian did you feel like there

were people either hated you or loved

you early on for sure I mean back when

models came out the majority of the

men’s dating advice industry was it was

still your classic kind of like pickup

artist stuff it was like dude you gotta

like go bang a 10 and you know like show

her this and say this to her and neg her

and and stuff like that and so I knew

when I when I was putting it out there

that I was likely setting myself up for

a lot of extremely harsh criticism but I

I believe very strongly in the message

of the book and and so initially it was

very polarizing and I got called a lot

of funny names by certain people in the

industry and by a lot of guys in the

industry but I’ve been very happy that

it seems that actually that book is

influenced and altered the course of

that industry I see not only is it one

of the best-selling books in that

industry now but it’s it’s a lot of the

other companies and coaches that exist

and then in industry I I think are

saying a lot healthier stuff these days

and then they did say five six years ago

you’ve had some pretty bold posts like

on just through your blog there’s one

called why everyone on the internet is

an asshole and then you talk about how

kind of the Internet warps perception

let’s talk let’s talk about that a

little bit like how how do you feel

about the way the internet changes

social behavior I’m absolutely

fascinated

this topic and I have been for a couple

years now and and look like I think I’m

not I’m definitely not anti I can’t be

anti Internet like it gave me my career

but I think it’s just it’s interesting

because as every new form of technology

that comes out and makes our lives

better in in so many different ways I

think it also brings a new array of

problems with it that we as a society or

a culture have to like figure out how to

surmount and I think the interesting

thing about the Internet is that because

it’s so globally connected and so

anonymous it makes it extremely easy to

objectify not just people but opinions

points of view perspectives and when you

objectify a person’s perspective it’s

it’s easy to just shit all over it and

not not fear any repercussions or not

have any sympathy for it and and so in

many ways this amazing tool that has

given us access to more information and

you know anybody in the human race has

ever had has also made it easier for us

to indulge some of our worse instincts

and to be a more judgmental and close

ourselves off one of the main points

that you make in in this post is you

talk about how confrontation has no

negative social consequences and I yeah

that’s obviously true I mean how it so I

mean how how has it changed for you like

moving from kind of this internet-based

persona into kind of a real life thing

it’s been interesting I mean I think one

thing that kind of growing up so to

speak as a writer on the Internet is

that it’s it’s really I feel like it’s

really made me impervious to criticism

there’s been a lot of funny just like

small moments over the last couple years

working with my editor my agent and

people at Harper where though they’ll be

like little things or like they’ll get

really worried that like my ego is

getting bruised like do you realize how

many people have like told me to kill

myself you know through email over the

last five years like no I

it’s totally fine this is not a big deal

so it’s weird it’s made me a made me

jaded which I think has it’s both it’s

it’s its pros and it’s cons on the one

hand I think I’m much more impervious to

maybe a lot of things that a lot of

authors go through when they’re

publishing their first book but on the

other hand I think I’m more cynical I

don’t wanna do a lot of authors which is

unfortunate okay I can definitely

understand that I mean as as this show

has kind of grown I mean it it’s like

the hate mail that we get I just it just

doesn’t affect me as much anymore just

it after a while it just doesn’t get to

you as much yeah and there’s a weird

thing and I don’t know if you’ve

experienced this but there’s a decent

citizen on both sides of the spectrum

which is the hate mail doesn’t bother me

as much anymore but when I get those

emails where people are like oh my god

you changed my life thank you so much

you know like I still appreciate it but

I feel desensitized you know like five

years ago

whenever I received an email like that

it was like it made my old days yeah oh

my god this is this is incredible

but now it’s like sweet dude thanks good

luck you know and it’s not even you know

I’m not being honest they because it’s

when you’re just bombarded with so many

messages really positive and negative

from so many people that after a while

it becomes hard to really invest a lot

in in any of them absolutely I was I was

actually just having this conversation

with a friend of mine the other day and

when we first started out when we would

get an email saying something like you

just said like that you know the show’s

changed my life it made my day and now I

mean not to take away from anyone who

sends me an email like that to us but

it’s it’s not you know it doesn’t I’m

grateful for it I’m happy for it but it

just you know that that desensitization

that occurs on both it does occur on

both ends of the spectrum

yeah where you talk about there was

another post that you did called the

pyramid scheme of positive thinking

how does that

oh yeah yeah yeah so the the articles is

the staggering bullshit of the secret

right yeah that’s right it’s the that

was the main article yeah yes and the

pyramid scheme is the section of it I

knew I knew I did this somewhere but I

was like are you sure the articles not

cold then it’s funny I actually just so

I just did I just got off another call

before I got on with you and I was

talking to this guy and it he was an

interviewing me he’s actually he’s a

speaking agent and we were talking about

the positive thinking thing and he was

saying that he like doesn’t take clients

who do that sort of thing that mode

that’s sort of like motivational

speaking type stuff right and he said

that he told me he said he literally had

this conversation once with one of these

like types of motor motivational

speakers the motivational he said what

what is your goal with doing speaking

events like what is your goal to get

across to the audience and the guy was

like well I want to inspire them to do

great things in the world and because

that the world all the world needs is is

people to be more inspired and the

speaking agent it was like well I

actually think we should probably like

figure out how to cure cancer or AIDS so

why don’t you work on that and the guy

was like oh but I can inspire people to

cure cancer AIDS and the guy the guy was

like okay so like but then what do these

people end up doing you know these these

people in the audience usually turn

around and they they decide that they

want to be a coach and they want to go

inspire people and so you get this kind

of this really funny pyramid scheme of

and this happens a lot in the online

world of people who for instance people

who will like teach a course they’ll

create a course on the internet that

teaches people how to create courses on

the internet and these people would take

and then the people will take the course

and the know go create courses on the

internet teaching other people how to

create courses on the internet and you

see this in all sorts of different ways

you know people I have met people who

are life coaches who the majority of

their clientele they’re teaching how to

become life coaches

and and it’s just this crazy thing that

just it’s pervading everywhere and I

think and a lot of what enables it is

this idea that simply feeling good is

it’s good enough you know it’s like if I

can just say a bunch of stuff that

people in my audience will be like wow

that feels great and then tell them to

go tell other people it’ll just keep

getting passed on and you know when I

guess where I put my foot down both in

the book and on my site is like no

feeling good is not good enough like if

you want to feel good just go like snort

some cocaine or something like it like

there needs to be a higher standard to a

good life than simply just feeling good

all the time right yeah man I mean I

really find it interesting I mean the

industry is definitely intriguing to say

it slightly I mean it it does feel like

a pyramid scheme and it it seems like it

kind of wraps you in and you know like

you you need to keep going back for more

it’s almost like a drug I find your

career fascinating because you you went

from you know this sort of dating aspect

to this it’s it’s not self-help but it

is weird I mean where did this formula

come from like what what else are you

doing where do you say that your content

is is hitting the most right now

it tends to be so I jokingly say you

know when I meet people in in real life

and they they say like oh what do you do

and I’m like oh I’m a writer and I go

what are you write I say I write

self-help for people who hate self-help

and it’s funny because so many people I

meet are like I think I would love you

know like I think I think the desire to

improve your life is a pretty universal

one I think everybody if they’re being

honest with themselves like wants to

have a better life and achieve more and

be more successful and feel better about

themselves but I also think there’s a

lot of people especially in the younger

generations like you know say 35 and

under who just kind of sense that a lot

of this

you know a lot of the self-help stuff

from the 70s 80s and 90s then it’s kind

of BS it’s not really not very authentic

it sells well but it’s it’s cheesy and

and so I think those are the people I’m

hitting it’s like this is I’m offering a

viable alternative all right it’s not

just the same old cliches over and over

again so then you would say that that

your content is hitting towards the

self-help industry or is it still with

the dating stuff oh it’s definitely

self-help stuff I mean it’s at this

point the dating relationship I think is

a minority portion of my audience but um

but yeah it’s weird it’s like a weird

I felt help I mean it’s technically

self-help but I kind of like go against

the grain yeah in a lot of ways so

there’s one thing that you just in my

notes is that you know you you started

out and when you were when you were kind

of starting out you you were approaching

like these these agencies to publish

your stuff like these online like

huffing Huffington Post until like that

and now they’re coming to you you’re

being interviewed by by Forbes and CNN

and advice and I mean how does how does

that switch feel for you I mean at first

it was a little bit of an ego boost

right like it’s it’s suddenly all these

publications I was practically like

begging like give my work to to get more

exposure a few years ago you know a few

years later that suddenly they’re

knocking on my door so that always that

feels nice like I think on anybody can

relate to that it feels like a little

little victory for yourself but it’s

funny it’s funny to me it’s if I stand

back and kind of remove my myself from

the equation I think it’s kind it’s a

little bit representative of the weird

place that the publishing industry is in

because of the Internet it’s like you

yeah yeah on the one hand anybody in

start a blog and start publishing on the

Internet and that’s great but the the

truth is is that you know that you have

to the people who control what gets

spread around the most they still kind

of haven’t have control and it and it’s

a situation of like the rich get richer

so back when my articles weren’t read by

many people you know like Huffington

Post didn’t want have anything to do

with me then suddenly I started having

some hit articles and developed like a

really big fan base and now it’s

Huffington Post wants to publish any

everything I write so it’s yeah it’s

just it’s a weird dynamic and I don’t

know how I feel like it there needs to

be like I don’t know the publishing and

she needs to sort it itself out in a lot

of ways and one of the ways is that

there needs to kind of be a clear path

again you go from like an unknown nobody

to like getting your work disseminated

pretty widely like right now it’s not

very clear how that happens you just

have to like try dozens of things and

hope one of them work has that has has

this whole process like affected your

sense of I mean I and like you have a

hundred thousand readers five hundred

thousand then a million and then two

million and I mean you’re just has this

affected your sense of success yeah it’s

been weird and and this is actually one

of the inspirations for the book is that

I always dreamed of a lot of like a lot

of this stuff that’s been happening to

me the last couple of years it’s

literally what I dreamed about

when I was starting out like it might in

my mid-20s right and it’s interesting

that it doesn’t feel the way you expect

it to I mean it’s great I mean it it’s

there’s no way I could ever complain

about anything that’s gone on the last

couple of years but it’s it’s weird

because it doesn’t it doesn’t feel as

good as you expect it to feel the

benefits aren’t as good as you you

expected them to be the problems are

bigger than you expected them to be it

complicates lives life in ways that you

didn’t expect and so sick experiencing a

large success like that is it’s actually

a very strange it’s a very good

experience

but it’s a very complicated experience

and this kind of being the first like

really big success in my life it was

very disorienting at times it was very

strange it kind of made me start asking

like does it really matter like 2

million people read me or if it’s like a

hundred thousand like does this really

met cuz at a certain point it just

doesn’t even feel real anymore like the

difference the difference between a half

a million and two million like it

doesn’t even feel real it’s it’s all

just it’s just a digit you know and and

so started really getting me to ask

myself a lot of these questions about

and I talked about in the book which

it’s just like what actually matters

here like what is what is actually

driving my life and what should actually

drive my life and and it kind of put me

into this like little mini existential

crisis for a little while as I started

writing the book and and that’s kind of

a lot of like where this these ideas

came from yeah I can I can imagine man I

mean it’s it seems like I mean these are

all pretty healthy questions I mean did

you do you happen to kind of go stoic

with this or I mean there’s a little bit

of Buddhism in this to kind of label it

and I mean how how did you get to a

point where you were like okay well you

know the value of suffering and you know

we kind of reframing positive positive

thinking and I mean like like what was

what was a driving factor was there any

certain philosophy that you were kind of

modeling well I was very big into Zen

Buddhism when I was in college and I

it’s interesting I kind of got away when

I graduated it kind of got away from it

but like that’s like my roots is a Zen

Buddhist background and going through my

20s I was very highly motivated by a lot

a lot of very conventional goals you

know it’s like I wanted to have a

successful business I wanted to have I

wanted to be own my own business so I

want to have a lot of free time in one

of the travel world I want to have you

know they are amazing people and have

amazing relationships and

and it was kind of what I was talking

about at the beginning of the podcast so

I had a lot of goals based on more more

more get more succeed more have more do

more and that was great and then what

happened is I started achieving a lot of

those goals you know so I I did I did

travel the whole world and I did see all

these amazing places and I did have a

bunch of amazing experiences and I did

build a successful business and I became

a successful writer and and it left me

like I said in that kind of like that

weird state of existential crisis or

like Oh what does this all mean well you

know what why none of this matters

wonder what am i doing with my life and

and actually I noticed that a lot of

that Zen stuff came back started coming

out you know I I always tell people that

my writing is it’s my own form of

therapy for myself like everything I

write it’s not that like I know all the

answers and I’m telling everybody else

what to do it’s it’s literally like I

have the same question and so I’m trying

to write my way out of it and so as I

was writing all this stuff I noticed

that the Zen stuff which is extremely

similar to stoicism it’s all about you

know Zen and then they all they talked

about a lot about not knowing and how

how to get comfortable in a place of not

knowing and you know Buddhism itself is

very big on you know life is a form of

suffering and you have to like detach

yourself from your emotions and so all

the stuffs are coming out again and and

it’s funny because I guess I didn’t

really realize how big of an influence

it it actually had been on me until

recently yeah it was there I mean was

there any single kind of like mentor or

someone that you’ve had influencing you

through this process um not a specific

person no I mean I’ve always had like

writers and artists that I’ve looked up

to as like good examples of like this

sort of stuff that I want to do

but yeah there’s nobody I mean again the

weird thing about internet publishing

these days is like there’s no real

nobody’s really figured it out yet you

know we’re all still kind of grasping in

the dark trying to figure out what what

works like what’s gonna be sustainable

yeah I mean who so then who was someone

that influenced you like kind of

remotely so I mean there are some

writers that I really looked up to a big

fan a huge huge fan of David Foster

Wallace and his particular ly his

non-fiction work I think it’s just like

I mean his fictions fantastic as well

but it’s nonfiction work is staggeringly

brilliant hunter is Thompson Alan Watts

is a big one I don’t know if you’re a

South Park fan but there’s a South Park

episode called Simpsons did it and it’s

basically the entire South Park episode

is like the kids keep coming up with

these like crazy ideas and then it’s

like every time they go out to start

doing it it’s like oh no Simpsons did it

episode 328 and the whole the whole

episode is basically just a joke of like

every unique idea the South Park

creators have had the Simpsons already

had it and I feel like that I feel like

that like with Alan Watts it’s like any

like really powerful idea

I feel like I have it’s like Alan Watts

already wrote 50 years ago mark I really

appreciate your time and what’s the next

what’s kind of the next journey for you

what’s the next step for you right now

it’s I’m still kind of basking in the

afterglow of this book release and

finally winding down with the interviews

I’m really looking forward to just

getting back to the website getting back

to the blog I’ve got a ton of ideas for

articles I want to write but I just

haven’t had the time to write them and

then I think you know probably after

maybe a year like maybe end of next year

I’ll get cracking on the next book so

where can where can people find your

mark Manson net and and the book is

called the subtle art of not giving a

fuck a counterintuitive approach to

living a good life and it’s available

everywhere aisle retailers Amazon

everywhere awesome you said it forming

men thank you so much for your time Marc

I really appreciate it man thanks

exFAT me this is the human experience we

will see you guys next week thank you

guys so much for listening

you

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