“Happier” isn’t generally my type of book, mostly because happiness isn’t generally my type of emotion. Continuous joy? Sustained jubilation? Smiling? Blech.
My style is typically more, “Irritable, bitter, grumbling.” If there had been a book called, “Irritabler,” I would have excitedly said, “Well that’s not a word, but let’s do this!”
But you know, I’m trying to grow, and part of trying to grow as a person is expanding your horizons--which means talking to people you wouldn’t otherwise talk to, watching things you wouldn’t otherwise watch, and experiencing joy when your general tendency is to bitch about everything, lash out at innocent bystanders, and throw things at children.
So okay, fine. Tell me how I can be “Happier,” I guess.
I tend to think anyone who tries to tell you how to be happier is, at least on some level, full of shit. The jury is very much still out on happiness because your brain is extremely complicated, and fickle. Trying to land on sustained happiness is like trying to grab water with your hand and keep it there forever.
Above all else, happiness is specific to you. This is why a lot of psychiatry, while still the best science we have, amounts to throwing a handful of pills at your face and going, “Fuck man, I don’t know. Try this shit.”
It’s not because they want to get you on as many pills as possible. It’s because fixing anything in the brain is nearly always a crapshoot. It’s always about throwing shit at the wall and seeing what variant of Xanax and brain workouts stick with you.
How do we know this? The book is written by Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches a class based on it at Harvard, which tells you something.
Smart people are statistically more likely to be better educated, to make more money, and to correct your grammar at completely annoying times, but happiness? Geniuses are no happier than dipshits. It’s the one thing they can’t get a hold on. If we really had happiness figured out, smart people would be way happier than your dumbass coworker, or your aunt who says “the Jews” in just the wrong tone.
This makes happiness a really compelling subject to explore and this book really interesting, but if you explore it expecting definite solutions, you’re an idiot.
Now even though there isn’t a guaranteed path to happiness, there are small things we can do that will work for some people. Those are worth exploring, discussing, and thinking about.
This is where “Happier” comes in. Its goal isn’t to guarantee long term, sustained happiness for everyone that reads it, but simply that if you do some of what the book says, you’ll be happier than you currently are. It’s a refreshingly modest, if boring goal for a book like this, but I think Happier succeeds in getting a hold of that apple just barely grazing grass.
Since happiness is elusive, a big part of the book is just to get dummies like us to care about, and prioritize our own happiness. We’re weirdly terrible at doing this. We tend to go through life thinking we need checklists of items, and we make ourselves miserable going for them, and then we get near retirement age, and go, "Oh crap, I've been miserable for 40 years, haven't I?"
To communicate its importance, Happier does a good job of pandering to shitty white Americans by constantly referring to happiness as “the ultimate currency.” which ensures that you’ll actually care about it. This helps to put us capitalist assholes in a frame of mind of always prioritizing our own happiness constantly--of seeing it as the ultimate thing that matters because “OH FUCK CURRENCY I KNOW I NEED THAT.”
“Here, miserable banker who knows nothing other than working for a paycheck and an empty soul, think of happiness as your current item of worship--money--only you know, more ULTIMATE.”
It sounds stupid, but it’s probably necessary to get you to really take your own happiness seriously. Throughout the book, you’re thinking in terms of, “How can I make sure my savings in smiles are good?” “What activity will give me a good ROI on future joy?” “Looks like the news is worth even fewer smiles per share than yesterday, and puppy videos and blocks of cheese are on the rise as always.”
If the concept of, “find things that make you happy and then do them,” sounds really simple, that’s how a lot of the book works. It has some profound ideas mixed in evenly with plenty of ideas that will have you saying. “Wait, how do Harvard students not already know this?”
One example of this is “Happiness Boosters.” These are….as you might guess….activities that boost your happiness. The book encourages you to find things that you enjoy that you can strategically place throughout your life in order to have something to look forward to, and can energize you to get through the next day.
So basically, “Find the things you do that make you happier now and in the future and do those a bunch.”
Again. Taught at Harvard.
To be fair, while this stuff is obvious if you think about it, the problem is people often don’t think about it, so it is actually is helpful to have a book that tells you, “Oh yeah, plan out a jerkoff session and some 10pm pancakes so that you’re happy later, dummy.”
The book also encourages you employing the “MPS method” for designing your life, and specifically your career. This means finding work that gives you meaning, that brings you pleasure, and that plays to your strengths.
Now the potential problem here is obvious: I’ve met plenty of grown adults who mostly derive meaning from having contrarian opinions about movies, derive pleasure from leering at women way too young for them, and are especially strong at Pokemon knowledge. I’m not entirely sure what career is supposed to give them “the ultimate currency.”
But more than anything, it’s just bizarre to imagine a Harvard student saying, “Wait, I need meaning, pleasure, AND for the career to play to my strengths? Wow, my mind is completely fucking blown.”
But again, maybe improving your happiness levels is a deceptively simple process. Maybe the key to happiness is obvious, but we’re too caught up in life’s bullshit to notice, and the key is having the obvious stuff thrown into your face--to become more aware of what you already know. Maybe sometimes you need to read really simple, obvious ideas over and over in order for them to find their way through your thickass skull.
While I do think there’s value in this, I’m happy to say the book doesn’t just pass along obvious shit like this. Along with great advice on gratitude, productivity, and relationships, the book also attacks your shithead thought processes that make you so miserable.
One observation the book makes is that people often become unhappy when they achieve their dreams because they expect their dreams to make them happy.
This is a mistake we make often of assuming, “This one specific thing=happiness.”
We do this shit all the time. We think if I just have a house, or a dream job, or wife with at least a pair of C’s, or a cooler Insta, or a ham sandwich in my face right now, I’ll be happy forever. Then everything will be settled. I’ll have reached the land known as Happy, where all of the feelings are warm and fuzzy, all of bodies are fuckable, and all of the food tastes like cinnamon rolls. This is where I’ll live forever.
This book clarifies something we all need to know. Nothing on its own=happiness. Happiness is a confusing, messy journey full of peaks, valleys, and a bunch of in-the-way bullshit, and that includes your dreams. If you expect to suddenly become a happy person because of some new thing you own or activity you do, you will become more miserable because on top of being stuck with yourself, now you’ll be disappointed with life as well.
Happiness, the book argues, is not shaped by a life-changing event, but rather by incremental experiences and practices. You have to work at happiness every day. It’s an ongoing project. It’s like one of those European churches that has been being built for 300 years, only with your happiness, there is no one saying, “Why would anyone ever invest that much time into that and holy shit people get a life?”
So how do we set ourselves up for happiness both now and in the future? How do we ensure future smiles while not hating life? The book breaks this down for us by telling us the three people to not become:
1. The rat racer: The person who always suffers now to postpone happiness. This is your miserable friend who stockpiles money and will die in a pile of it having experienced nothing.
2. The hedonist :The constant seeker of immediate joy. This is your friend who can’t sit still and enjoy themselves or you because they’re constantly on impromptu chlamydia-filled trips to Thailand.
3. The nihilist :The person who has given up on happiness in general. This is joy-vacuum in your life that you always kind of wonder why you're still hanging around.
In every situation, the book will give you examples of what these three idiots will do, and what you should do instead.
And what should you do instead? Happier recommends you find a way to seek joy now in a way that will lead to more joy later.
While this idea is nice and useful to keep in mind, the question it raises is one you find yourself asking throughout the book: “Okay, but how do I do that? In my specific life? Right now?”
There isn’t a real answer, and in a book, there shouldn’t be. The author doesn’t know you.
Which is okay. Not every book has to dramatically alter your life, and a book about happiness probably isn’t going to a whole lot. But it can make you think, it can make you view yourself differently, and it can summarize the only class at Harvard that could be taught to 7th graders.
And there is value in that. There is value in something that simply changes your focus, or gets you to stop focusing on life’s dumbest bullshit for a second, and focuses you on gratitude, and this crazy thing called your own well-being.
So go ahead and check out Happier. If nothing else, it will make feel like you’re way smarter than a Harvard student, and that should make you happier for at least a couple minutes.
Usually, I read these books with you in mind. I find ones that seem like they could be interesting to a wide number of people, and try to decide the degree to which they suck, and get that across to you.
This time, I was selfish. After reading Maybe It’s You, I realized that just about every problem in my life--from imperfections in my relationship, to a lack of career and aspiration advancement, to improving my not-being-a-socially-incompetent-idiot-ness, boiled down to improving my mindfulness.
If I could just fucking be all the way there for the moment in front of me instead of being glued to my phone, or thinking about how much a Geico commercial made me want to murder people, it would help to combat a lot of the most annoying problems in my life.
I wanted direct, clear ways to work on this, so I read this book: basically a 71-part listicle written by two self-helppy weirdos that was exclusively focused on specific things you can do to help improve your mindfulness.
So hopefully you need some help improving your mindfulness, because this book might really help you with that. Otherwise, fuck you. This one was for me.
This may be the most annoying, out of touch, and directly helpful book I’ve read in years. While at times the book made me cringe, yell “fuck off,” want to throw it out the window, and then throw more shit out the window to hit the book, it also included plenty of exercises that, while not mind-blowingly profound, changed my life for the better.
That’s a really rare, valuable thing. Most of these books straight up do not do that. They’re mostly just full of ideas that you read and you go, “Huh. Neato,” that you then follow with plenty of butt-picking and continuous ruining of your own life.
Here’s why this book is both awful and life-changing: It’s a la carte. After all, it’s essentially a big list of activities you can do in order to be more mindful, and it correctly assumes that not all tips will be right for everyone. It specifically encourages you to not try everything, but to find what works for you.
It’s a buffet ideas, and yeah, you don’t want the baby carrots. Who wants the baby carrots? That’s fine. Skip past them and get the rectangle pizza.
This is incredibly refreshing in the world of one-size-fits-all bullshit of self-improvement, where the writers try to get you to follow every single last thing they suggest by deifying themselves and…
...ahem--deifying themselves and making you think they have all of the answers to your stupid problems. Every single one of these books should include several clarifying disclaimers saying, “Look, a lot of this will suck for you. Like the dream-mapping weirdness? Maybe give that shit a rest. In fact, give like four of these things a shot, and see what sticks.”
So yes, if you want to improve your mindfulness, I would give this book a shot. But here’s the bad part of the book: It’s easy to determine which exercises to pick, because a lot of the sections of the book totally suck.
For instance, they suggest laughter as a form of living in the moment--which itself is a valid notion. You are in the moment when you laugh, and that’s good for you. We’re okay so far.
But instead of then saying, “You’re an adult in the first world. You know what makes you laugh, and how to find it,” and leaving it at that, the authors then go into detail trying to explain how you (apparently an alien unfamiliar with human comedy) can manufacture laughter out of your body.
They tell you to “give yourself permission to have fun and enjoy humor.” They suggest specific ideas like forcing out silly laughter until it becomes genuine, watching a video of someone else laughing until you start laughing with them, searching “comedy” on Pandora, putting on some “fun” music and singing and dancing to it, and worst of all, “making silly faces at yourself in the mirror.” These are actual suggestions they make to you--an adult who has seen television.
Never in my entire time listening to and reading published words have I come across something so cringe-worthy, out of touch, and weirdly condescending.
And again, this doesn’t really matter. The book specifically says that you don’t have to listen to everything in it. So ignore that shit.
But when you read something so stupid, and so terrible, it impacts how you read other things. It causes you to start to question everything these spiritual yuppies have to say, and to read perfectly good ideas with a more skeptical eye. It encourages you to not trust the sources. At certain points, this gets to the point where you wonder where these people even came from.
The book also makes a mistake of suggesting that we take more time to do little things in life like making tea and folding laundry--which is fine on its own. But it suggests this so much, and emphasizes taking more time in life so, so, so much that you have wonder: “How much free time am I supposed to fucking have?”
This is a classic self-help book fuck-up: the assumption that we work too much by choice, or that we’re in a hurry because we just like hurrying. They often don’t account for you having an actual life. They say to “see if you can work less” as if that’s a thing. The assumption is that we ourselves decide to work 50 hour weeks because we want a Ferrari, and not because we’ll get shitcanned if we don’t.
Motherfucker, I’m at work as much as I am because it’s what is required of me. I’m in a hurry in the morning because I have to be.
What are these mythical jobs where you can just be like, “I want to work four hours today,” and someone just fucking allows that? What universe are you in?
At one point, this book even suggests doing a 3 hour meditation.
THREE FUCKING HOURS. Who has time for that? Who is so privileged that they have the opportunity to meditate for three hours on a consistent basis?
Again, you don’t have to do that. But it does become a challenge to take the rest of the book seriously when the people writing it are apparently working two hours a day and making whacky faces in the mirror to make themselves feel happy.
Look, as you can see, this book is not without it’s stupid bullshit, and it can be tempting to group the whole book in under that umbrella of clipping your nails mindfully and searching for “comedy” on Pandora.
But once you wipe that away, and get to the good stuff, it can absolutely change your life. It has already helped to change mine in a very short amount of time.
Sorry I’ve been so negative in the last bit here. I just really enjoy being that way. It brings me joy. But I promise, the book has plenty of helpful exercises too.
Some helpful things include just doing normal everyday tasks mindfully--from doing the dishes, to driving, to even walking around (which doesn’t take more time), to whatever simple bullshit thing you do every day, during which you’re usually ruminating on an argument you had 6 days ago, or awaiting a text back from your side ho.
If instead of this, you focus entirely on what you’re doing (which you’ll suck at at first, but you can work on it), you’ll start to develop more of a habit of living in the moment, and this will snowball into the rest of your life.
This is the tip of the iceberg with simple, very doable ideas that can be found in this book that can improve your ability to live in the moment.
Some other tasks include setting daily intentions, journaling about your day, and of course, a whole fucking lot of meditating. It also provides helpful tasks on socializing, working, and generally not being a head-in-the-clouds dipshit.
A lot of these ideas aren’t super profound. This is like the 48th book I’ve read that suggests a gratitude journal. The authors themselves probably didn’t think of more than a couple of these ideas themselves, as much as they did aggregate them. They aren’t reinventing the wheel. They’re just showing you a wheel and saying, “Hey, this will help you get places.”
Which, yes, is pretty fucking stupid and annoying. They’re kind of the TheFatJewish of mindfulness.
But here’s the magic of this book. Having all of these ideas in one place, and making the entire book about a series of actions you can take focuses you on taking action, and that is fucking huge.
You don’t get lost in the why, or the how, and you focus on the what. You focus on the tasks, and the tasks are what will improve your life.
Along with this, the fact that it’s a book that you pay for and hold, and dedicate time to enables you to take it more seriously than you would some shit you just Googled (even though that's most of the content). You’ll be much more focused and likely to take action and actually do these little, but huge things to improve your mindfulness and your life.
So if you need to improve your mindfulness (and in today’s world of overstimulation, Instagram, and piles of escapist horsesehit, that’s most of us), I would get this book. Be ready to comb through some garbage that’s not relevant to you, and be ready to roll your eyes and hate yourself for reading it, and then be ready to actually improve things. Read this shitty book. It will improve your shitty life.
Maybe It’s You is one of the best titles to a self-improvement book I’ve ever seen. Those three words encapsulate so much of what I try to get across in my work. It’s simple, clear, and to the point that you need to look in the mirror and realize the jackass staring back at you is the real problem in your life.
Maybe It’s You is written by Lauren Handel Zander, a big time life coach who guest lectures at universities and whose methods have been repeated around the world.
So naturally, I was skeptical.
After all, a lot of terrible bullshit has worldwide popularity. Plenty of awful self-help is really popular (particularly when you get into life coaching), scientology has members everywhere, and 2 Broke Girls lasted 137 episodes. The world is garbage enough to where at times, garbage becomes popular
I’m also particularly skeptical of people at the tip of the spear of modern self-help. There’s inevitably a lot of feel-good bullshit mixed in to the few decent, overpriced lessons constantly, right? For every dynamic, profound piece of advice Tony Robbins gives, he tells a woman to dump her husband because she’s tired right now, or he leaves you wondering why you just paid $80 a minute to clap for the last ten minutes.
So surely this would be no exception, right?
Well, kinda wrong.
Maybe Its You can best be described as conventional self-help, but without quite so much flowery horseshit involved (for instance it never once mentions The Secret). There are a few key ideas in particular that are profound in nature, and essential in practice that the book really hones in on.
1. Punishment Over Rewards
Many will tell you that in order to create change in your life, you should reward yourself whenever you do something good. This is more popular than punishing yourself for doing something wrong for obvious reasons.
I’d much rather have a milkshake as a reward for working out than I would have to whack myself in the dick every time I don’t work out as a punishment. The milkshake sounds way more fun. Let’s go with the milkshake reward!
Maybe Its You doesn’t let you get away with that shit. The book heavily emphasizes punishments for screw-ups instead of rewards for good behavior for a very simple reason: I’m already living without a milkshake right this second. If I don’t do what I need to do and I don’t get a milkshake, that’s okay. I was already accustomed to a milkshake-free existence. Rewards like this are nice, but not vital, and so they don’t work very well as motivation.
But if I don’t do what I am supposed to do, I really don’t want to punch myself in the dick. My life has for the most part consisted of a painless dick, and damn it, I’d really prefer to keep it that way. So I will do what I need to do to avoid a self-dick-punch no matter what.
Thus avoiding the punishment is the more effective motivation.
(Note: She doesn’t actually advocate punching yourself in the dick ‘n balls. I’m just saying.)
2. Changing Your Thoughts
Another point of emphasis the book illustrates perfectly is the idea of changing your thoughts, in order to lead a more fulfilling, productive life. If you're thinking you totally suck ass, change your perspective so that you can see a better way forward.
I used to think changing your thoughts like this was a bunch of bullshit. After all, you’re having that thought for a reason. It’s purely who you are in the moment. Changing your frame of reference, or choosing to focus on something more positive is stupid and fake, right?
Or wait, does that actually make no fucking sense at all? I was kind of an annoying dipshit for having that opinion, wasn’t I? I should probably go sit in a corner and hate myself a little, shouldn’t I?
Maybe Its You finally broke me on this point, because Zander argues so well for why this isn’t bullshit. Let’s look at an example for why altering your thoughts towards positive is actually a useful process.
Say you’re constantly telling yourself, “I’m a loser, I’m a loser, I’m a loser.”
This statement may be true. For many of you, it probably is. I mean look at you.
But being a loser is always a potentially temporary thing. So if you spend your whole life just saying “I’m a loser” to yourself over and over again like it’s an inevitable fact, what chance do you have of becoming not so losery? You’re telling yourself something as if it’s inevitable when it’s not. That’s actual dishonesty.
Changing your thoughts to something more positive and hopeful is not about denying facts. It’s about simply choosing to focus on something else, like “How can I move out of my parents basement, get a job that doesn’t make me hate myself and at least cut my masturbating-to-anime time in half?”
If, starting right now, you don’t accept the reality you masturbate to anime too much and resign to change that, then that’s an honest thing to tell yourself. Which brings me to this:
3. Honesty: Kind of Important
Self-improvement doesn’t typically focus on honesty with yourself, because most of these shitty books aren’t really about self-improvement. They’re about feeling warm, fuzzy, and like you—as the time-wasting, HGTV watching, Dorito-eating nothing you are now—are perfect and “enough” in your current form (hint: You’re totally not.).
Acknowledging that you’re filled to the brim with awful flaws and behaviors isn’t super fun, so we try to avoid that as much as possible.
Maybe It’s You doesn’t let you get away with that, and the argument for why this is so important is simple.
If you live your life trying to juggle lies and pretend to be something you’re not, you’re a fraud. You can’t really move forward in your life in a meaningful way if it’s not really you moving forward. That’s some bullshit version of you getting a promotion, trying to maintain a relationship, and sitting that gold-plated Jacuzzi.
Trying to lead a life that is fulfilling without honesty is like trying to walk without feet, or go on The Bachelor with all mental faculties in place. It’s not happening, man. You will always feel an emptiness, you will always eventually get caught, and your house of cards won't stand forever.
4. Stop Carrying Your Parents' Baggage
One of the key portions of the book demands that you look into where you take after your parents—most notably in the worst ways—and how you can take control of these aspects and change them.
This is a microcosm of why this book is better than others. Other books do not dig this deep and do not demand that you know yourself this well. Knowing how you guilt people like your mom, or yell at the TV like your dad the dumbass, can be a necessary tool in trying to stop that weird shit on your end. You are your two parents, so finding what they left in you can help you to remove that behavior like the malignant tumor that it is.
Maybe Its You goes the extra mile into who you really are so that you can move forward with your mother’s eyes, and not her dogshit personality.
Throughout the book, you’re required to do exercises that help you to “design a new life,” which is the book’s way of saying, “Get your shit together, and become the person you’d like to think you are, and not the asshole piece of shit you currently are,” (again, my words).
Because I connected to the book, I did something new: I tried to actually do things. I gave the exercises a shot.
Now, did they accomplish everything they’re meant to? Well not yet, but that’s because the book isn’t there with you, making sure you actually go through with everything—which is an unfortunate weakness of books that are meant to change your lives. They’re…books. They’re not your mother nagging you to take the garbage out until you do. When you finish a chapter, you can just put it on a shelf and go scratch your butt and forget about it.
With that said, there were writing/thought based exercises I did execute that changed the way I saw myself and pointed me in what appears to be some right directions. My view of myself has changed, and that is really the best you can hope for from a book like this.
My point in mentioning how I haven't done everything the book asks for is that Jesus, it asks you to do a lot. Piling on exercises like this just makes a group of losers already prone to giving up (the people who read self-help books….except you. I’m sure you’re swell) even more likely to give up, read the book, think "There are some nice ideas," and change nothing about their stupid, losery lives.
Along with this, Maybe Its You does fall into the trap of the trademark arrogance we often see in self-improvement of thinking the my-size-fits-all approach works for everyone reading it.
Beyond even illnesses and disorders, a lot of us are just irreparably fucked up in certain ways, and as we learned from Fuck Feelings, the best thing many of us can hope for is to manage the degree to which we’re fucked up and get by in life.
In a perfect world, Maybe Its You would cop to the fact that none of this is for everyone, and provide methods to work around and manage that.
So go and read Maybe Its You, because it probably is you that’s the annoying problem in your life, and this book could really help you with that. But read it with the same skepticism that you would anything else, because there are always elements that won’t work for you.
Someone who doesn’t know you can have good ideas that can be useful, but remember that they don’t know you, and can’t be sure about what’s best for you. So read, take it in, realize all of the shit wrong with you, change your thoughts to believe that you can have a better life, and remain skeptical.
Unless you’re reading this site. Everything here of course rules and is perfect for you, and if you’re skeptical of any of it, you’re a terrible human being.
We are creatures of habit.
The saying is a cliché for a reason. It’s true to frustrating, incredible, “Okay I fucking get it,” degrees.
But it’s also something that, if recognized, can be controlled, and if controlled, can completely and totally change our lives.
The Power of Habit, as you might possibly guess, is a book about one thing. It doesn’t tell you how to lose weight, how to find your you-ness, or how to tell your spirit animal to stop pissing on the rug. It’s all about habits (so okay, I guess if your habit is pissing on the rug, it is about that).
As a result, it gets to pick that one thing apart every which way. It looks at where our habits come from, how much of our behavior they contribute to, how to change bad habits, how habits inhibit an entire organization, how bad habits can lead to disaster, and how disaster can lead to good habits.
The book is less directly a self-help book, and more a book about examining behavior. But if you look into this book, and understand how you can apply its understanding of habits to your life, you can help yourself a lot.
So fuck you. I’m still writing about it.
The Power of Habits in Our Lives
So you’re probably thinking something like, “Who cares? I have like three habits. I brush my teeth, I put my seatbelt on in the car, and I sing songs from Cats in the shower. Everything else I do is totally a conscious choice.”
Yeah, no. You’re insanely wrong. Almost everything you do is a force of habit. Habits control how you interact with people. Habits control how you take a dump. Habits control everything about how you work. Most of your life is—in some way—based in your habits.
As the book points out, there’s an evolutionary reason for this. When something becomes a habit, our brain doesn’t use as much energy to do it, and it can focus on something that does require its energy.
So it doesn’t matter what it is: brushing your teeth, how you mow your lawn, or how you bring up how much you bench whenever you feel insecure around strangers. When we start to do anything a lot—no matter what it is—our brain is programmed to become accustomed to the activity and to move it into the "Second Nature" quadrant of our daily activities.
This is hugely important because it means that a habitual activity becomes an efficient activity. When we can do something without thinking about it, we can do that activity more effectively, and we can advance in the way we do it. We can act more quickly, and kick more ass when instead of making a series of conscious decisions, we’re automating our actions.
Habits are the automated portion of our lives, and that’s a big motherfucker of a responsibility. Some of us automate to work out early in the morning, bring in donuts for the office at work, and read to our kids at night. Others automate when they smoke crack, steal vases from grocery stores, and smell girls’ hair when they hug them.
Regardless, habits become who we are. They define our actions we take every day. They are massively important.
But this knowledge on its own isn’t very useful. If you have a bunch of terrible habits—if you’re are a pathological gambler, you always tell children to fuck off, and you consider donuts at midnight a “week night tradition”, then merely reading “Habits are really strong,” isn’t going to do much for you. It’s like looking at someone with a compound fracture in their femur and saying, “That hurts a lot,” and then walking away.
But fortunately, the book doesn’t stop there. It goes in depth to tell us how to change our habits. It gives different examples of people changing their habits, how it happened on a deeper level, and what we all can do to emulate it.
How to Change Habits
So you may be considering this now, and thinking, “Fuck! I thought I was choosing every day to have three bagels for breakfast and to shop for My Little Pony memorabilia at work, and that I could quit any time. But come to think of it, I always talk about how I want to stop, and then I never do! It must be because it’s a habit! Oh no! What can I do to stop?”
The book goes deeply into detail about how to break habits, and it works like this.
Every habit is a form of the following loop:
See a cue, do the habit, get a desired result.
So when you eat three bagels for breakfast, that’s because you’ve experienced the cue of your rumbling belly in the morning, you complete the habit of eating like a Jewish sumo wrestler, and you get the result of a full belly, and lots of dopamine hits from delicious bites.
Because this becomes your mode of functioning, the conclusion the book comes to is that we can ever really stop bad habits on their own. Instead, we can only replace the habits.
So in other words, you can’t extinguish the cue of being hungry in the morning, or the desire for the positive feeling that comes from satiating that hunger, but you can try to eat something besides a half-pound of toasted self-hatred with cream cheese.
And instead of having the reward of delicious bagels and the result of feeling like a sentient bag full of hackysacks after your breakfast, you get something else. You get the reward of feeling like an alive, mobile human person, who can accomplish something besides sitting back with their belly poking out of their shirt, saying, “Oooohhhh no.” This new reward will help you develop a new habit.
If you can find something else that gives you what you’re looking for when you’re cued into wanting something, then you can replace the bad habit with something less terrible. This can apply to many different areas of your life.
One of the most important elements you can take from the book is the development of Keystone Habits. Keystone Habits are singular things that you can change in your life that totally alter everything else about you.
When you make one real, significant change in your life, you’re contributing to a change in the way you function. You’re rewiring your brain in an extremely powerful way.
In other words, being less shitty in one way—when it’s a powerful change—can make you less shitty in several ways. This is why you’ll find people who start to run or swim every day also start to eat healthier, work harder, and stop sending dickpics to their Tinder matches.
This is so, so important to remember when you step back and take a look at your life, and you realize that you fucking hate what you see. You realize, “Shit I need to get out of this job, get into shape, start to talk to people, and stop blowing off my friends to stay home and play board games with my dolls.”
A change in a Keystone Habit (like say, getting into shape) can set off a domino effect in your life that changes all of that (also wouldn’t hurt to throw out your dolls).
Disaster Brings on New Habits
So how do we bring about this change? Well one way is to go through something terrible—or maybe just dramatic.
Tragedy is often needed to spark change for many of us. It is nature’s way of slapping you upside the head and saying, “HEY! ASSHOLE! STOP THAT!”
But it doesn’t have to be tragedy per se. The point is that most habits change after something truly motivates you, and the only true motivation comes from some kind of stressor. With the right approach, you can see huge benefits from a stressful kick in the ass.
Now does this mean that you should kick yourself in the ass? Does this mean that you should take a dump on the carpet at your office, just so that you can then say, “Oh no! I lost my job! Time to really get my life in order?”
No. But it is a helpful reminder for how you can respond when you do encounter some bullshit in your life.
Your Responsibility Remains
It’s easy to think of habits as being out of your hands—like, “Well it’s an automated part of me. The part of me that makes paperclip figurines when I should be working is a robot now, and the robot has taken over. Nothing I can do. Same thing with my meth addiction.”
So perhaps most importantly, the book maintains one powerful and clear truth throughout: Your habits are your responsibility.
This is vital to acknowledge and remember. As soon as you are able to identify consciously that you have developed a habit, that habit is still, ultimately a conscious behavior. If you are compulsive in pursuing it, then you need to take steps otherwise to prevent compulsions, to get away from it, and to replace it. You still always can change even the most ingrained habit.
Your habits are what you automatically are. They are your learned reflexes. But you know what? When your doctor hits your knee with that rubber hammer thing, you don’t have to kick up. You can decide to say, “Nah, fuck you dude. I’m not letting you control my knee.”
That’s a weird example because dude is just trying to do his job and I don’t know why you care so much about knee control, but you get the idea.
No matter how pulled into your habit you are, you have a say. And as soon as you really, truly believe that, then you can start to fix the bad habits, replace them with ones that don’t suck. So maybe, somewhere down the line, when you find yourself habitually acting in fear of any minority, eating handfuls of Funions every hour, and photoshopping your shitty face in Tinder pictures until you look like Emily Ratajkowski, you can instead stop for a second, and say, "Wait a second. I suck ass right now. Let's try something else."
There are a couple of underlying principles that make Fuck Feelings revolutionary in the self-help world: The first one is that many of life's problems are totally inevitable.
This is a huge step outside of other self-help books that constantly give you this feeling that you can fix all of your problems--that your life tomorrow will be amazing if you just do one simple thing (you know, one simple thing that's stretched out over 200 pages).
Fuck Feelings doesn’t promise this. Instead, Fuck Feelings watches as life punches you in the genitals and says, "Yeah, no. That's gonna happen sometimes."
It doesn't guarantee that you can live an amazing life in spite of it, or that you too can be a bagillionaire underwear model who never knows the pain of a shot to the gonads. It simply shows ways to manage your life's dick-punches in a healthier way.
Co-written by a psychologist and his comedy-writing daughter, "Fuck Feelings" is not making the argument that, "Feelings are terrible. Stop feeling them."
What's it's saying is that life is going to rain shit on you sometimes, and for this (and many of life's other problems) there is nothing you can do about it. You're entitled to feel how you want about that those shitdrops, but ultimately your feelings are irrelevant. Telling other people about your shitdrops in hopes of pity is also irrelevant. Wishing that the shitdrops would go away? A big heaping cup of irrelevant.
What matters is how you manage that shitstorm. How can you obtain an umbrella that shields you from shit? What will be your best form of transit during the shitstorm? How can you accept the shitstorm's existence well enough to get used to the smell?
So sure, feel what you need to feel about life's unavoidable problems--you're going to regardless of what you're told (that's kind of how feelings work). But we need to stop allowing the feelings to have a say in our action, and to stop wishing for solutions that aren't there.
Stop wishing that you're not addicted, or depressed, or that your aunt isn't a total bitch. It's a total waste of energy. These things are the way they are.
The focus shouldn't be on fixing unfixable problems, but on accepting them, and living on as best you can anyway. This rips some of the problem's power away, and allows you to trudge ahead through your shitstorm.
Now with all of this said, of course some of life's problems aren't inevitable, and are fixable.
And for these problems, definitely fuck your feelings. It doesn't matter how in love you feel with your abusive boyfriend. The relationship is bad for you. Get out of it. It doesn't matter how you feel about wanting another eight burgers. You're being gross. Stop. It doesn't matter how your five-year-old feels about wanting to draw pictures of dead animals on your wall. He's costing you hundreds of dollars in paint (which is really going to add to the cost of all of that therapy he needs.).
The second revolutionary principle isn't so much a principle of the book as much as it is an assumption--but one that is a breath of fresh air. It's this:
PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER.
This may not seem like a revolutionary idea, but in the self-help world, it is.
You see, in order for self-help books to sell a lot, and to try to appeal to as many people as possible, they tend to do all they can to make it "one-size-fits-all." They promise solutions that will definitely work for the reader they've never met. In doing this, they accidentally tell spoiled people to treat themselves, and active people to exercise more, and dipshits to think less.
It’s insane when you think about it. It's like sending a pair of overalls you found in a dumpster to a randomly chosen address with a note attached saying, "These will look hot on you. Now give me twelve dollars."
Fuck Feelings, on the other hand, lists many possible scenarios for all of the problems you run into. It finds uniting principles that bring them together, but doesn't assume that every problem is the same.
This also means that, in accordance with the first guiding principle, you don't need to kill yourself trying to fix everything wrong about yourself. As the book says, some people just aren't wired right, and the more you try to fix your faulty wiring, the more you're going to feel like a failure.
If instead, you accept, "Yeah, I stutter sometimes," or "Yeah I get nervous easily," or "Yeah, I have a third nipple," you can learn to feel a lot better about your problems, and focus on fixing the things that you actually can.
Give Yourself Credit
If there is one main "solution" to most problems hammered into you throughout the book, it's to do the best you can, and to really respect yourself for doing so.
You probably can't help a lot of things about your emotionally abusive mother, but you can deal with her in the most effective, mature way possible, and feel good about the fact that you did so.
This is the closest thing to positive reinforcement this book gives you, but it's really crucial as a lesson for life: Stop pining for results you can't control and just do your God damn best.
That's what defines success: not how much you made, or how happy you are, or what others think of you, but how well you did, and how honorable and mature you remained considering the assholes around you, your debt to the world, and your stupid, awful brain.
One of the book's weaknesses is one of my favorite weaknesses a book can have: It can easily be misinterpreted by idiots.
If you just read the title of the book and the chapters, or if that's the part of the book that you remember, you could take away the wrong message.
For example, the book's first chapter is titled, "Fuck Self-Improvement." This is an attempt to continue on with the book's general motif, but it turns out to be very misleading.
After all, this entire book is about self-improvement. Just because it doesn’t show you how to fix problems that you want to fix, doesn’t mean it doesn’t improve your life. It does. Managing the shitstorm better is still a way of improving yourself, and if you aren’t able to delineate between those two things, you may think that all of your problems aren’t worth fixing.
For instance, if you find yourself mentally undressing every woman you see, and you’ve found yourself utterly unable to change that, you might accept all of that as part of your personality. You might also continue to drool and bark at attractive women (Side note: I once actually saw this.), because “Hey, that’s who I am.”
In reality, self-improvement is crucial here. You should seek it out. If you have a fucked up, perverted brain, and you’re able to keep those thoughts inside, and not catcall women with lines like, “Yo baby, I bet your ass smell like cherries,” give yourself a gold star.
There are other little problems too. The humor in the book is hit and miss, and there is a downside to recognizing that people are different. It's that you give many examples for every scenario and end up with a 384-page book that can be largely summed up with, "Hey, don't listen to your feelings so fucking much," which you know, is kind of overkill.
But if you're not an idiot, you can get past all of that, and read a great book about managing life's problems. This is of course unfortunate because, like most self-help books, this one would be best read by idiots, and idiots tend to not read.
Oh well. Just another one of life's inevitable problems. Good thing I've got my umbrella.
If you'd like to keep up with the book reviews, leave a comment, and read my next book: The Power of Habit.
Doesn't the title, "The 4-Hour Workweek" just kind of piss you off? Like, "Oh. Cool. Why don't you call the book, 'A Life Full of Puppies and Rainbows,' you pandering asshole?'"
"From the author that brought you, "How to Buy a Mansion for $12," "How to Look Exactly like Scarlett Johansson," and "Zero Calorie Doughnut Cakes," comes "The 4-Hour Workweek."
Scammy titles like this really get under my skin, and I so read this book with the intention of hating it.
Predictably enough, I have to admit that this book is great, and helpful, and I hate Tim Ferriss all the more for making me wrong. Fuck that guy.
The core of the book is basically: "Do everything you need to do to create the life you desire, and literally nothing more than that. Here’s how.”
More specifically, Ferriss focuses on teaching you how to join "The New Rich." The New Rich, according to Ferriss, opt out of the current work model where you bash your head against a wall for forty-five years in order to do nothing for the last fifteen, and instead opt for a lifetime of fewer work hours and many month-long “mini-retirements.”
It’s not about being “rich” per se, but having the money and time that you need in order to live the life you want. After all, money is worth nothing without time. Zombie-ing your way from your bed to work every day (and doing nothing else) isn’t worth doing just so that you can collapse into a nice bed.
So how do you make all of this money while working way less? Automated income companies. You start a company that sells a training video, T-shirts, or pottery dildos, or whatever, and you automate as much of the business as possible so that you can mostly ignore it and focus on living.
Ferriss doesn’t just fill you with empty platitudes about “spirit” and “mindfulosity” and send you on your stupid way. He gives you specific tips on how to do this successfully, and makes it seem extremely doable.
With that said, it’s not as if the book is completely bullshit-free, even if it's bullshit is only very lightly implied.
You Are Not Tim Ferriss
About 98% of self-help leads us to want to become the gurus we listen to, to accomplish exactly what they accomplish, and to have their lives. Though it's beneath the surface, The 4-Hour Workweek is no exception.
The problem here boils down to this:
Tim Ferriss is Tim Ferriss. You are not.
Oprah is a superstar. Tony Robbins is a superstar. Tim Ferriss is a superstar. Compared to these people, you kind of blow.
Before you start to think, "No way! I’m awesome! Just ask my mom,” please read on.
Near the beginning of the book, Ferriss discusses how he won a Chinese kickboxing tournament in 1999 with no training at all. He did it by dehydrating himself before a weigh-in to literally sickening levels, and then rehydrating himself later on, to the point where he could participate 25 pounds above his weight class for the fight.
He then found a rule that said that your opponent is disqualified if he's knocked out of the ring. This rule isn't really the point of kickboxing, but they can't have the fighters in the 17th row accidentally round housing a Chinese boy in the eardrum, so it has to be there.
Ferriss exploited this rule to simply push smaller fighters out of the ring, and did so over and over until the Chinese judges crowned him champion (while presumably wishing he’d go fuck himself).
Think of how fucking insane that is, try to imagine a universe in which you would do something like that, and then realize he did this eight years before writing this book. He was 22.
Ferriss didn't self-improve his way to being The Four Hour Workweek guy. This is who he is. He succeeds in his unorthodox ways because he's a brilliant unorthodox thinker with absurd nerve, and an inherent understanding of how to exploit human systems.
To be fair, Ferriss gives in-depth, specific ideas about how to do what he has done. If you want to try to be him, you have the template.
But the fact of the matter is, no matter how detailed the book is, you are going to run into weirdly specific situations that the book doesn't cover, and when that happens, you're not going to have that Tim Ferriss magic to fall back on. You’ll still be stuck being shitty old you.
But before you fret over that, ask yourself: Do I want to be like him?
This is Not For Everyone
If your reaction to that kickboxing story was something along the lines of “Man, fuck that guy a little,” you may want to reconsider if this book is for you.
After all, the mentality behind Ferriss’ success in that story kind of permeates throughout the book. It always feels like he’s kind of using a cheat code in a video game. His tactics, while logical, can be kind of self-serving, and exploitative of loopholes, hard-workers, and idiots.
Maybe you’re cool with that. Maybe you’re thinking, “Hell yeah! Let’s exploit some dipshits!” And if so, great! Enjoy the book!
But Ferriss’ lifestyle can be intoxicating, and you may want it so badly that you don’t examine whether or not it’s really right for you.
For instance, it’s worth noting that Ferris is 39, single, and has no children. This is fine for him, but it also hints at something: A lifestyle of not packing away money, of moving around constantly, and of taking sizable career risks isn’t conducive to getting married and having kids--you know, unless you want your kid to be potentially poor, to not have an inheritance, and to not live anywhere long enough to have a friend that’s not his weirdo sister.
But here’s the good news: If you can accept all of that, or if you simply want some advice on how to live your life better, this book is a fucking gem.
The 4-Hour Workweek: A Bible of Productivity
The plan of doing little work for a lot of cash only works if you never waste time, and you’re extremely productive in the time that you do work. This is where the book really shines. For this part, Ferriss focuses on two rules:
First, there is Parkinson's Law, which states: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."
This means that most of our time "working" is total bullshit--that we spend hours upon hours a day sitting at a desk, creating work that accomplishes nothing, and hoping to God our boss doesn’t check our browser history.
The other rule is the 80/20 rule, which states that eighty percent of your success will come from twenty percent of your work, so it's best to focus your energy on what's happening in that twenty percent and to trim the fat otherwise.
We like to strut around life, digging holes, filling them back up, and thinking we did something. We think that because we were sweating and miserable, that regardless of the result, we’ve earned an ice-cold beer and an at least semi-effortful blow lob.
The reality is that most things you do—in all of life--make no difference. They move zero needles, get you zero inches, and earn you zero dollars.
Acknowledging this can be a real kick in the balls, so we largely avoid it. Instead, a lot of us plow ourselves deeper into our busy work to continue with the delusion that we’re doing “something,” and then we get pissed off that the world isn’t blowing us.
Too much value, Ferriss says, is placed on being busy instead of doing things that lead to results. He shows you exactly how to cut that shit out, and turn your focus from “hours worked” to “things accomplished.”
He also makes great points about the benefits of taking risks. This was particularly powerful for me because I’m a total…whatever a nicer word for “coward” is.
The thought exercise he puts you through is this:
What is the absolute worst thing that would actually happen if you took your risk and it didn't work out? Would you get into debt that you really couldn't get out of? Would it really be a disaster scenario? Or does it just feel like it would be? What steps would you have to take to repair the damage, and how hard would that really be?
Maybe the greater question to ask yourself, Ferriss argues, is: "What will happen if you don't take action?" After all, the worst-case scenario is not crashing and burning, but accepting boredom as the status quo.
It’s the most effective argument for taking a chance on your life that I’ve ever read. It’s logical, inspirational, and effective. I almost even did something.
Over all, The 4-Hour Workweek is an outstanding book for tips on productivity, time management, business automation, traveling for cheaper than you normally live, outsourcing all busy work, and generally being a less terrible you. So I’d highly recommend the book as long as you keep one thing in mind:
You are not Tim Ferriss.
If you'd like to keep up on the book reviews, feel free to follow along. The book I'll be reviewing next week is, "Fuck Feelings" by Dr. Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett.
For Mark Manson's "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck," I'm going to try something different. I'm going to try to write about something without heaping forty pounds of hate towards it.
Don't get your hopes up and think this is because I'm maturing as a writer or something. I just frankly have almost nothing bad to say about this book.
If I tried to criticize it as much as I usually criticize things, I'd have to grasp at straws like "People with the last name 'Manson' all suck," and, "I stopped paying attention for two pages, and I learned nothing from those pages," and, "Putting 'fuck' in the title is a cheap ploy to get people to look at the book," (coming from a guy with a site called Be Better, Stupid).
So I'll avoid all of that. Let's get into the book.
Manson: “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."
The book is largely a big fuck you to traditional self-help, and as a result, is a welcome breath of fresh air. Whereas other self-help tells you to do what feels good, and to chase your bliss, the crux of this book is about how life sucks sometimes, and how that's okay, because it is often struggle that leads to progress.
Doing what feels good, as the book points out, often ends with you eating a shit-sandwich a lot of the time (not intentionally of course...unless you're into that sort of thing).
Shooting heroin, by all accounts, feels incredible. I mean think about it. It doesn't hook you for life because it's "okay." Heroin addicts are fucked up because they know of a high none of the rest of us do, and everything besides heroin therefore seems like it sucks by comparison.
But still, heroin is a not-so-great idea. It's a prime example of a central point of the book: feeling good isn't indicative of long-term impacts of your actions. It's just chasing a quick high.
People who look to feel good all the time are essentially heroin addicts wandering around trying to figure out whose dick they need to suck to get their next hit (My words, not his. I don't want to turn you off of him. He keeps the dick-sucking talk to a minimum. I do not.)
So trying to feel good all of the time is actually a massive hindrance to us, as the book points out. Or as Manson would say, it's a shitty value.
Manson: “If you want to change how you see your problems, you have to change what you value and/or how you measure failure/success.”
The book's title is actually kind of misleading. The idea isn't to not care (or "to not give a fuck") about anything, but instead to not care about things that don't actually matter, thus freeing yourself up to care more deeply and with much more focus about the things that do matter to you.
So for instance, if you don't give a fuck about what people think, you can more freely be yourself.
If you don't give a fuck about your dumb fears, you can more actively pursue what you really want out of life.
If you don't give a fuck about the superficial bullshit that pollutes your life and sticks your head firmly up your own ass, you can focus only on things that actually matter.
If you don't give a fuck about the fact that you'll have to do a bunch of work to get what you want, you can actually do the work instead of wasting time fretting over it.
Whereas other self-help is all about getting you what you want, regardless of how dumb, unrealistic, or arts-degreeish it might be, Manson posits the idea to you of, "Wait, but maybe your desire is stupid."
Manson: “We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.”
Other self-improvement books often leave you with a feeling that you can lead a shit-your-pants-amazing, perfect, stress-free existence. Manson points out that this is stupid, and that struggle is inevitable for all of us.
Why is struggle inevitable? Because to some degree, we all become spoiled.
To an AIDS patient in sub-Saharan Africa, a wealthy American housewife doesn't have any problems. To her, she has endless, terrible, overwhelming problems. Her and her husband have lost a spark, Whole Foods is out of cage-free turkey eggs, and she forgot that her mid-sized luxury SUV only takes premium gas, and she just filled it up with unleaded plus, and what is she supposed to do about that? How, oh how will she get little Taddison to baseball tomorrow? GOD, LIFE IS HARD!
It seems stupid, but it feels real to her, and it therefore is real. All suffering is relative. As Manson points out, everyone suffers either because of their hardship or because of their wealth. For many of us, it's both.
I suffer because I had things easy growing up and at times it leaves me ill-prepared for reality, but I also suffer because there's a wall of traffic between me and where I need to go, and fuck! I can't afford a helicopter!
So life isn't about avoiding problems, according to Manson. It's about having good problems, and then solving them as much as you can. Solving one problem will create another, and that's what constantly moves us forward.
In other words, hoping for a Hakuna Matata life is only going to leave you bitter and frustrated. Simba wasn't getting shit done with Timon and Pumba. With them, he would have died depressed, bored, and weak. He needed to return to Pride Rock, and murder his uncle, and so do all of us.
Manson argues that our good lives have at times left us to become unhappy more easily, because we've developed an entitlement that makes it so that we think we always deserve to be happy. So when things get tough or even just weird, we retreat to safe spaces (be it a literal safe space or a game of Candy Crush) and become less and less able to deal with reality.
This causes us to escape reality in search of immediate joy more, which in turn renders us less and less able to deal with what comes at us. It's a total bitch of a cycle.
Manson: “Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest."
So instead of telling you to believe in your absurd expectations with everything you've got, Manson takes a hard left. The book instead tackles why our expectations of exceptionalism are such a problem, and how common these fucked up expectations have become.
Because we're surrounded in the media with only the exceptional, we in turn believe that you need to be exceptional in order to lead a good life. This is of course, bullshit. In reality we only need to be exceptional if we decide to give a fuck about being exceptional.
As soon as we let go of this, we find it much, much easier to lead a good, happy life.
Manson: "We don’t always control what happens to us. But we always control how we interpret what happens to us, as well as how we respond."
One area the book arrives at a similar place as normal self-help is in the idea of reacting to hardship with positivity, but Manson approaches it from a different, and more useful angle.
Instead of trying to tell you what a basket of rainbows and muffins life will be, Manson very plainly says that life will suck sometimes, and that it's our responsibility to respond to sucking as best as we possibly can.
This not only avoids the common evil of making people feel more entitled to an easy, stress-free life that you see so often in self-help, but it also sets you up better to respond to it.
If you approach your life with a constant sense of responsibility for yourself and your actions, you will in turn take better actions. You will be less of a fucking idiot if every decision you make determines whether or not you're being a fucking idiot.
So responding positively doesn't mean being a delusional dipshit. It doesn't mean getting diagnosed with colon cancer and saying "Hooray! Now I'll lose some weight!"
It means deciding how to best approach the future instead of wallowing in self-pity.
Manson: "To try to avoid pain is to give too many fucks about pain. In contrast, if you’re able to not give a fuck about the pain, you become unstoppable."
Lastly, the book subtextually argues that life is meaningless, and so are all of your actions, which sounds like a bummer, but Manson argues it's actually a good thing.
After all, he says, if there is no reason to do anything, there is also no reason not to do anything. You can choose your own meaning; you can define your own importance. You can choose which fucks to give.
And if you choose your fucks wisely, you'll be in much better shape going forward.
I'd like to focus on what's wrong with this book so that I could call the author an idiot for a while, and maintain my streak of everything I write being a bitch-a-thon, but frankly, I've decided to stop giving a fuck about that.
If you'd like to stay up to date on the book reviews and read along, my next one will be of "The Four Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferriss.
"He's Just Not That Into You" has a good general message to send to women, but it gets oversimplified in the book to the point of inaccuracy, and repetitive to the point of HOLY SHIT I GET IT AND WE'RE ONLY LIKE 15 PAGES IN.
The crux of the book is in the idea that if a guy isn't calling you back, or if he doesn't show up when he says he will, or if he only goes out to friend-like activities with you, or if he scratches his head a certain way, it doesn't mean anything complicated, or anything worth wasting your life analyzing.
It simply means he doesn't really like you. He just doesn't take the relationship, or you very seriously. So you need to do likewise and leave him.
Beneath this message is the idea that you should take no shit, never think he's the exception to the rule, and accept no excuses if the guy you're dating fucks up in any of these ways. You're worth more than this.
It peppers in some strong examples throughout of how women's unwillingness to acknowledge this can screw up their love lives.
It points out how if a guy really cares about you, being "busy" won't stop him from contacting you in a timely manner.
It points out how if a guy is always drunk when he's around you, that's probably not a great sign for how he feels about you, regardless of everything else.
It gives the example of how some women will have breakup sex with a guy, and then think that that means there's still a chance to be with him, when the guy was just getting his D wet (If he actually liked you, it would be..."in a relationship" sex).
These are all things that seem obvious to outsiders, but for women in relationships, it can be tough to see, so it's valid to try to the tactic of, "Hey, maybe if I whack you upside the head with this book, that'll help."
It also encourages you to stop waiting for guys to change their behavior. Stop trying to make a relationship with a guy happen that's not there. Stop hoping for him to see the light shining out of your ass. If he doesn't, he's not worth the time, and you need to move on.
It's truly not bad advice to keep in mind as you work your way through cheaters, deadbeats, and dickholes (literal and figurative) in your dating life.
This is all basically positive. It's good for women to feel more valued than they often do. It's good for them to not get so caught up in the stupid intricacies of the dating world, and to generally have less of a take-shit attitude.
There are a couple of reasons why I don't recommend this book.
The first is that you really don't need to read it at this point, because I'll summarize the entire thing again for you right here:
"If he treats you poorly at all in any way, that means he doesn't care about you, and you should dump him."
That's it. It simply hits you with that hammer over and over again. All roads in this book lead back to "He's Just Not That Into You." This book says it's own name constantly. It's like Timmy from South Park.
Aside from that, when you take that message to the extreme, it can sometimes suck. The authors looked at every, fucking, possible offshoot of how a guy could be flawed (for any period of time), and used it as a reason for you to dump his ass.
"Doesn't love your friends, but literally everything else is great? Dump him."
"Doesn't always want to fuck you and take you skydiving every second of the day? Dump him."
"He teases you sometimes, but you don't care, but others tell you that you should? Dump him."
At nearly zero points throughout the book does it encourage talking to the dude or working through the relationship. Everything has to be crystal perfection, or cut off his dick and throw it into a single woman's bonfire.
As a result, it has for sure ended several relationships that didn't need to end.
Co-written by a woman and a man, the book has a very, ahem, "old school," view of the genders while also being very pro-woman. It's that obnoxious "have your cake and have him pay for it too," brand of what some pretend is feminism.
Except it's not really feminism at all, because it places women on a giant pedestal throughout, thus making them superior, and not equal.
Throughout the book, the authors tell the reader that they deserve a guy who does (or mostly doesn't do) hundreds of things that fall on their checklist, and if he doesn't, he doesn't deserve you.
On the other hand, they assume the women reading it are incredible, and in no way need to improve at anything about themselves except for their ability to say goodbye to men who are beneath them.
I'm paraphrasing here, but the message is basically something like: "After all, reader I've never met, you're smart, sexy, beautiful and worth being chased, obsessed over, and worshiped. Have I mentioned you have a great ass, and a fantastic sense of humor? Go vaginas!"
If this sounds like blatant pandering, duh. Of course it is.
If you think I'm being some paranoid red pill weirdo, the female author eventually just flat out says, "There are more good women than there are men." She says that "many studies" prove this, of course without saying which ones, or how any study would ever prove what the fuck "good" means, because accuracy isn't the point anyway. The point is to make you feel like a superhero for having a vagina, so that you feel better about yourself, and you stop making excuses for abusers and douchebags.
It also implies throughout that men are puddle-deep simpletons motivated only by sex. This is the basis for a major chunk of the book, and how it gets off treating the idea of "He's just not that into you," as a hard and fast rule.
If men have any other layers to them whatsoever, there could be many potential motivations, or complicating factors beyond "me want sex" that impact their behavior, and then the entire premise of the book comes crumbling down.
And look, I'm not about to argue that men aren't motivated by sex. Of course we are. I'm just saying, boiling everything down to that is stupid, insulting, and misleading. Yes, men may think about sex every seven seconds, but that leaves six other seconds where we have other shit going on, and that actually does complicate things.
For instance, in terms of the more casual dating phase, the book argues that if a man likes you, he will move heaven and earth to ask you out, and that "excuses" like fear of rejection, being genuinely busy, and trying to play games are all myths.
It says this not because it's actually true, but because oversimplifying men to this degree is the only way the book's premise goes from being "a rough idea that you should keep in mind more often," to "the basis for an entire book."
Fear of rejection isn't suddenly conquered if you really like someone. At times, it can make things even worse. If you get rejected by a rando at a bar, oh well. If you get rejected by someone you love, then shit. Game over, dude. You really will die alone, and there's nothing you can do about it.
And of course men also play games. "Hard to get" is real for both genders, and people do it because they like people. We all know this. It would be easier if no one did it, but unfortunately, people do (with that said, it's totally cool to pass on a guy for doing it--not because it means he doesn't like you, but because it's annoying and stupid).
The reason I recommend reading my summary of the book instead of the book itself isn't just that it saves you a few hours and $11.95. It's also because this is a book specifically where you're better off if you get the rough idea of it, and don't get into the weeds. There's bullshit hidden in there, and you could step right in it.
You should value yourself, and not put up with stupid dude crap. You should work under the assumption that everything happening with you is the rule and not the exception, and go from there.
But life (and men) have complications and imperfections. We all do, and there's some degree of that you'll have to put up with if you want to be with anyone at any time ever.
A book that banks on making you feel like a goddess sure does feel nice, but if taken the wrong way, it'll likely end with you being alone and WAY too proud of who you are.
I guess what I'm saying is the book is really nice, and I think it could be really good for the right reader, but over all, I'm just not that into it.
If you'd like to stay up to date with this, the next book I'll be discussing is "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck" by Mark Manson.
It’s a little odd that Jen Sincero’s “You are a Badass” became such a huge hit—not because it’s so full of bad information (as with most books like this, it’s a mixed bag full of candy, vegetables, and cyanide), but because when you get past the title, and the fact that she uses words like “awesomus maximus,” a lot of her lessons aren’t things we haven’t heard before: Believe in yourself, follow your heart, act now, envision everything, connect to the universe, don’t focus on anything about you that blows, etc.
The real success of the book lies in not in telling us the new, but in translating the more hippy dippy parts of self-help to an audience that showers instead of buying magic crystals. She does this by throwing in a lot of casual language and relatable stories, instead of trying (as other books with this subject matter do) to appear to be the literary equivalent of eating a plate full of grass with Deepak Chopra.
In doing so, she attempts (and succeeds) at communicating these ideas to more, well, normal people in a way that still remains inspirational.
Now there’s a lot of good in this book.
While she does advocate for the massively bullshitty law of attraction, she also deviates from the part of it that is really damaging—the idea that you don’t have to do any work. This means you’re just visualizing what you want more along with action, which is probably helpful. She does say it works for total bullshit reasons (frequency vibrations!), but since she purposefully cuts out the worst part of it, she gets a pass.
And perhaps above all else, the book is inspirational, which is an important part of any book of its type. If you give into it at all, you do start to really believe that if you get over your more idiotic fears, you can be a much better version of yourself, which is huge.
The idea that you are born a badass, and are trained to essentially plaster over that throughout your life is a cool, interesting take on believing in yourself—certainly more upbeat than my approach of, “You’re dogshit right now, but you can be a lot better.”
Her idea is based in the notion that everyone has something awesome to contribute, which has its ups and downs. For example, one down is that it's...complete horseshit.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of us—more than we recognize—have something special for sure, and that’s where books like this can be useful.
But there is nothing in all of science that indicates that bursting from a female human leads to you being gifted in any specific way. It’s a pleasant thought, but a lot of people out there are just the product of a below average dude dropping his load into a below average woman for funsies and making below average people with below average abilities. Many of these people would likely be happiest and most useful being a cog in the machine, and telling them that they should give in to our culture-wide addiction to exceptionalism is pretty fucked up.
I’m guessing she's relying on the fact that those people don't read books, which honestly is fair, but it's still not cool as a blanket statement.
The Primary Bullshit, and Its Safety Net
One major message of the book is focused on relying on your intuition/the universe/”source energy” (gag) for guidance about what you should do. Once you do that, you can achieve and obtain anything if you believe with all sincerity that it will happen (or as she puts it, if you act is if that's already your reality.)
Which is really a dressed up way of saying, “Do whatever the fuck you want.”
That really is what it comes down to. Intuition is nothing but what happens when you subtract fear from desire. And if you believe you’re a snowflake superstar and can’t fail, and you’re convinced to eschew all fear, then all you have left is desire.
So when you try to “listen to the universe,” it’s just going to tell you what you want to hear. Nobody has ever wanted to move to New York and pursue their Broadway dream, then listened to the universe and had the universe go, “No no. Stay in Jefferson City. You’ll ultimately be happier studying business and finding something stable near your parents.”
This lesson does include some really positive offshoots, like an emphasis on finding creative solutions to seemingly impossible desires, instead of just assuming that they're actually impossible.
But then the book furthers this by adopting an attitude of “Fuck what others think.” Now don’t get me wrong, this is a great attitude to adopt emotionally, and you should ultimately make your own decisions.
But if you apply "fuck what others think" to mean you should refuse to even listen to caring, logical advice from close friends because they’re “no longer on your vibration,” you’re kind of just a fucking asshole. You're ignoring reason from people who care about you because book lady said to "raise your vibration," and you should probably hate yourself at least a little for doing that.
Now to be fair, "do what you want" isn’t as terrible of advice as it sounds, because the book also (broadly speaking) advocates the most widespread idea in all of self-help, which boils down to this: “Stay really fucking positive.”
It’s not in those words necessarily, but that is the message. When shit goes wrong, and you plunge into debt, and you feel like cutting yourself, smile! Stay positive and keep plugging away.
She gives many examples of how this has worked for others, and supports her case well (because it's a valid lesson).
Now, if "Stay really fucking positive," sounds like the perfect fail-safe for what could be bad advice, it's because it is.
“Oh, you followed your intuition and it lead you to sleeping in a dumpster behind a Del Taco? Uh…uh…shit. Uh….this is just your train of life making a stop. Shit. And uh...stay on that train, and keep chugging away, and know that you’re...an awesome superhero, and you can do anything! Oof.”
All of self-help falls back on the idea that even if the advice is terrible, "Stay really fucking positive," will at least keep your head above water, and keep you going towards what you want.
With that said, as much as this is something of a safety net, it’s also the most crucial advice you can ever follow.
Because even if the advice you receive is great, your life may go to shit anyway. Staying positive is important then too. Your life could turn into a dream. Also, staying positive is the best option. You could be transported into another dimension, and you could have no idea how you got there or where you're allowed to pee.
Again, staying positive is the right first step.
So it doesn't seem too bad. But with that fail-safe in her back pocket, she does take the “certainty you will succeed” thing to an extreme that is kind of...not cool. She tells the reader that they should do what they want (or sorry "follow their intuition") regardless of what any analysis reveals, she advocates buying shit you can’t currently pay for, and at one point, she even brings up an example where she supports a woman quitting her high paying job to chase her dreams even though she has kids.
She goes on to say how the mother shouldn’t listen to her friends that say, “Shouldn’t you be concerned about doing that?” After all, the mother’s friends aren’t vibrating on the mother’s frequency.
And at that point, okay, yeah. Maybe go fuck yourself a little bit. With how successful “You are a Badass” is, for sure someone applied that approach, and as a result, some kids are having a much rougher upbringing right now.
Over all, the book has probably helped a lot of people, and probably put some others on welfare. It's a mixed bag. If you know what to listen to, it’s definitely worth a listen/read--which to be fair, you could also say about most self-help books—from The Secret, to How to Win Friends and Influence People, to The Bible.
So maybe check it out. It will definitely ruin your life/bring you salvation.
If you've read this book, and have your own thoughts, feel free to leave a comment.
Otherwise, I'll likely be updating this every few weeks, because I have a horrible attention span, and it usually takes me about three tries to get through a paragraph. So if you'd like to follow along, the next book I'll be writing about is "He's Just Not That Into You."