The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck: Mark Manson | E111 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck: Mark Manson | E111".


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Intro (00:00)

I always felt like an outcast was bullied. My big goal in light was like, "I wanna be a best-selling author." And then it happens and it really fucked with me. We're wired to want status. We're wired to wanna be beautiful and sexy and to wanna impress others. Like, that's never gonna go away. The question is, is like, what do you want once that is kind of removed from the equation? You can always choose in every moment to see things in a way that makes you feel better. It's not easy, it's actually really, really hard, but in that sense, happiness can be a choice. It's just a question of, do you know how to access it? Mark Manson, the author of one of the best-selling self-development books of the decade, the subtle art of not giving a fuck. I read this book many, many years ago and I learned so much from it. So when they told me that Mark Manson was in London, we got in touch with him quickly. And I think this conversation is gonna prove why. He is one of the most wise, honest, open individuals I've ever met. And one of the most remarkable things he says in this conversation was this smash hit book, which has sold more than 10 million copies. And I know you've seen everywhere. When that became a success, he lost orientation in his life. Mark's complete story, the story you've probably never heard, is immense. He used to be a pick-up artist. He then became an entrepreneur, which led him to become a blogger, which led him to become an author. And he draws on all of those experiences and one of the most self-aware ways I've ever seen on this podcast to deliver actionable insights to live a better life. He's a guest that you requested time and time again and I'm so glad you did. So without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett and this is the Diro-Veseo. I hope nobody's listening. But if you are, then please keep this to yourself. Mark, take me back to Austin, Texas in the 1980s-ish time when you were born.

Personal Development And Relationships

Your early years (02:07)

- Oh God. - What was life like for you? - I mean, when I was really young, it was nice. So I grew up, I had a very kind of conventional, suburban American childhood, especially when I was younger. So I had the house with the yard and all the kids on the street and playing soccer or football or whatever. So that was nice. I think where things started to kind of go off the rail, so to speak, when you start hitting that age 11, 12, 13 and your brain develops a little more and you start becoming a little bit more aware of norms and culture and people's expectations of you and things like that, I grew up in the American South. So I grew up very religious, very conservative and I'm neither of those things. So starting around that time, I started kind of feeling like an oddball. It was really in the art and music and books. I read all the time and those values just weren't really respected a whole lot where I came from. In fact, they were viewed as suspects. - It's gonna say on the playground, that doesn't sound like it would be conducive with fitting in and being part of the crew. - Yeah, and it's a very, it was a very conformist culture, but then there's also, there's a weird thing in the American South that people are very sensitive to kind of like, you think you're better than me, you think you're smarter, you think you're smart, you think you're like so good because you read this book and got an A on that test or whatever. So there's like a weird, it's actually very toxic, but there's kind of a weird judgment that happens if you're not doing the same thing the same way as everybody else. So yeah, I started to kind of become like the nerd slash, like loaner kid. And this was the 90s. So of course I wore like band T-shirts and dressed in all black and like-- - That's all back in now. - Yeah, I know, right? Thank God, by the time of-- - I finally know what's going on again. I'm old enough to know what's going on again. - So yeah, it was a weird out of lessons. It wasn't a ton of fun. And I think by the time I was like 14 or 15, I was just like, I gotta get out of here. I gotta get to one of the coasts. - Will you believe in school? - A little bit, a little bit. Not like to a dramatic extent, but yeah, definitely some like shitty experiences, for sure. - Did you have a lot of friends back then in school? - No, no, I had a handful of like very, very close friends. You know, other guys who were weirdos and loaners and in the music and stuff like that. - And your parental dynamics, they were your parents, I read that they got divorced when you were around that age as well, which was-- - Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I mean, my parents are really good people, but I would describe it now as, they were doing the best they could with what they knew, but their knowledge wasn't, I guess, sufficient to be like fully functional emotionally. You know, they came from emotionally dysfunctional families. So, in their head, like giving 100%, like they're giving 100%, but really their 100% is actually kind of like, you know, 40, 50% of what the family needed to like function well. - Is that psychologically or financially? Do you mean like in terms of like affection, care, lessons? - It was primarily emotionally. So like financially we were fine. My dad's always been like very successful, but it was mostly emotionally, right? So, trying to think of an example here. You know, so like kind of this idea of, you know, my parents were the opposite of overbearing. They were like probably two hands off, right? So it was like one of those things like, if I had a big event at school or a big moment, or if like the girl I liked was me and the me or something, you know, it's like I could never go to my mom or dad. Like if I tried to go to my mom or dad and kind of like express these things, they'd just kind of look at me like, why are you telling me this? You know? And so it was a very stoic and distant, and I use the word stoic, not in stoicism, but like very kind of cold and distant household. Like we didn't talk much and we definitely didn't talk about feelings or insecurities or stuff that me or my brother were going through. It was just kind of like, - I can relate to that. - Yeah. - I never had, I still think to this day, well maybe actually in the last year, but like my whole childhood, my mom and dad had no idea what I was doing with my life, no idea who I was dating, feeling, nothing. My dad, like we didn't, I don't think we had a conversation about anything to do with school feelings, you know? So you kind of like left to your own devices and the internet to figure this stuff out, right? Which isn't the best source when you're like, it's like solving the problem with the same brain that got you into it, not always the best solution. When you zoom out on that period of your life and you think what kind of like good or bad foundations were laid from the rest of my life, what are those lessons or foundations that were like? For me, it was like insecurity and I thought money would be everything and I thought validation from women would be everything. So my, yeah, but. - I think if there's one thing, my family got right when I was young, it was money. So I grew up in with wealth, you know? My father owns a plastics business. He's been very successful. So I mean, we had the big house and the pool and the nice cars and everything. And it was interesting actually because his business really started to take off probably when I was like eight or nine years old. And so we went from kind of like, I'd say like upper middle class, and then suddenly when I'm nine, it's like everything gets upgraded. We've got BMWs, we've got, we're flying first class. So we get all the stuff, right? And it's interesting because that's pretty much exactly the time that my parents marriage unraveled and the family kind of fell apart. So I learned at a very young age that money doesn't solve it. Like whatever your problem is, you know? Unless your problem is you're hungry, like money's not gonna fix it. So I was very blessed in that regard that I got to learn that lesson very early. So that, you know, we've all got that hole in us that we try to fill with something. And so money was never that for me. For me, it was more, I think because I was, I always felt like an outcast was bullied to a certain extent rejected by like every girl I ever liked. For me, it was much more social, you know? So it's like I had this desperate need to be liked, to be like the cool guy at the party, to have all the girlfriends. Like that was my big weakness. - So you go off to college, what you study, how does that go for you in terms of social interactions? - So one of the best things I ever did, you know, I went to school in Boston. And Boston's a completely different culture and environment. And it was wonderful for me because it suddenly, it's like the things I care about are now cared about by the people around me as well. So it's like, they like that you're smart and they like that you've read all these books and they like that you're into like cool music or like some obscure band. So it was very socially transformative. Like I went from kind of being like the weirdo nerdy guy to like having tons of friends and going to a bunch of parties and having a really good social life. And so for me, that was wonderful. It built a lot of confidence, but of course, like any insecurity I overdid it. So I was that guy who was literally partying five, six nights a week, you know? Like for like year after year after year. You know, I was always at the party. - And did that compromise your academic ambition? - A little bit. You know, I kind of, I guess I didn't do this consciously, but I kind of made the calculus in my head that like, like the most important thing about college is that you finish, you know, right? It's like no job interviews actually gonna ask you what grade you got on your history exam. Your second year, all they care is that you have, you have the degrees. So in my head, I'm like, as long as I get the degree, as long as like I'm safe in terms of like actually finishing, I'm okay. So I could kind of manage okay grades while, you know, drinking every night. So I made it work. - And out of college, your first job, I heard you described it as kind of nightmarish in like a finance job that you didn't like. - So I've had one real job in my life. I went into finance. So I used to play a lot of poker in school and all the guys I played poker with were gonna go into finance. They wanted to work on Wall Street and do all this stuff. And I was like, cool, like I'll do that, you know? That just seemed like kind of like the logical next step. And I got hired at an investment bank in Boston and I went to work. And I remember it was like, it was 10 a.m. on the first day, I was doing training. And it was 10 a.m. on the first day, I'd been there for like maybe two hours, two and a half hours. And I remember thinking to myself, how long do I have to stay here before it's like okay to quit? - From the first day. - From the first day. And then my second thought was, this is a really bad sign. You know, like if I'm having this thought on my first day, this is a terrible sign. So I lasted about six weeks. - Wow, that was your first and only job. - Yeah. Yeah, I mean, the corporate world and I didn't really fit. And I've since learned that that particular company was kind of notorious in the finance world for having like a soul destroying culture. But it was funny 'cause I was basically just like a data monkey. You know, I was entry level. So like I'm just punching numbers in the spreadsheets and stuff all day. And there's this kind of awkward gap in the US markets. Like there's like an hour or two between when one market closes, when like the S&P closes and then the NAS that closes like an hour, hour and a half later. And so you'd always have this like awkward hour where there was, you're kind of just waiting around, waiting for the next market to close. So I'd bring books, you know, I'm a book nerd. So I'd sit there, I'd have a stack of books on my desk and I'd sit there and I'd read books in that hour. And remember my boss came by and he's like, "You can't do that." I was like, "What do you mean?" I mean, these are like finance books too, right? Like I'm like, "Yeah." And he's like, "You can't do that." And I was like, "Why not?" He's like, "You need to be working on something." I was like, "Well, there's nothing to work on. Like this is waiting for the market to close." And he's like, "Yeah, but you can't be seen doing that. Like that's, you gotta be, keep yourself busy." I was like, "What the fuck, man?" Like I remember too, my first week there, 'cause I'd messed around with like some computer coding and stuff in college. And I noticed that like a lot of the data entry that we were doing, you could easily program a script to do it automatically, right? It's like probably an hour or two of my days, like not even necessary. And so I remember I went to my boss and I was like, "Hey, you realize like we can get a script to do this, right? Like I could probably, you know, spend a couple days, figure out, do some research, get it to work." And he was like, "No, no, go back and put your numbers in." You know, like he had no interest whatsoever. You know, in my head, I'm like, "I got this great idea. My boss is gonna be so impressed. I'm gonna like, you know, get moved up or whatever." And I just got shot down. And so it was just very clear like, I don't know, it just wasn't. - There's a cultural issue there, there wasn't it? Because your boss has probably got that from somewhere above where he doesn't really give a fuck about optimizing the efficiency of this company. He just cares about getting his check and then it probably trickles up the line. - Yeah. Yeah. And I remember kind of like the, so one of the books I read at the time was "Tim Ferriss' "For Our Work Week." And that book was life-changing for me, but it's funny, I've always had a little bit, I've always given Tim a little bit of shit about it because it was a bit of a double-edged sword because the "For Our Work Week" makes it sound so easy that it kind of like, I remember at the time, I'm like, "Wow, this is, I could do that. Like, I'll do that next week. Like, why am I still here?" You know, so it's, he made it sound so easy that it kind of gave me the courage to quit. But then of course, after I quit and I actually started to try to build a business online and realized how insanely hard it is, I became a little bit bitter of like, "Damn you, Tim Ferriss, this is not easy. Like, I'm never gonna work four hours." - What was that business you tried to build off the equipment? - So I originally tried to create some e-commerce businesses and try to basically kind of your classic spammy SEO blogs with affiliate links and stuff like that. And it was really, like, the whole goal was like, just get to 2K a month and then we're going to Argentina. Like, that was the, and then we're gonna party until our, like our face falls off. And that was the whole goal at the time. I think it was 22 or 23. And it's funny because back then, this is like 2008, 2009, back then the way you got traffic, like blogging was new and kind of like the big new thing. And so if you wanted traffic to your website to sell your stuff, you needed the blog. And so I started my blogs as a way to just get traffic to like sell this stuff. And so one of the websites I was doing was dating advice and I was promoting a bunch of dating e-books written by a bunch of people. And that one started to take off. That one started to develop like a really large audience. And so after about a year or two, I realized I'm like, I kind of suck at this e-commerce thing, but the blogging is going really well. So. - And this kind of started your journey into the pick-up artistry world, right?

Pickup artistry (18:22)

So tell me about that. 'Cause before we started recording, I shared a secret that I've never shared before, which is that I also found myself all into the pick-up artistry world when I was in my early 20s. Because of Neil Strauss and then Mystery and then every other book that I read and every other video and documentary and YouTube video that I consumed and torrent that I downloaded. And for him that I scraped. But when I read that in your story, I found that really, really fascinating because I suspected the incentives and the appeal of that world were probably quite similar to me in the sense of me being quite insecure and seeking validation from women maybe. So tell me about your journey into pick-up artistry. - I took to it pretty hard and pretty quickly. I think it really scratched that itch of that insecurity I had from my childhood. Looking back on the pick-up stuff, it's really interesting and it's funny because it's over the years I've met so many talented and successful guys. Like when you told me that you were into it, I kind of, I wasn't even surprised. Like I've met so many talented and successful guys in the last five, 10 years who are like, "Oh yeah, I was in that shit too." You know, it's like we kind of like say it under our breath. And I think it, here's my theory about what that whole thing was and why it happened. When I look back in the 2000s, self-help and personal development was still very different back then. Like it wasn't socially acceptable for men to kind of get into, you know, feelings and trauma and healing and recovery and all this stuff. Like it was still something kind of shameful. Like your buddies would make fun of you for it if they found out that you were, like if you went out and read, you know, like a Louise Hay book or, you know, like, "I'm okay, you're okay." Like if like your buddy caught you with one of those books in your bedroom, he'd start ripping on you for it. And there was something about making it about dating, sex and dating that made it socially okay. Like it's, now it's like a cool thing to do. But really what it was, it was just self-help in disguise. Like most of it, you know, for every pickup line or whatever there was, like there were, there was really useful advice about, you know, social skills, self-esteem, confidence, taking care of yourself, you know, hygiene, grooming, you know. And so there was like so much good life advice there. And then, but there was also so much bad advice there too. So it was this very mixed bag that I think it was just a lot of guys like you and me who were damaged essentially. And we're trying to figure it out. We're trying to kind of heal ourselves. But there was no other outlet available. - Yeah. - Today it's okay if I think it's way more socially acceptable for guys to be like, yeah, I wanna work on myself. I wanna like, you know, it's cool now. Get in touch with my feelings. Yeah, and be a mature person and all this stuff. Yeah, it's like something people respect. But back then it was still taboo. - And specifically at that age for a guy, I'm speaking for myself here, but you're trying to figure out how to get laid. It feels like this quest in which no one has ever provided you with the blueprint or the roadmap. And then someone whispers in your ear at some point that there's like a code. - Yeah. - Like a simple solution to this complex problem. - Yeah. - And then you read it and you get into it and it appears to work. And you see men just like you having success in that because they've kind of learnt the code or they've learnt the instruction manual. So it feels like it solves this tremendous problem, but you're totally right. It actually helps you resolve a ton of things from the playground about self-esteem. And why did that guy always get the girls? And why didn't, right? Like the natural and then things just started to make sense. And that made it really sticky and addictive for me. But were you in a relationship around that time?

Rejection and self worth in relationships (22:46)

- I had a relationship, yeah, for a couple years around that time. - And did badly? Bad breakup? - So my first relationship pre-pick up. - Right. - Ended horribly. She ended up cheating on me and leaving me for another guy. And so that was part of, you know, it was my first serious girlfriend, first love. And it ended basically as badly as a relationship canon. So it was heartbroken and I was also angry. And so that kind of also, the pickup stuff really spoke to that of like, this is why you had your heart broken. This is what you need to do instead. - How did that impact you? 'Cause we're talking here about like, I think we're talking about feelings of like rejection and self-worth. 'Cause I remember my first relationship that ended really badly. The harm was all me telling myself that I'm not good enough and I'm a scumbag and I'm maybe not pretty enough or smart enough or masculine enough. And that was all the harm. It was inside here. - Yeah, it's funny because I look back on that episode of my life. I think of that happening to me today. I would handle it fine. I mean, I'd be upset obviously and hurt, but I would handle it fine. I agree with you. You know, for me, when I look back, my understanding of relationships, love and relationships at that time, I call it the Disney understanding. You know, it was very naive. It was, you know, Prince Charming on the White Horse and you know, the princess and you live happily ever after, right? It was actually a very unhealthy relationship. She and I were both very just very dysfunctional and immature and we treated each other poorly. But we were in love and when you're that age and you're naive, like you think love is the only thing that matters. That you're willing to pretty much tolerate like any terrible treatment towards each other 'cause you're in love. Like it's the level, figure it out, right? And so I think a lot of the pain for me, it wasn't just her leaving. Like that was painful, but it was also having that kind of Disney understanding of love and relationships completely shattered. Like everything I, 'cause in my head, I was like an amazing boyfriend and I did everything right, you know? So to have that blown up in my face and come that realization that like everything I thought was true is not and I have no idea what's true. Like that's a really, really hard place to be. And so that was probably at least 50% of the difficulty as well is just trying to like pick up the pieces and figure out like, wait, you know, how, what is love? What is a relationship? How are you supposed to be towards each other? I have no clue. - But you have a clue now. - Yeah. - Yeah, I mean, and pick up was helpful in that regard. I mean, pick up gave me a lot of bad. Again, there was a lot of bad advice, but there was a lot of good advice and I think it's, look, I think people who, you know, everyone's while you meet somebody who, who like, they marry their high school sweetheart, you know, they meet when they're 14, they get married and they live happily ever. Like that is, it's very rare. And people who, if that happens to somebody, it's a very fortunate thing. I think for most of us, what we have to do is, is you go through a number of relationships that just blow up in your face and you have to have them blow up in your face to understand what's healthy, what's not, what do you need as a person and what do you not need? And also how to give to others. Relationships require a skill set and you can't develop those skit, like if you're, if you come from a background like us, like you don't grow up being taught that skill set. Like my parents didn't have that skill set either. So you have to learn it through trial and error. Like you learn anything else. It just so happens that the trial and error of romantic relationships is unbelievably painful. No one wants to do that. Like, yeah, less than no one wants to learn. Yeah. So what are those fundamental characteristics then of a good relationship?

Characteristics of a good relationship (27:27)

I've heard you write about a few of them, things like respect and what are those things that you've come to learn now that you wish you knew then? I think every, you know, every healthy relationship with somebody else, it starts with a healthy relationship with yourself, right? So if you don't respect yourself and if you don't value your own thoughts and wellbeing and health, you're never going to be able to set the boundaries. You know, you're just gonna tolerate poor treatment from others because you're gonna think it's justified. So, you know, people tend to have it backwards. They think like, if I can just find a great relationship, then I'll feel great about myself. But that's just, it's a recipe for disaster. Like you gotta get straight with yourself and then once you're straight with yourself, that enables you to have that healthy relationship, to be able to share it with somebody else. So like, that's paramount, totally key. Like you gotta get your own shit straight. You gotta like whatever baggage you got rummaging around up there, whatever trauma you've got in your background. You gotta start working on it. And then you need to be able to approach the relationship with a certain amount of vulnerability. Like you need to, you know, again, most of us, by default, when we find that somebody that we're crazy about or who's crazy about us, our natural inclination is to start hiding all the ugly stuff. They're like, oh, well, if she doesn't know that like I did this or if I really like kind of think that, you know, then she'll love me. It's like, no, you have to come to the relationship completely open saying like, hey, here's my list of issues, 'cause we all got 'em. I'm working on 'em, 'cause you're working on yourself. You know, hopefully we can work on 'em together 'cause obviously they're gonna have their issues too. And so just that open dialogue is kind of necessary to even get things started. That's really where the trust and respect comes from because like you can't, like if you're not sharing every aspect of yourself, then you're never gonna trust the other person. Like if you're always kind of hiding something, you're never gonna believe that they're actually loving you. They're believing the thing you're portraying to them. And so you're never gonna trust it. You're like, oh, well, yeah, they're into me now, but it's 'cause they don't know about this thing over here. But if you just come 100% with everything on the table, that's where the trust is. You're able to start building the trust and actually start from a healthy place. So what you said at the start, the first point, I mean, both points were perfect, but the first point really, it made me think about a million people I know that are in the mindset that if they can find a relationship, it will help fix their problems, but they are fundamentally like not ready for a relationship. So they go through this like vicious, negative reinforcing cycle of like, they weren't ready for a relationship, they got into one, tolerated toxic treatment, smashed their self-esteem even more, which meant that they were even less ready for a relationship, but meant that they wanted one more, because they wanted to fill the crack in their self-esteem with a person. And you see them on this sort of like repeated rejection cycle of these toxic relationships, and it's like going downwards 'cause it's smashing their self-esteem more and more each time, which is making them want a relationship more and more, but making them less capable of having one. And I watch it play out on social media, I'm like, Jenny, I make Jenny stop. I'm like, oh, she's got another boyfriend! Six months later, I'm like, oh no, it's-- - No, no, no, no. - And social media, what it's doing is Jenny's waking up in the morning and she's seeing the car, like Kylie Jenner looks happy on that yacht with her boyfriend in this, so these happy people in front of me are happy because of their perfect relationships, and it's that awful spiral, so to say to someone, work on yourself, - Yeah. - It feels, it's like well now. - It's the equivalent of like, telling people who wanna get a six-pack to like eat vegetables. - Yeah, it's fine. - You know, it's correct, but it's the last thing anybody wants to-- - Yeah, for how long? - No, give me the secret five-day workout routine that's gonna, you know, it's like, no, there isn't one. Yeah, it's interesting because these things, they work, there's like a, they work in an upward cycle and a downward cycle, you know, and you just described like the downward spiral room. But it also works the other way around too, because once you're working on yourself, and like the work on yourself never ends, right? So like once you are working on yourself and you find somebody who's working on themselves and you're able to communicate about it, then you make each other better. - Yeah. - Which makes you feel even more confident and more proud of yourself and more solid in who you are, which then just enables you to work on yourself even more. And so it creates an upward spiral as well. Like one way, I told a friend a couple years ago, 'cause he was kind of having trouble. He was like, you know, our emotions blind us, right? So it's like getting in that new relationship, like falling for that person, like it feels so good. And generally the way the brain works is like when something feels good, we convince ourselves that it is good. And when something feels bad, we convince ourselves that it is bad. So he was like, yeah, it just, it feels so good that like I really think like that, that yeah, we are being honest and open and we are working on ourselves. And I think it's healthy. And then six months go by and I realized that it's completely toxic and a disaster. And so I told him, I said, you know, the best way I can describe it is when you're in an unhealthy relationship or a relationship that's not quite working right. Like you're not completely being open or on the same page. It feels like pushing a boulder up a hill. Like you're always pushing hard, you know, you feel like you need to always be pushing to like kind of keep things stable and in place. Whereas a healthy relationship, it feels like pushing a rock down a hill, you know? It's like you just give a little bit of a tug and it just goes. - Flows, yeah. - You know, like you don't, at some point, it doesn't even feel like you're putting effort into it anymore. I mean, you are working on it, but it's like every amount of effort that you put in is immediately being matched by the other person. And so it's like, you no longer feel like you're just fighting constantly to like keep things stable. - And you'll pick a part through phase where you learnt these lessons. Eventually you came out at the other end as we all did. - Yeah. - My girlfriend's listening now. We all have come out. - We're all well out of that phase. Let it be known. - But eventually you come out of it and you know, you write about how you realize that wasn't a fulfilling long-term way to live.

Trying to find purpose (34:12)

- Yeah. - Just, you know, chasing women around nightclubs, trying to pick them up and ultimately trying to sleep with them, right? - Yeah. - When you slept with a lot of women at this point and you decided it wasn't the life for you? - No, what I started to realize, you know, and this realization happened on a number of dimensions around the same time, you know, 'cause the business started doing well and I started traveling a lot. You know, there are generally anything, so in subtle art I talk about, I make a distinction between happiness and highs. And this distinction, it was pretty profound for me because we tend to, we tend to mistake highs for happiness, right? So meeting an attractive person or sleeping with an attractive person for the first time, that's a high. Make it a bunch of money, that's a high. Having, you know, winning an award or an accolade or going to like some exotic vacation, putting it on Instagram, getting a ton of likes, like that's a high. And highs are nice, like we all love having highs and we do need a certain amount of highs in our life, but highs are not happiness. Happiness is actually kind of the inversion of that in a lot of ways. Happiness is oftentimes actually unpleasant, you know? Happiness is, it's not the check that comes, you know, from the successful product launch, it's the work that goes into that product launch. Happiness is the satisfaction, it's, you know, it's not like the peak, the super romantic date. Happiness is being able to like sit at home on the couch and not say anything and be completely satisfied. Like it's, happiness is actually often very boring. And so in my 20s, you know, it started with women and parties and then it kind of went to business. You know, I wanted to grow a big successful business and then I did that and I made a bunch of money and then I traveled around the world and I lived in all these crazy exotic places and, and I started to realize that like these are just highs. And the thing about highs is that the more you get, the more you need to get that same feeling, right? So if you've never left your home country before, that first trip is like life changing. It's incredibly impactful. But if you've been the 50 countries, going to the 51st, you're just like, "Ugh, yeah, that flight sucked." Like, you know, like you're complaining about the taxi driver. Like, you know, 'cause it's, you'd need that much more to get that same hit. And so it becomes a very dangerous thing to, to kind of put all of your focus on these things because of that diminishing returns. It takes more and more effort to kind of achieve that same sense of satisfaction or pleasure. So I really started asking myself like, you know, what is, what are the things that I'm willing to give up? What you also don't realize is that you're, you have to give up a lot for those highs. So like, if you do want to party all the time and sleep with lots of people, you're giving up the opportunity to have a stable relationship with somebody for a long period of time. You're giving up the comfort that comes with that or the security that comes with that. If you're traveling all the time and living all over the world, like you're giving up the stability of a community, of knowing your neighbors, of, you know, having, being able to see your friends consistently. Like, there's all these subtle, unsexy things that you're giving up to chase the highs that you don't really realize you're giving them up until you've given them up for a long time. So I started to realize that and kind of like re, like rethink my whole understanding of what happiness and success is in general. - So I'm keen to get into the details there, but I can jump in ahead a little bit. Is that a, well, is that an easy thing to do? I guess that's my question. Because when you've got that childhood forcing you of like the insecurities and the social acceptance and that's always gonna be in, you know, and it can rear its ugly head if those kind of insecurities are somewhat triggered as even as an adult. And it can say, you know, you need to fit in, you need to get by that thing, you need to travel, you need to be more successful. But then you've got this new set of like conscious values you're describing where you're saying, well, no, I value these things, but then that little demon on your shoulder saying, "Bye the fucking Lamborghini." - But you know what I mean, like, how do you? - Well, I think a lot of it is, you know, I think a lot of value, like changing your values. And again, I think I say this in subtle art. Like you can't just sit on the couch and think your way out of your values. Like you need to go live them and then have them fail you, really. And for me that, that, what that looked like, you know, going out and kind of living this fantasy life of partying all around the world and hooking up with all these girls and then just having that fail me and realize that it's actually very empty and realize after a few years that you're literally not keeping in touch with all, you know, all these people who you thought like, "Oh my God, we're gonna be friends forever." And then three years go by and you realize you're not keeping in touch with any of these people. And then you go on Facebook and you see like, that now they're married and they just had a kid and they're so happy and you're like, "Shit, I'm like still doing the same thing." Like I'm still drinking on a beach with the same people for like the third year straight, like something's not right here. And in the case of money, it's like, I think sometimes people have to buy that Lamborghini and realize it doesn't fix anything. Yeah. - That was me. - Like it's fun for a week or a month or like you get to go show your friends or your parents or whatever and then they don't really care. - You're so right in what you said earlier as well what linked to that point is like, I remember buying the big house, like seven bedroom house with a tennis court out in the countryside. The cost was I was now an hour and a half away from my friends. They couldn't come anyway. Like I was there for nine months before I was like, I said to the Lam, I was like, please let me out. And I moved into this like one bed right in the middle of the city because in fact, I had exchanged like the status ego, I bought into the status and ego of having this big house but the cost was no one could come and see it. I was lonely as fuck. It meant that my commute to work was three hours there and back. It's like a terrible insecure decision at 21 years old. Right? So, but I had to do it. Like Steve had to find like taste that himself and have it fail me as you say. - Yeah. I know I'm jumping ahead of you but Will's got a great story in his book. So. - For context, you wrote Will Smith's brand new book called Will. - Yep. - Try to think. - So Will had a hit record when he was a senior in high school, he was 17. And of course, he went out and bought like four different cars and a bunch of motorcycles bought a house. And he has this great moment where he lined up all of his cars and motorcycles outside his new house and then invited his dad over. And his dad shows up and he's like, "Yo, what's up, Pops? "Like, what do you think?" You know? And his dad's like, "These all yours?" And he's like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. "What do you think?" His dad goes, "Man, what the fuck are you doing? "You only got one ass. "What do you need four cars for?" And sure enough, like two years later, he went broke. You know? He spent all of his money. Yeah. He spent all of his money and didn't pay taxes. So that's a bad combination. - Damn, you really have, you know? And I always think this, 'cause I've read a lot of quotes and I've read a book and stuff. And I always say in my writing, like, my words will never overcome your insecurities. That thing that kid said to you when you were seven years old or your dad said to you, will always be a stronger force in your life than some 140 character quote that I say about how you should be living your life. - Right, right. - Go do the work, right? And learn that for yourself. - Why should you drink fuel? We're going into the fourth quarter of the year. Diets are dropping off. We're becoming lazier and lazier. And what tends to happen when our diets dip and we start to become less compelled to go to the gym is, yeah, we get out of shape, we start to feel low energy, we start to binge eat bad things. And fuel is the antidote. It's nutritionally complete. So you get everything you need for your diet in a drink. You get your 20 grams of proteins, you're gonna get your 26 vitamins and minerals. It's low sugar, high in fiber. It really is the cure to a lot of the health issues that we see in our personal lives, but in wider society. If you've never tried it, all I'll ask you to do is give it a try. And if you like me, then you will like the world, berry ready to drink. You'll like the mac and cheese, which is just selling like absolutely crazy, unsurprisingly. You'll like the cinnamon and you'll like the banana flavor. Those are my recommendations. I know a lot of people love the chocolate flavor. Let me know, try it, get yourself healthy and send me a message on Instagram. Tag me on Instagram as well on your stories. If you do try it out, 'cause I sometimes upload those tags and let me know which is your favorite flavor. Can't wait to hear from you.

Why you have to treat people well (43:55)

One of the things you say is that you're one rule for life is each person must never be treated only as a means to some other end, but must also be treated as an end to themselves. Yeah. Please tell me what that means. It's a little philosophical. It actually comes from the philosopher Kant. Yeah. It basically means that like, I think anything that is unethical or unhealthy, it's because we're not, we're treating another person as a means to another end. So if you're kind of using somebody for their money or if you're manipulating somebody to try to get a job or a promotion or something, or if you're just straight up stealing from somebody or lying to them, in all of those cases, you're valuing some external thing, whether it's money or a car or prestige, more than the person themselves. And to me, it's just kind of like, when I look at every useful piece of advice whether in personal development or just how to be a good person, how to be an ethical person, it all comes right back down to that rule. Like you, everything you do, it needs to be ultimately for the betterment of yourself or others. Like making yourself a better person and making other people better too. And anytime you deviate from that, you're either going to get into ethical trouble or you're going to get into toxic relationships. - Like if I've got a car that I'm selling and I know that it's faulty, but I invite someone over and I say, this is the best car in the world, please buy it. - It's unethical and you're using that person as a means to an end. In a personal development context, it's like if you're dating somebody, not really 'cause you like them, but because you want to impress your friends, then you're using that person as a means to some other end. And it's like that relationship is going to go south really fast, like it's going to get ugly. So it's not just ethical, it's practical. You know, Kant Bennett, like said it in ethical terms, but I just kind of realized that it's like, all good personal development advice is essentially the same thing. It's like treat people well, like place people before money, before accolades, before attention or status, like always put people first and everything else kind of takes care of itself. - And that's the long term game, right? - Yeah. - Because in the short time you might sell the car, but in the long term, your reputational damage and your general sense of feeling inside. - Yeah, which you see all the time in internet businesses, right? Like it's, you see kind of those sleazy sales letters that are pushing a questionable product. And sure, maybe they have a big like $5 million launch, but they've just completely destroyed, you know, eventually all those people who bought are going to realize that the product is shit and they're never going to buy from you again. And so you've, yeah, you made millions of dollars up front, but you've completely destroyed your brand and you're going to have to start over from scratch. Whereas if you kind of start with the people in mind and you focus on the good product, the good relationship, giving people good value, you make less money up front, but then those people stick with you forever, product after product after product. - You, I was watching your conversation with Tom Billion.

How to figure out what you actually want (47:33)

I found it really, really interesting and important because one of the things you talk about when we're talking about, you know, deciding what you want to do with your life, whether it's a business or you're going to be a pick up artist or whatever it is, is this the importance of asking the question why? And in the society and culture we live in, especially one that's so driven by comparison where your values are almost being handed to you by Instagram and the Kardashians, like this is how, this is what you should value. Like I almost, I've almost felt, I remember one day a kid came up to me after I did this like big talk on stage and he said, I want to be a public speaker. And he was like 17. And you're thinking that you've got nothing like you. - Yeah. - What are you going to talk about? And it's really what he's saying is like, he doesn't want to be a public speaker. He wants the admiration. He thinks public speakers get probably because he's insecure. - Yeah. - And so many kids, including myself as a young kid, we don't actually know what we want. We have no fucking clue. But what we probably want is not to be insecure and get laid. Like at the heart of it. And the pursuit of that, as you've described, takes us down a dark alley to the wrong place, usually a dead end as well. So how do I figure out what I actually want in my life, without it being Kardashian noise or Instagram? Like what do I want and how do I find out? - I think, so it's a tricky thing, right? Because again, I think you kind of have to get it wrong. It's like the relationships. You need to get a couple wrong before you know how to get it right. And I think it's the same in pursuing a career or finding a purpose in life. Like you need to get it wrong a couple times because we're experts at tricking ourselves. You know, it's like that kid he wants admiration, right? But if you ask them in his head, he's like, no, no, no, I'm just really passionate about communicating with people. I love people. You know, and it's like, we all do that to ourselves. We all like, we find the admirable narrative to kind of explain what we want in the world. So I think you need to go through, you need to hit a couple dead ends. You know, it's like that kid, he probably should go get on stage. And give the speeches and get the applause. And then realize that the applause doesn't solve anything. That he's still just as insecure as he was before. Because then once he does that, then he'll be ready to ask that question of like, why do I want to do that? Like, why am I really doing this? It's almost a question you have to earn in a lot of ways. - Interesting. - You know, and I feel like a lot of people they just want to start there. And it's like, no, no, no, you have to like, 'cause look, we're all like the Kardashian thing, right? Like, like the reason that stuff is so popular is because we are wired to value it. We're wired to want status. We're wired to want to be beautiful and sexy. And we're wired to want to impress others. Like that's never going to go away. The question is, is like, what do you want once that is kind of removed from the equation? But I think mentally to be able to remove it from the equation, you have to try to get some of it first and see that it doesn't work. That makes sense. - And what did you come to learn for yourself? Once you got that stuff, you had the money, you had lots of success in the field with pick up artistry. And you tried all of these things and you tried the cars and what did you come to learn that you value? - Well, I had an interesting experience in my career, which we were joking about it before we went live, was like, I kind of had this real estate. So I started the pick up stuff when I was like 21, 22. And then I started coaching and like teaching, dating advice, probably when I was like 23, 24. And I got to like my late twenties and it suddenly, it started to dawn on me that like, this is cool now, but in like five years, it's going to be really creepy. You know, like it's one thing to be a 25 year old who's like taking a bunch of dudes out to like talk to girls in a club. It's very different to be like a 35 year old guy who's taken out a bunch of dudes to talk to 20 year old girls in a club. Like it just, it's a much different look. And I also just realized I'm like, I don't want to do this forever. Like this is fun, but like, I, this is actually not fulfilling in any way whatsoever. Like I need to find what my next thing is going to be. And during that period when I was doing all the dating relationship advice, I started to realize, especially like a lot of clients, a lot of guys who hired me, you know, I take them out to the bar and we talked to some girls or whatever. But after a year or two, I realized like, what these guys really need as a therapist? You know, it's their problem, you know, they're good guys, like they're smart. They're like, they've got a good job. They're sure they're a little bit nervous talking to a girl, but like who isn't? What really what they're, most of their problems were like very deep seated insecurities, emotional issues. And they hadn't dealt with it yet. And so the last couple of years I did that job, I would kind of just take the guys to the bar as an excuse and then sit down with them and be like, okay, let's like, what's really going on in your life? You know, like, like, let's get into why do you feel so insufficient or unworthy of, you know, dating her or talking to her or whatever. And so I kind of realized that like, you know, what I should be writing about is this stuff, you know, the like the three best first dates or like how to get her to reply to your text every time. Like I was writing stuff like that back then 'cause it got traffic and it would get sales. But I'm like, that's not what people actually need. That's not what they need to hear. What they need to hear is kind of this deeper stuff about self-esteem and self-worth and vulnerability. And so I made that decision to pivot into that, to stop being the dating coach and actually start writing about personal development and emotional health. Because that's something I knew I could be proud of. And I could do for the rest of my life, you know, you can be a 50 year old talking about those things and it's still like something you can hang your hat on. Like, but I never would have gotten there if I hadn't done the dating coach stuff. If I hadn't kind of been obsessed with the like, yeah, let's go to the club and like try to get laid. Like that's the entry point, right? And then you find the deeper stuff along the way.

The values that allow you to be fulfilled (54:15)

- And that's your sort of now your professional value, I guess, the one of the things you've valued professionally. But in terms of like holistically, when you look at your whole life, one of the things where the values at the heart of Mark that allow him to be, you know, fulfilled, stable and yes, it's sustainable, like the sustainable values that you think can last you. Because of these values, I will be somewhat, you know, content and fulfilled for the next 30, 40 years, holistically. - Gotcha. So, I mean, the answer is gonna sound really banal, but like, but it's true. You know, I think probably the biggest one for me is honesty and not just honesty, you know, with the people in my life. Like, honesty is a standard that I hold kind of everybody, all my friends and everybody I work with too. But it's also something I hold myself to, being honest with myself. I think generosity is one that I've discovered. Again, it's one of those things that when you do make all the money, like you do make a buttload of money, you learn that it's so much more fun to spend it on other people than it is yourself. Like, it feels so much better and it means a lot more. Like, it creates those really powerful moments that you do remember for the rest of your life, whereas the Lamborghini you forget about. - I mean, 22 seats, right? - Yeah, you know you have one asked. - Communities are interesting one that you talk about often having a community is something that I disregarded when I was pursuing just becoming rich myself was connection. And it was actually, I think a TED talk I saw where the TED talk was telling me that men who have been in a relationship and had strong relationships live longer or healthier or happier. And I was thinking, what? 'Cause it was a counter narrative to my like, just be rich, you know, thing. - Yeah, community was one that I had to kind of like begrudgingly accept. - Same. - Yeah. 'Cause I always have been such a loner, right? And it, I think living abroad for so long, it kind of forced me to accept my own loneliness, you know? And recognize, and I was, I started achieving a lot of great things in my business and having all these great experiences and then realizing that like nobody I really cared about was around me when it was happening. And so it felt, to a certain degree it felt kind of pointless. So I moved back to the States and settled down and one of my goals when I moved back to the US was like, I wanna have a stable group of friends who are kind of on the same path as me. And it's, yeah, it's one of the best things I did, honestly. - You referenced honesty a second ago, which I find really, another really interesting one. It's a, so when you said honesty, what I understood was being honest about who I am, what I feel, what I think, what I'm passionate about. And stubbornly and unnegotibly protecting my right to be my true self in life. And that, again, it allows a lot of the toxic, insecure stuff to fall away and just wear what you want, be who you are, et cetera, et cetera. How important has that been for you in terms of just like being your true self every day of your life? And is there any tips or tricks you have for, especially someone like you who's in high demand and there's lots of people asking you to do lots of things and be lots of things. And how do you defend that above all? - Honesty, first of all, you can't be your true self without honesty. Like if you're not being honest with yourself and about what you want and what you care about, you're not being your true self. You're deluding yourself. And a huge cornerstone of my work in general is just all the ways we delude ourselves 'cause we delude ourselves in a lot of different ways. So to me, it's a constant work in progress. It's almost like a mental habit that you build. One of the tools is what you mentioned earlier is like constantly asking why, you know, it's like, why am I taking this job? Why am I saying yes to the speaking opportunity? Why do I want to write email newsletters or why do I wanna build my Instagram following? Like really why? And try on different answers. Like always try on the answer you don't wanna hear and see how it feels, see if it feels true or not. Kind of coming back to the community point, when you do find some like-minded people, like people who are also kind of dedicated to honesty and being self-aware, they can be great sounding boards. I mean, my wife is always the first one to tell me when I'm full of shit. You know, which is great. You know, obviously I don't like hearing it in the moment sometimes, but you know, sometimes I'll tell her something and she'll be like, are you sure about that? You know, she'll kind of like start challenging me on it. And you know, and I've learned to take that well and take it seriously. So that's kind of the first part is like, it's something you continue to cultivate throughout your life. Your second question was about bringing that honesty kind of into the world, especially dealing in business dealings and people who ask things. And it's hard, like, it's interesting because I wrote about this in a newsletter once. It's like when you're starting out, you kind of have to say yes to everything. Like it's like you're desperate for opportunity. And so you're just always saying yes, yes, yes. And then a weird like transition happens at some point where you have to start saying no to people or else you're just gonna lose your mind 'cause there's just way more opportunities than you can ever handle. And so you have to like learning to say no gracefully, I think is a very important skill in business and in life. Like being able to like let people down. And in the business context, actually in the personal context as well, what I've kind of found to be like the easiest way to do it is I kind of create rules for myself. And I don't know what it is, but when you tell people I have a rule and this is why I'm saying no, they take it really well. Like they actually respect it. You know, so it's like if somebody comes to me and they're like, hey, I've got this event, this like charity event, it's gonna happen this month. You know, would really love if you were able like, do a video for us or come out or whatever. And it's like, you know, I really don't wanna do it. If I'm just like, hey, sorry, but no, you know, like, then it starts to feel really weird and emotional. Yeah, yeah, exactly, it feels personal. I think that's what it is because, and they started to like, oh no, but like we really want you and like the kids are gonna love it blah, blah, blah. And then you start, you're like, God, I'm a horrible person. And you know, and they're kind of thinking like, wow, Mark Manson's an asshole. Yeah, yeah. But if I go to them and I'm like, look, like my rules I do four events a year, I'm already booked, I'm sorry. Then it was the principle that let them down as opposed to the, you know, you. Yeah. Exactly. And they're like, oh man, I should have emailed sooner. He wants to do it, but the principle said that. Yeah, but it's, but it's true. It's like I'm not lying. It's just I create a rule for myself, you know, another thing, another rule. And it was a really popular article I did is, is a, if it's not a fuck yes, it's a no. And so what I've learned is that a lot of times turning people down, I'll say like, look, I have a rule for myself, you know, if I'm gonna do something, I need to be a fuck yes about it. Like I need to be all in and 100% like dedicated to it. And I said, I'm not feeling that with this. I wouldn't be able to give it my full energy and attention that, and it deserves that. So I'm gonna say no, you know. And so when you put it that way, they're like, huh, good guy Mark Manson, like looking out for me, you know. So it's, there's like, I think there's some tactic. There's like good and bad ways to say no to people. - One of the other things that I really loved when I was reading all of your work is this undercurrent of personal responsibility that runs through everything.

Personal responsibility (01:02:55)

And in our society, for whatever reason, people don't like that. Some people really don't like that idea of personal responsibility that you might be, more so than you believe responsible for the circumstances of your life. Because for some people, that shines, that turns the mirror on them and says, you've got no one to blame. It's not the government, it's not this, that, this your uncle, whatever, it's the decisions you've made. And for some people, that's a motivating thing. It's liberation. Oh, I'm in control. Okay. But it feels like some people would rather there be a puppet master to point to. - Yeah. - So what's your beliefs and thoughts on personal responsibility, the importance of it? And if you can as well, like why some people hate it? - I think to me, responsibility is kind of like the core, understand, like if there's no personal responsibility, nothing else is ever gonna work or improve. You know, to improve anything you have to believe you have some sort of power influence on it. And if you have some sort of power influence, you're responsible for that power and influence. So if you just reject the idea that you're responsible for an area of your life, like it's like, I'm not responsible for my shitty relationships. It's all their fault. You're basically disempowering yourself from ever improving them because you're rejecting the idea that you have any influence on them. I think the reason, or one reason why people really kind of bristle at the idea is, I think we tend to mistake responsibility and fault, right? So if I'm like a typical dumb American and walk, try to cross the street in London, looking the wrong way and I get hit by a car, you know, it's not my fault that I got hit by a car, but it's still my responsibility. Like I still need to take control of my recovery. I need to like take care of my body. I need to decide, you know, what I'm gonna do. There's a responsibility in every moment because in every moment we're choosing what to do, what to perceive, what to believe, what to focus on. Like that choice is happening every single moment. And because that is a choice, there's responsibility for that choice, right? I use the example in subtle art of like, if somebody left a newborn baby on your doorstep, it's not your fault that there's a baby on your doorstep. But it sure should is your responsibility. Like you have to do something. Like you can't just shut the door and be like, not my baby. Like it just doesn't work that way. And so I think particularly people who have had a lot of bad things happen in their life and those things are not their fault. It's very, very difficult for them to accept responsibility because well, for a couple of reasons. One is it's once you accept responsibility, it means you have to do something. You have to change something. You have to change your perspective. You have to change your actions. You have to change your beliefs. And all of those things are very uncomfortable. But I think the other thing is that a lot of times people get very attached to their stories, right? So a terrible thing happens to them. It kind of fucks them up. And that becomes their identity. Like that's how they get sympathy from other people. It's how other people know them. It's the basis of a lot of their relationships. And so they're actually afraid to let it go, right? Like it's actually a scary thing to let go of that identity. So yeah, it's a hard thing to do, but we all have to kind of go through that struggle. - It's really interesting. It's something that I see a lot in our culture at the moment specifically with young people 'cause I think Instagram has created more of a community for that kind of like, I'm gonna just be honest, that kind of like self-pity and blame. And the algorithms are now kind of reinforcing that. And you'll get more likes if you do the, it's, you know, but not. - I heard it referred to as the Victimhood Olympics. - Yes, exactly. - Yeah. - Which is like, oh, you win. I feel like you've had the worst shit happening. Here's your medal. - One of the kind of self-development tropes or like piece of advice that I hear often that's linked to that is that happiness is a choice.

Is happiness a choice? (01:07:43)

How do you feel about that phrase? - I mean, I think it's fundamentally true. Obviously, I think it's a little more complicated than that. But it kind of comes back to what I was saying. Like you, I think when people say that what they're referring to is like, in every moment you get to choose what to focus on, right? So if a car hits me in the middle of the street here, I can either focus on how unlucky I am and how unfair this is and how it fucked up my press trip to the UK and all this stuff. You know, or I can focus on something else. I can focus on, you know, how fortunate I am to survive. How, you know, and I think this is where kind of like the positive thinking stuff was intended to refer to, you know, like classic self-help of like just think positive. Like this is what it was trying to say, but it kind of got distorted and turned into this weird delusional thing. But it's basically like, you know, in every single moment you are choosing how to see things. And so in that sense, you can always choose in every moment to see things in a way that makes you feel better. And it's not easy. It's actually really, really hard. But in that sense, happiness can be a choice. Like it's always within your power. There's no person on earth that the happiness has been removed from their brain. Like it's all in there. It's all in you. It's just a question of, do you know how to access it? And will you access it? Will you choose to? - And one of the things that does feel like a choice link to that is the expectations that we choose for life. And you write about how expectations can really be a curse of happiness. - Yeah. So why are expectations a potential curse? And why are they dangerous? And how do we set better expectations then? - Well, expectations are dangerous because, you know, I think there's a, I forget who came up with it. But I think it's, there's this like old equation where it's like happiness equals reality minus expectations. You know, so if you have these like huge, unreasonable expectations for yourself, you're always going to be disappointed. But then it's a double edged sword because if you have like tiny expectations for yourself, then you're not going to try to do anything. So like there's this weird balance where, I mean, I prefer kind of like more of the Buddhist take, which is like, just don't have expectations. Like just don't expect anything. - Is that possible? - No, but it's kind of like honesty, right? Like it's, you never completely get there, but you should still try. And it's, and it's particularly useful I find in managing anxiety, you know, because anxiety tends to come from just either irrational or outsized expectations, right? So it's like, you're about to go on stage and talk to a bunch of people. And your expectation is like, I'm going to bomb. I'm going to look like a fool, like people are going to laugh at me. And it's because of that expectation that you start feeling, a lot of anxieties start feeling terrible. Whereas if you just kind of take the expectation of, you know, this is just another moment, you know, it's going to happen. People are probably not going to remember it. Like it just is, it's going to be whatever it's going to be. It can eliminate a lot of that. I do that with my book launches, because obviously like any author, I'm like, probably was probably the same with you. Like you know, that when your book is coming out, like you're like crippled on the floor, like everybody's going to hate me. They're all going to laugh at me, you know? And it's, to me, it just helps to just remove any assumption of like what it's going to be. You know, don't assume it's going to do well, but don't assume it's going to do poorly. Like it's, it's going to do what it's going to do. And you're going to be fine either way. So even though you know that, do you still feel? Of course. Yeah, of course. Of course, like you never, the anxiety never goes away, but it gets managed, right? Do you suffer with anxiety?

Mental health (01:12:00)

Yeah, for sure. And how long have you suffered with it? I mean, it's forever. I mean, I am human. Yeah. So there's kind of like a, I see it, well, I see it as a spectrum almost. There's like on one end of it, it might be, and if I sound super naive here, it's because I am. Like there might be nervousness before, you know, pre-performance anxiety. And then there's like the daily struggle with anxiety, which can be like debilitating, I guess. Yeah, I think the way most people look at emotions, they look at emotions in terms of intensity. And I think that's not the right way to look at it. Like it's everybody feels anxiety. It doesn't matter. Like the most confident person on the planet feels anxiety. It's what's different between somebody who seems very confident and somebody who seems to, the ability to, is that the person who seems confident is managing their anxiety very well. They're channeling the anxiety very effectively into their actions and behaviors. Whereas the person who's debilitated by it is not. So in that sense, I see managing emotions, it's like a skill, right? And I think this, we all kind of know this. Like we all know somebody who's like very good at managing their anger, or somebody who's very good at managing their anxiety. And we all probably know somebody who's very bad at managing their anger. Somebody who's very bad at managing their anxiety or managing their sadness. And so I think it's, we each kind of have like a natural talent for some emotions and not others. And so it's something we kind of have to learn. Like you learn to feel the anxiety and then use that energy, kind of adopt the right mindsets and beliefs around it and then use that energy in a way that's effective. - You write about how, especially in everything is fucked, a book about hope, how mental health ailments are somewhat increasing in the world, it appears, some people say that it's because we're like, diagnosing more. - Overdiagnosing more. - Yeah, whatever. I would assert if I was to be to guess and based on the information that I've seen, and I'm a big, heavily involved in a company called Atailive Sciences, which is in the psychedelic space. We look at schizophrenia and depression and anxiety. It does appear to be increasing. It appears to be getting more anxious. And my general belief, which is not backed by anything, is that how could we not be in a world where there's so much stimulation? If you go back to our tribal roots versus today, it's just constant. So anxiety and thinking about the future and depression and these things are probably increasing. You talk about how a lack of something to strive for is at the root cause of a lot of this and how as life has got more comfortable, we've got into trouble. - Yeah. - There's, so a lot of that book revolved around kind of this interesting paradox. There seems to be a very, very subtle trade-off between comfort and meaning. And kind of a very simple example is like, if you imagine, if you remember like back like a hundred years ago, right? Like most of the population is living on farms. There's wars going on all the time. There's diseases all the time. It's very easy to know what to hope for. It's very easy to know what gives your life meaning. Like you got to get the food harvested for next season. Like you got to feed, you know, your eight kids or whatever it is, or you got to survive the war. And so these kind of existential questions of like, what is my purpose? And like, what am I here to do? And am I using my talents the most effectively? Like these don't even enter into the equation. Like it's just pure survival. And it's kind of what I was referring to either like earlier that that why question is almost a privilege. Like you almost earn it, right? And I think our society has become so affluent and comfortable that we're starting at that why question. Right? So it's if you're a young person today, you've grown up with this incredible technology. You have access to all of the information in the world. You're more educated than anybody in human history. You, if you are fortunate enough to go to university, like you're going to have tons and tons of career opportunities and job opportunities. So this question of like, who am I? Why am I here on earth? What am I meant to do? Is this the best use of my time? Like these are really fucking hard questions to answer. And we're hitting people with them when they're like 16, 17. So to me, it makes sense. Like, and to me, it's like, it's a very silent cost of our affluence and comfort. Makes perfect sense to me. And so just in my own life, I think one of the most diss, I've talked about this before, one of the most destabilizing, disorientating moments of my life was when I was, I had financial freedom. Yeah. And in fact, it was on the day where someone offered me financial freedom. So it was when someone offered to buy my company and I talk about this, I go home. And I'm sat here thinking, but then what? Like, I'm going to give up my like, 'cause I was trying to make it survive. Like, and someone comes along and says, "We'll give you X tens of millions." And, you know, I'm 25 and I'm thinking, "But then what am I going to do with my life?" And I'm trading off my purpose for this big pile of cash, which isn't going to give me purpose. So I had a bit of an existential crisis there, figuring out what my actual Y was. And I didn't think it was much, I felt like life was much easier before that when my clear, Maslowian objectives were like food, water, shelter, and not self-actualization. That's a really crazy thing that when you make people comfortable and free, you give them-- An existential crisis. An existential crisis, yeah. Of me being right. You like trade physical hardship for emotional, mental hardship. And obviously, I think most of us would choose the emotional, mental hardship over the physical hardship. But it's funny, I mean, I had a very similar experience after subtle art took off. You know, massive royalty checks start coming in. And, you know, for like 10 years before that, my big goal in life was like, I want to be a best-selling author. I want to, like, I want to be one of the most popular authors and bloggers in the world, you know? And then it happens and all this money shows up. And it really fucked with me. And it's funny 'cause I've talked about this in a few interviews and and it usually like they have no idea what I'm talking. Like it's one of those things like you feel like such an ass talking about it 'cause it's people are just like, yeah, yeah, fuck you. Like, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Like, I'll take that problem any day, but it's true. But it's anti climax, miserable, or that kind of-- Yeah, I just honestly, I just kind of sat on the couch and played a lot of video games 'cause I'm like, well, what now? Like any book I write is not gonna, you know? So that's not super exciting. All like grinding on my internet business, which I had been doing for seven or eight years up to that point, it's like suddenly like, I've got more money than I ever expected. So it's like, okay, I don't need to grind that hard anymore. So what do I do? Like what, what am I really doing? Again, it comes back to like earning that why. Like I really had to ask like, what am I really doing this for? Like I, obviously I believe in the message of the book and everything, but again, like you kind of alluded to, like when you're coming up, it's very exciting and it's very easy to know what you're gunning for. Like you've got the North Star orientation. And you've got nothing to lose, right? You know, it's like, it's like business fails, whatever. Like I was, I started broke, I'll be broke again. Like, you know, like let's make it happen. But then once you get there and you're like, shit, I've got contracts, I've got an agent, I've got an audience, I've got a team. Suddenly like it's, there's a lot to lose and it becomes a lot harder to know, like what are you gunning for? You know, like what are you, what's the next mountaintop, right? - Was that a low moment for you? Psychologically mentioned? - Strangely, yeah. Yeah, I actually, the year after subtle art came out was probably the most depressed I've been since I was a teenager. And yeah, it's, you know, there were a few people in my life that I could talk to about it and understood. But so here's the funny thing. Again, you feel like such an ass, like, it's like you're literally experiencing the most success of your entire career and you feel so aimless and lost. And I remember the first person I came across, I've got a friend in New York who was the co-founder of a unicorn startup. And I remember he was the first person I mentioned it to and he was like, well, yeah, of course, you know? And he was like every founder has this, like it happens all the time. And then the other group of people that I found that understood, I did some podcasts with some famous comedians and every single one of them was like, of course, dude, like every comedian who gets their first special, they're like the year after is like the worst year of their life. - I completely get it. I struggled with understanding why. Am I in grateful? - Yeah. - Am I in the right? But that's really fascinating. I don't think it's not something that I knew about you, but of course, if I'd really thought about it, I would've been able to guess that that wouldn't have been. - Yeah, it's, I think part of it too is the velocity of success. - Yeah. - I think if it had happened more gradually, 'cause like my online business, right? Like my online business basically grew like 10, 20% a year like eight years straight. So it ended up being a, making a lot of money. But it was, each year was like 20% better than the last year. So it's like my mind had time to adjust, but then this comes along and suddenly you're like, you know, 500 X-ing or 200 X-ing, whatever you were at before. And like your brain just can't keep up. Like it's, how did you like recalibrate and come out the other end? And how did you kind of readjust your thinking to say, okay, we're gonna strive for things now. We know that it might not reach the meteoric success of this, but there's another, you know, set of foundations that way. - It's funny. So the next book, "Everything is Fucked" was very much motivated by all this, you know? So it's the core thesis that we just talked about and everything is fucked is like, what is it about being comfortable and affluent that like? - Fucks with you. - Oh yeah, it makes us so like neurotic, you know? And it's 'cause I was going through that. So that it's like, I've always written the books that I need to read. And so "Everything is Fucked" was exactly kind of what I needed to read. There's a lot of like just subtle mental adjustments. You know, again, like realizing that I can say no to a lot of this stuff. Like it took me like a year or two to realize like, I don't have to accept all these speaking games. Like, you know, I'm tired. I'm like, I'm exhausted. Like I don't have to say yes, I don't need the money. Like you could start saying no to this stuff. You know, that, it took a while for that to sink in and then kind of finding another why. You know, like I think for me it was, it was, you know, so much of my identity and I actually didn't realize this until the pandemic. But like so much of my identity was kind of wrapped up in like being the upstart internet blogger who's kind of like, you know, overcoming, you know, somehow overcomes the odds and becomes this huge best selling author. Like a big part of my identity was wrapped up in that. And I realized that holding onto that was not helpful. It was actually kind of, that was a big part of what was making me miserable. And so letting go of that and just kind of accepting like, okay, I'm an author now, but you know, maybe I won't be forever or yeah, I'm an internet entrepreneur, but maybe I won't be forever. Like, you know, it doesn't. - You know what you're labeled. - Exactly. Like I can go do anything that I want. Like I'm not like beholden to this narrow lane that I lived in for so long. And so kind of coming to that realization was actually very, very helpful. - So two points there then, you talked about finding your new why, coming out of that. And the other point was about learning to say no.

Finding your new why (01:25:30)

Let's start first then with learning how to say no. You're in a phase of your life now where you're between projects. - Yep. - Right? You've been working very hard for a long period of time as you said before we start recording six years. And so how do you thought, so six years of working very, very hard, your projects have been ticked off. Obviously you're in the UK on your press run. Well, it's books coming out, which you've just written. So how does, how do you approach switching off and that phase of being in between work? You know, in a culture and amongst a narrative where you should always be climbing and working or, - Yeah. - For some reason that feels like it's connected to our sense of worth, right? And in society if we're not working and we're not striving. - Yeah, I think, so the kind of that hustle culture, right? Like, I think there is value in that. Like, I'm extremely grateful that I did learn the work really, really hard, like ridiculously hard. I think that's a very valuable life skill. And for people who are young or starting out or starting their business, like I think it's incredibly valuable to learn that and to cultivate that. But I think kind of what I've discovered the last year or two is like, there's a lot of value in also learning how to find the off switch, because it's very easy to kind of become compulsive about work and also develop kind of a, this irrational belief that like, if you stop, it's all gonna disappear. You know, it's like, oh, if I take a week off, like all the traffic's gonna go away and the book sales are gonna stop. And it's completely irrational, but like it's when you're caught up in that, that constant hustling and striving, like that's what it feels like. To me, it's, I finally hit a point about Midway through this year that I had no major project. Like the Will book was done. I just did a documentary in New Zealand like that. Like all the shooting for that was done. And then my next book is in due to Harper for another year or two. And originally I was gonna start writing that immediately, but then I took a couple of weeks off and I'm like, oh my God, this is so good. Like, this is so good. And so I decided to kind of just take the rest of the year off for many major project and just kind of basically work kind of part-time and manage my online team. And it's been wonderful. Like it's, and it's, the world doesn't collapse. And it's been so recharging for me, not just like in terms of energy, but creativity. And then also kind of this identity piece that I was referring to. Like it's only by getting distance from something that you're able to dis-identify from it. Like, you know, if you're working on something 12 hours a day, you're gonna identify with it. Like it's impossible not to. But then when you pull back, you're actually able to sit there and kind of ask yourself, like, do I wanna be an author forever? Do I wanna have an internet business forever? Do I wanna go, you know? Do I wanna start doing more celebrity memoirs? Do I wanna try to work and film? Like, what do I wanna do? Like, what's the next Y? And I think this is like a really important point that doesn't get talked about enough, is that like, you're, like, there's not this, this predetermined Y out there that just exists forever. Like, your Y is always changing. You know, my Y when I was 25 was get laid, make money and get laid. And, you know, and then my Y in my 30s was, you know, become a big author and super successful and get a lot of attention and accolades. And I'm realizing that like my Y in my 40s is probably gonna be something else. And that's not only is that okay, but that's actually exciting now. - What is it? - I don't know. I don't know. - Suspicions? - I really, I really, so here's the thing, after subtle art, I kind of lost my Y, but I freaked out. Like, it terrified me. Because I think I was still in that mindset of like, this could go away at any moment, you know? And now I'm at a place where I'm like, no, no, no, no. Like, I'm good. You know, it helps that the book is still selling really well. You know, four or five years later, the Will book is doing super well. You know, so it's like, I'm good. Like, this phase of my career is solidified. And as soon as I kind of like, became confident in that, the Y question went from being scary to just exciting. It's like, I get to go play. Like, I can just screw around. Like, I can spend a week just like screwing around with crypto. And like, nobody can tell me not to. Like it's, and it's like, is this a thing? I don't know. Maybe it will be, maybe it won't, you know? Or I can screw around with like, with a screenplay. I feel like I'm like a kid in a sandbox, you know? - So interesting that you've got to that point where you can have freedom without a sense of meaninglessness. - Yeah. - Whereas, which is really interesting. And maybe that's because you have got some projects in the future, you do have a book coming up. - I do have another book, yeah. - But I'm trying to understand what's got you to the place where you can now have the freedom without it being disorientating and meaning. - I think the thing that changed honestly is the confidence that I can do it again. You know, it's, I think one of my deep seated fears when subtle art blew up was like, this is a fluke. I got lucky. So as a result of that, so much of my motivation was like, don't lose it, right? Like, keep fighting, keep posting online, keep writing newsletters, keep the books coming, like promote the shit out of them. You know, we don't wanna lose this. And then I think I kind of hit a point where I'm like, I don't need the fight for it anymore. Like it's not gonna go away. You know, I earned it, it's gonna stick around. I don't need the fight for this forever. - This is gonna. - And so, and then once that happened, yeah, I just, it stopped being about trying to hold on to what I have and it became much more of just like, oh, there's a freedom here, you know, and I could go do some amazing stuff, especially now I have resources and connections and all this stuff. Like, there are a lot of great opportunities that could happen in front of me. And so now it's actually just excitement. Yeah.

Audience Interaction

The last guests question (01:32:12)

- So we just have a tradition. The previous guest leaves a question for the next guest. - Okay. - Our last guest wrote for you. - Yep. - What is your favorite quote? - My favorite quote is from David Foster Wallace. He said, "You'll stop worrying so much "what other people think of you "when you realize how seldom they do." - Kind of dark, but also liberating. - And it requires an explanation because it's so interlinked to what we've been talking about. Thank you so much for your time today. Your books have been, I'm so refreshing in this space because they're so real, they're so multifaceted and nuanced and they present a different perspective on self-help and personal development, which is not often, not often conveyed in a lot of the books that I've read. So your book, I think, was just, your, the subtle art book was such a smash hit because it was so refreshingly, uniquely challenging in so many fundamental ways. And your next book is actually my favorite. Your book after that about hope and about meaning was so, from the narratives that we share was so on the money for me because it answered a lot of those fundamental questions about meaning and the need for struggle, which again, people in our society don't appreciate the need for struggle. The work you're doing is amazing and your new book with Will is more of the same and I can't wait to get stuck into that book as well. Thank you for your time today. Honestly, you're one of the people that in my life that I genuinely was so excited about meeting because of those common narratives and yeah, you're doing a real service to our society. So thank you. - Thanks for that. - Appreciate that. - Thanks. - Quick one. Can you do me a favor if you're listening to this and hit the subscribe button, the follow button, wherever you're listening to this podcast, me and my team use that as an indication whether the episode is good or not based on how many new followers and subscribers we get. Thank you so much.

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