“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. The man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
This quote from the great Mark Twain appears near the end of Mark Manson’s short but very thought-provoking bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. It’s a book that, I should note, is so full of profanity, it is somewhat difficult to quote on this family-friendly website.
Even still, it’s worth the read, especially for entrepreneurs.
Manson starts off by discussing what he calls “The Feedback Loop from Hell.” It goes something like this.
“There’s an insidious quirk to your brain that, if you let it, can drive you absolutely batty. Tell me if this sounds familiar to you. You get anxious about confronting someone in your life. That anxiety cripples you and you start wondering why you’re so anxious. Now you’re becoming anxious about being anxious. Oh no, doubly anxious! Now you’re anxious about your anxiety, which is causing deeper anxiety…
“Or let’s say you have an anger problem. You get pissed off at the stupidest, most inane stuff and you have no idea why. And the fact that you get pissed off so easily starts to piss you off even more. Then in your petty rage, you realize that being angry all the time makes you a shallow and mean person. And you hate this. You hate it so much you get angry at yourself. Now look at you. You’re angry at yourself getting angry for being angry.”
And on and on it goes. This type of debilitating feedback loop can cause extreme decision paralysis and potentially crush one’s self confidence. Complicating matters, having the ability to make decisions and being self-confident are two things that entrepreneurs and real estate investors desperately need. In fact, virtually everybody needs those things.
The problem is that most people care too much about too many things. No, the book’s thesis is not to be nihilistic or indifferent. Instead it’s to substantially narrow the focus of what you care about and what you actually act on (except Manson expresses this thought with a string of expletives).
Seriously though, it is truly shocking how many trivial things we spend so much time and energy caring about.
Indeed, back in high school when I played football, I was devastated whenever we lost a game (which happened fairly routinely). I would even be pretty distraught when the Oregon Ducks (my college team) lost a game, even though I was nothing more than a fan.
While sports are a lot of fun and I still love them, it’s hard to imagine caring anywhere near as much about them as I once did.
While it may not be sports to you, almost everyone has something like this in their life. Many people exert too much energy thinking about the judgment of people they barely know. Others spend too much time chasing quick highs, be it from food, adventures, drugs, or something else.
For even more people, it’s stuff. I’ve made the point before that stuff really isn’t important and is more an impediment to financial freedom than anything else.
But, as Manson shows, it’s also an impediment to your own mental health.
The same can go for the obsession with new experiences and the like. Here’s more from Manson:
“Consumer culture is very good at making us want more, more, more. Underneath all the hype and marketing is the implication that more is always better. I bought into this idea for years; make more money, visit more countries, have more experiences, be with more women. But more is not always better. In fact, the opposite is true. We are actually often happier with less. When we’re overloaded with opportunities and options, we suffer from what psychologists refer to the ‘paradox of choice.’ Basically, the more options we’re given, the less satisfied we become with whatever we choose, because we’re aware of all the other options we’re potentially forfeiting.”
When we narrow the focus of what we care about to what really matters, all of a sudden the rest of it just becomes noise. Who cares if that erratic driver flipped you off? Or if you have to settle for the Honda Accord instead of the Lexus? Or if some troll just left a vicious comment on my fantastic article that he totally misunderstood and is completely off base about?!
Although counterintuitive, it’s commitment that can actually free us—if we commit to the right thing, that is.
Like Manson said, “Commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunities and experiences that would never be available to me no matter where I went or what I did. When you’re pursuing a wide breadth of experience, there are diminishing returns to each new adventure, each new person or thing.”
A while back I wrote an article arguing that it’s very difficult to succeed in real estate if you just dabble. I got a decent amount of pushback for this in comments from readers who, I feel, totally misunderstood the point.
What I was attempting to convey is this: while you can invest in real estate passively, if you really want to make real estate investment a career, it should be a focus.
To focus on one shiny object after another prevents you from spending enough time on any one thing to master it. Directing some attention to too many things introduces constant distractions. You’re being overloaded with opportunities and options.
Manson puts it better than I can: “Rejection of alternatives liberates us. In a strange way, commitment to one thing offers more freedom than anything else because it relieves you of all the second guessing about what else is out there.”
Stripping away the excess fat and letting go of so many of the trivialities that bother us can bring into focus what actually matters. It’s this type of mindset that allows you to make massive improvements in both your life and your business.
Better yet, it allows you to actually be content when doing so!
What do you think? Was Manson onto something?
Leave a comment below.