Why You Need to Stop Caring About Most Things

by | BiggerPockets.com

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. The man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
—Mark Twain

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.

woman shrugging indicating who cacres

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.

Related: Why You Really Don’t Need Expensive Material Goods

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.

person making visual frame with fingertips conveying 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.

Related: How to Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome in a World of Shiny Investment Opportunities

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. 

About Author

Andrew Syrios

Andrew Syrios is a real estate investor in Kansas City and a partner in Stewardship Properties along with his brother and father. Their company owns just over 500 units in four states.

14 Comments

  1. Sarah Kartsher

    At this point in my life. I feel as if the people around me: friends, family, coworkers – are driven to explore every weekend adventure, every job opportunity that sounds good at the time, and to spend money carelessly on things that potentially will have absolutely ZERO significance in a year. In my own life, I have cut out spending and drinking on the weekends to find my focus on saving money/educating myself for my first REI purchase. My observation is if you are overloaded with options in life you are not much happier.

  2. Daren D Wagner

    Good Point Sarah. W. I like where your thoughts are at. While reading this I had a few things pop up into my head.

    1) While watching the Super Bowl this weekend, two sets of friends where talking about buying new cars, a Tesla and Jeep Rubicon (50k plus cars). All I could think about was, “That’s the down payment on two rental properties, Il stick with my paid off ’08 Jeep”. Those same people spent double on a house and continue filling it with meaningless junk. While having admitted to having $0 saved for retirement.

    2) Anxiety, the beast within each of us. I struggled with this on our 1st and 2nd rentals. Now 6 rentals in I have found that anxiety is easily cured by being proactive during the purchasing phase. By being conservative with numbers and making sure I am setting enough aside for CapX and maintenance has helped ease my mind significantly. Also getting a great team in place to manage our properties has been instrumental, “a la David Greene’s book”.

  3. Estelle Angelinas

    Great advice. I agree we often worry about things unnecessarily. Most of the time that which we fear never happens or if it does, it isn’t as bad as we thought. I just usually follow the advice of Ryan Holiday… and let the obstacle become the way. Being anxious doesn’t help, instead it hinders. It prevents you from thinking clearly. Worrying about whether you’ll find a tenant for your rental, before you’ve even bought it. makes no sense. Worrying about things you have no control over doesn’t change anything.

  4. Tim Sabo

    Let’s see if I understand this clearly: stop caring about trivial or what seems like meaningless stuff so you can care for-or focus, as some might say is a better word-on real estate. Hmmm? Sounds like I understand that concept. Thanks, Andrew for this advice. I have been contemplating it for sometime now, but this convinces me more than ever: now is the time for me to give up on BiggerPockets.

  5. Jerry W.

    Andrew,
    I read Manson’s book about 3 years ago. It was a huge help to me during a rough time. I especially like not worrying about things you have no ability to change. Just accept them as they are and move on, only worry about the things you can affect. You cannot control how someone acts towards you to a large extent, but you can control how you react to it. Pick up and move on. Don’t conduct yourself to appease others, conduct yourself in a way you are proud of yourself and that gives you fulfillment.
    you have written some really good articles, but I really like this one. It is not just good business advice it is good life advice. I would also really recommend the book to anyone having a hard time. I no longer have it, I gave it to a friend.

  6. Dave Rav

    Great article!! And so very necessary in today’s world for the investor or folks trying to break out of the Rat Race.

    Too often our minds are increasingly full of nonsense and worry, about inconsequential things in this world of ever-increasing information. So much data is at our fingertips = distraction. Also, some of us are too concerned with what others think. I’m guilty of this, My wife is constantly on me about it, and she is right in many cases.

    You mention sports… Oh man! I’m as big a fan as some, but wow, can it be a super time and brain suck. What (super-aspiring financially successful) adult person can afford to lose a whole day to watching pro sports. Gotta limit your commitment. Many folks dont. They’ll dedicate an entire Saturday or Sunday (shame if both days!!) to tuning in. Imagine what is lost in respect to family, financial planning, fun in your personal life, other work endeavors, household upkeep, I can think of 5 other more important things.

  7. Andrew Lee

    Thanks, Andrew (from another Andrew)! So true–the older I’ve gotten (50 now), the narrower my list of things that really matter, and this is liberating, as you say. Even friends–you learn eventually there are perhaps a dozen or less who you can count on at a moment’s notice for anything anytime. Be friendly, kind, and helpful to all, but give priority to those who have proven to be genuine over the years.

  8. Hyacinth Dolor

    Great article. I too sometimes find myself thinking of what others will think. I’ve now trained my brain to stay focus on the goal and the bottom line. As soon as begin thinking too much, my wife quickly snaps me back in. If I’m alone and the over thinking starts again, I quickly pull out my calculator, family budget, hop on the mls or check the to do list on my properties.

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