You probably thought I was going to start this list off with something cute and cliche like, “Stop caring what people think about you,” right?
Well, fuck that. Let’s offend some people.
I think we should care less about mass shootings and terrorism.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t defend ourselves or that these events don’t matter or that gun violence in general isn’t an issue. I’m simply saying that our emotional and social reactions to mass shooting incidents are both unnecessary and potentially harmful.
First, there are the practical considerations: you’re as likely to die from a refrigerator falling on you as a terrorist attack, and that mass shooting deaths constitute less than 1% of gun-related deaths in the US (pro tip: ⅔ of gun-related deaths are suicides). If we’re going purely by statistical effects on society at large, these don’t even rank in the top 10 in terms of threats or dangers to the population.1
But here is why it seems that mass shootings and terrorism (and let’s be honest, they’re almost the same thing) are such a big deal:
Because they go viral.
Today, culture is dominated by what gets attention for the simple reason that what gets attention spreads the fastest and furthest. And if something dominates our culture, we just assume that that person or event is important.
Let’s call this “The Kardashian Rule.”The Kardashian Rule: The more viral a person or event...
When I was like four years old, despite my mother warning me not to, I put my finger on a hot stove. The stove was red and bright and shiny and I knew yummy food came from it, so the allure was irresistible.
That day I learned an important lesson: really hot things suck. They burn you. And you want to avoid touching them again.
Around the same time, I made another important discovery. The ice cream that my parents would treat me on occasion was stored in the freezer, on a shelf that could be easily accessed if I stood on my tippy toes.
One day, while my mother was in the other room (poor mom), I grabbed the ice cream, sat on the floor, and proceeded to engorge myself with my bare hands.
It was the closest I would come to an orgasm for another ten years. If there was a heaven in my little four-year-old mind, I had just found it. Fucking perfection. My own little bucket of Elysium filled with congealed divinity.
As the ice cream began to melt, I smeared an extra helping across my face, letting it dribble all over my shirt, practically bathing in that sweet, sweet goodness. Oh yes, glorious sugary-milk, share with me your secrets, for today I will know greatness.
…then my mom walked in. And all hell broke loose — including but not limited to a much-needed bath. I learned a lesson that day too. Stealing ice cream and then...
Recently, my wife and I passed by the spot of one of our first dates. For the next few minutes, we smiled and reminisced and rehashed a small happy sliver of our overall shared story. That date had been absolutely magical. One of those nights you dream about when you’re an awkward teenager, but as a young adult, you begin to assume it will just never happen.
And then it does. A night that you only get to experience maybe a couple times in your life, if you’re lucky.
And with that realization, to my surprise, I began to experience a faint sort of sadness. I grieved over a tiny loss of myself—that cocky, self-assured 27 year old who walked into that restaurant having no idea what lay before him. The infinite potential that lay before us. The intensity of emotion that I didn’t know what to do with.
The two people we were that night were now gone. And they would never come back. I would never get to meet my wife for the first time again. I would never get to fall wildly in love in a way that both excited and terrified me at the same time.1 There was a sweet, cocky ignorance to my younger self that has been irrevocably lost. And despite being lost for the best reasons, it still made me sad. For a few moments, I silently mourned my past the way one mourns...
Depression blows. Anxiety isn’t any fun either. And perhaps the only thing worse than the well-intentioned friends and family who implore you to just “get over it” or advise you to “keep your head up” is the fact that there are approximately 3,102 crappy books out there promising to wave a little wand and sprinkle fairy dust in your ass, and everything will instantly be better.
In my experience, the best books on dealing with anxiety and depression are the best because they are honest about the situation. There is this thing that sucks, and you’re not going to magically make it go away. You have to deal with it, engage it, wrestle with it a bit and become stronger in the face of it.
I get hundreds of emails every month from people who struggle primarily with anxiety and depression. Many of them are looking for a solution or a piece of wisdom or advice. Unfortunately, the only thing I’m qualified to send them is this new care bear emoji I got on my phone. And that’s probably not a long-term solution for them.
So instead, I will send them here, to these books.
I’ve read a lot of books about anxiety and depression over the years and these are some of the best ones I’ve come across. They’re way more qualified than I am to help you through whatever suckage you’re experiencing. And this way, when nothing works and the world is still a steaming...
Look, I know you think the fact you feel upset or angry or anxious is important. That it matters. Hell, you probably think that because you feel like your face just got shat on makes you important. But it doesn’t. Feelings are just these… things that happen. The meaning we build around them–what we decide is important or unimportant–comes later.
There are only two reasons to do anything in life: a) because it feels good, or b) because it’s something you believe to be good or right. Sometimes these two reasons align. Something feels good AND is the right thing to do and that’s just fucking fantastic. Let’s throw a party and eat cake.
But more often, these two things don’t align. Something feels shitty but is right/good (getting up at 5AM and going to the gym, hanging out with grandma Joanie for an afternoon and making sure she’s still breathing), or something feels fucking great but is the bad/wrong thing to do (pretty much anything involving penises).
Acting based on our feelings is easy. You feel it. Then you do it. It’s like scratching an itch. There’s a sense of relief and cessation that comes along with it. It’s a quick satisfaction. But then that satisfaction is gone just as quickly as it came.
Acting based on what’s good/right is difficult. For one, knowing what is good/right is not always clear.1 You often have to sit down and...
I used to have this problem. It was almost like an addiction. Except I wasn’t actually consuming something — rather, it was like an addiction of wanting to consume things that I couldn’t. I’m not proud of this problem. In fact, I used to hide it from family and friends. I used to pretend like nothing was wrong, like nothing bothered me. Yet, it ate away at me inside.
I used to suffer from FOMO. That is, “Fear of Missing Out.”
You’ve probably heard of it. Hell, you probably suffer from it in one form or another.
For me, for a number of years, it was travel. Show me a pretty picture and my knee-jerk reaction was that I needed to sell my last pair of shoes to go there. And not just go there, but go like, now. Go yesterday. What the fuck was I waiting for? I should be there already. Oh shit, I’m too late!
Forget the fact that the picture was probably photoshopped and a professional photographer was probably paid $10 billion to make the water look perfect and the island was on the other side of the planet — shut up. I. HAD. TO. GO.
And often, I did. Not all of the time (otherwise I would have spent my life on airplanes), but a fair amount of the time. I spent probably tens of thousands of dollars flying to remote, exotic destinations that lit up my Facebook...
Marguerite Johnson was born in the late 1920s in Arkansas. A poor black female in the segregated South, Johnson didn’t exactly have a bright future to look forward to. She endured the hardships that virtually all African Americans endured during and beyond segregation—second-class citizen status, economic and social exclusion, living in near-constant fear of physical threats and terror, and so forth.
As if that weren’t enough, the particular events of Johnson’s life wouldn’t make it any easier for her either.
At age 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She told only her brother about it. A few days later, her attacker was found dead.
She was so traumatized by these events that she didn’t speak a word out loud for another five-and-a-half years. An outcast, both from the outside and from within herself, Johnson was seemingly bound to a hard, lonely life of struggle and isolation.
Marguerite Johnson, however, would later change her name to Maya Angelou and become a dancer, an actress, a screenwriter, a poet, a prominent leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and the first black female to write a best-selling nonfiction book, her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She won multiple awards across multiple fields and even gave a presidential inaugural speech in 1993.1
And what was perhaps most impressive is that, at one point, Angelou admitted that she didn’t become what she was despite her early trauma, she became what she...
One summer afternoon, a group of recent college graduates decided to visit their favorite professor at his home. The grads had been out of school for about a year and they were each making their foray into the quote-unquote “real world” and dealing with all of the frustrations and confusion that come with it.
Over the course of the afternoon, the grads complained to their professor about how difficult life was after school. They complained about the long hours, the demanding bosses, the competitive job market, and how all anybody seemed to talk about or care about was money, money, money.
After a while, the professor got up and made some coffee. He got out six cups, one for each student. Three of them were cheap disposable cups and the other three were made of his nicest porcelain. He then invited everyone to get up and help themselves.
Within seconds the bargaining had already begun. “Wait, why do you get that cup?” “No, let me have it, I drove here.” “No way, I got here first, go get your own.” The students laughed and gently chided each other over who got to drink what out of what. A silent competition among friends.
When the kids finally sat back down the professor smiled and said, “You see? This is your problem. You are all arguing over who gets to drink out of the nice cups when all you really wanted was the coffee.”
Money is a touchy subject. That’s because...
Years ago, I knew one of those guys who seemed to always be happy and excited. He was always just that bundle of warm fuzzies. First to give you a hug. Always happy to see you. Complimented you about things that had no business being complimented. We’ll call him ‘Jon.’
Jon was like a dog, one of those rare people whose enthusiasm and unbridled joy is so unceasing that it actually becomes a little irritating at times. “Can you, just like… hate life a little?” I used to think to myself. And no, I wasn’t wearing eyeliner.
Alas, it never happened. And I felt like an asshole for having such thoughts. I was just jealous, I decided. Or maybe worse: a bad person.
But I never felt like a bad person for that long, because Jon was so damn fun and engaging, that you couldn’t help but be lifted up by his spirits. He always wanted to know what was going on in your life. He was always encouraging. He was always happy for you and proud of you, even when you weren’t happy or proud of yourself.
I eventually just decided that Jon was one of those people who had it figured out. One of those people that the shittier parts of life seemed to pass on by. A person who somehow managed to walk between the raindrops. A person who was blessed and knew it and spent his days trying to make others feel just as...
A few facts for you.
First Fact: At some point during evolution between plankton and Bon Jovi, apes evolved the ability to become emotionally attached to one another. This emotional attachment would eventually come to be known as “love” and evolution would one day produce a bevy of singers from New Jersey who would make millions writing cheesy songs about it.
Second Fact: Humans evolved the ability to become attached to each other — that is, the ability to love each other — because it helped us survive. This isn’t exactly romantic or sexy, but it’s true.
We didn’t evolve big fangs or huge claws or insane gorilla strength. Instead, we evolved the ability to emotionally bond into communities and families where we became largely inclined to cooperate with one another. These communities and families turned out to be far more effective than any claw or any fang. Humanity soon dominated the planet.
Third Fact: As humans, we instinctively develop a loyalty and affection for those who show us the most loyalty and affection. This is all love really is: an irrational degree of loyalty and affection for another person — to the point that we’d come to harm or even die for that person. It may...
There’s a paradox with self-improvement and it is this: the ultimate goal of all self-improvement is to reach the point where you no longer feel the need to improve yourself.
Think about it: The whole goal of improving your productivity is to reach the point where you never have to think about how to be more productive. The whole point of pursuing happiness is to reach the point where one no longer has to think about being happy. The whole point of improving your relationships is so that you can enjoy some drama-free cunnilingus in the McDonald’s drive-thru without almost crashing the car.
(Still working on that last one.)
Self-improvement is therefore, in a weird way, ultimately self-defeating.
The only way to truly achieve one’s potential, to become fully fulfilled, or to become “self-actualized” (whatever the fuck that means), is to, at some point, stop trying to be all of those things.
Now, before we go all Fight Club and punch each other in basements and blow up bank buildings, I do believe that there is an important role for self-improvement and all of the millions of podcasts, books, seminars, and articles that you obsessively consume. I promise....
Note: This is the second article in a series about gender and equality. The first one is called What’s the Problem with Men? In it, I discuss a lot of the unhealthy cultural forces that lead men to oppress women (as well as damage themselves). In this piece, I look at the feminist movement and question some of its strategies for implementing greater equality in society. Obviously, I’m a straight white male and don’t deal with the shit women deal with on the regular. But please take this as a critical look at the methods of feminism, rather than cause of equality itself.
In 1919, thousands of women stood outside the White House and demanded that they be allowed to vote. In the next presidential election, they would. And this massive demographic shift paved the way to laws in the 1920s that would promote women’s health and education (as well as prohibition, but we’ll just pretend that never happened).
In the 1960s and 70s, feminist protests resulted in a series of laws that guaranteed, under the law, equal rights in the workplace, in universities and colleges, in health care, and in the home.
The feminist movement is usually broken up into three “waves.” The first wave in the late 19th and early 20th centuries pushed for...
Roberto Escobar is a short, hunched man. He’s old now and nearly blind and deaf from a letter bomb blowing up in his face years ago. His eye sockets sink into his skull leaving two golf-ball-sized craters in his face. His gaze is lifeless. It passes through you, as if you were some sort of hologram.
Meeting Pablo Escobar’s brother turned out to be one of the more disappointing moments of my life. In Medellin, Colombia, you can go to Roberto’s house. In fact, there’s a whole tourism industry that’s sprouted up around Escobar and the old cartel. Much of this tourism is promoted and encouraged by the Escobar family themselves, as it’s (ostensibly) the only way they have to make much money these days.
The other visitors and I listen as Roberto dishes out stories about him and Pablo and the cartel, stories that he’s undoubtedly recited hundreds of times before. There’s an emptiness when he speaks. His Spanish tumbles out of his mouth in a monotonous slur, sometimes indecipherable. Sometimes when he speaks to you he reaches out and puts his hand on you, in the way a politician would, except the way he does it, there’s no emotion to it, no charisma. It’s as if he’s making sure you’re still there — that he’s still there.
There’s a small table on his porch stacked with assorted DVD’s, postcards, and, of course, his book. You can purchase them and then pay double for an autographed...
It took me 18 months to write The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck. Over that time period, I wrote somewhere in the vicinity of 150,000 words for the book (about 600 pages). Most of that came in the final three months. In fact, I can confidently say I got far more done in the final three months than I did in the first 12 combined.
Now, is that because I was on a deadline and worked like an insane person? Did I shove Adderall up my ass and work in 36-hour spurts or something?
No, in fact, those last three months, I worked less each day than I did the first 12, yet I still accomplished far more.
In this article, I’d like to make a simple argument (backed with lots of shitty images I created in MS Paint): that when it comes to productivity, things are not what they seem.
Every productivity book on the planet, from David Allen to Benjamin Franklin, tells you more or less the same thing: wake up at the ass-crack of dawn and drink some stimulating liquid, segment your work periods into bite-sized chunks organized by urgency and importance, keep fastidious lists and calendars, and schedule appointments 15 weeks in advance and be early to everything.
Fuck that. I hate mornings. You know what my “morning routine” usually is? Jerk off and read Facebook. And if I’m lucky, the garbage on my newsfeed will piss me...
Despite being the greatest and most influential mind in human history, Isaac Newton, by all accounts, was a bit of a headcase,1 as well as a total dick. Newton was famously petty and vindictive. He would go through manic episodes where he would work furiously for days at a time without eating or sleeping. Afterward, he would fall into deep depressions, refuse to see or speak to anyone, and often contemplated suicide. During these darkest episodes, Newton would often have hallucinations and speak to imaginary people. Kind of like a four year old.
Newton wasn’t the only troubled scientific genius, of course. Nikola Tesla churned out over 200 inventions in his lifetime, including the first prototype of an electric motor, the first remote control, and helped to invent X-ray photography. He invented a more efficient form of electricity than Edison, which prompted Edison to go full-asshole and attempt to destroy Tesla’s career.
What’s lesser known is that Tesla had an intense phobia of dirt and germs and a curious obsession with doing everything in multiples of three. He would compulsively calculate everything in his immediate environment, like how many cubic centimeters of food he was about to eat or how many meters he was going to walk to the toilet. He spent years living in hotels without ever paying his bills. He, like Newton, also reported blinding visions and hallucinations in some of his most intense creative periods.
Why does it seem that a...
I go to this boot camp-style class sometimes at a gym near my apartment. It’s one of those classes where a coach stands there and yells at you to do more pushups and squats until you think you’re going to puke. Then you go home and struggle to sit on a toilet for the next three days.
It’s great. I love it. I never miss a week.
Today, as happens many mornings, a couple of people, in between exercises, ran over to the wall to pick up their phones and check… well, I don’t know what the fuck they could have been checking. Email? Instagram? Snapchatting their sweat beads so everyone could see? I don’t know.
The point is they were on their phones.
And the coach got pissed, yelled at them to put their fucking phones away, and we all stood around awkwardly.
This proceeded to happen two or three times in the class, as it does in pretty much every class, and for whatever reason, today I decided to speak my mind to the woman glued to her phone while the rest of us were working out:
“Is there really nothing in your life that can’t wait 30 minutes? Or are you curing cancer or something?”
Note to readers: this is a bad way to make friends.
I was pissed. But fuck them. I felt like I was in the right, that I was saying what pretty much everyone else in the room was...