Mark Manson (IG: @markmansonnet) is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, the mega-bestseller that has been translated into over 50 languages and sold more than eight million copies worldwide. He has also built one of the largest personal growth websites in the world, MarkManson.net. Mark’s writing has been published in Time Magazine, Forbes, Vice, and CNN, among many others. Today we’re discussing his new book, Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope.
In this episode, we discuss:
- Mark grew up reading psychology & philosophy books
- Achieving success with “The Subtle Art” book
- We all need hope
- Everybody’s offended about everything
- How to build & maintain hope
- What is depression?
- Act without hope
- The thinking brain vs. the feeling brain
- Change your habits
- What is antifragility?
- Meditation makes you stronger
- Learn to listen and trust yourself
- Become emotionally resilient
- The pager experiment
- Happiness is overrated
- The blue dot effect
- Recognize your perceptions
- Mark’s criticisms of the self-help industry
- Be aware of yourself in the present moment
- Encourage growth
Four Sigmatic <== 15% off all Four Sigmatic products (free shipping on orders $100 or more)
Organifi <== 20% off all Organifi products
Beekeeper’s Naturals <== 15% off all Beekeeper’s Naturals products (free shipping on orders $60 or more)
Mark Manson – Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope (book)
Mark Manson’s website
Follow Mark Manson on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
Mark Manson – The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck (book)
Mark Manson Book Tour
Friedrich Nietzsche (books)
Sigmund Freud (books)
Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Antifragile (book)
Emile Durkheim (books)
Steven Pinker (books)
Jesse: Hello and welcome to The Ultimate Health Podcast episode 293. Jesse Chappus here with Marni Wasserman, and we are here to take your health to the next level.
Marni: Each week we’ll bring you inspiring and informative conversations about health and wellness, covering topics of nutrition, lifestyle, fitness mindset, and so much more.
Jesse: Today, our featured guest is Mark Manson. He’s a number one New York Times bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving (bleep) the mega best seller that has been translated into over 50 languages and sold more than 8 million copies worldwide. He has also built one of the largest personal growth websites in the world markmanson.net. Mark’s writing has been published in Time magazine, Forbes, vice, and CNN among many others. Today we’re discussing his new book. Everything Is (bleep): A Book About Hope.
Marni: Before we get into what today’s episode is all about, I want to make sure you all know about the brand new worksheets that we have been creating for you. And we’ve been doing it for the last seven episodes. I think they started back with Cal Newport. So be sure you go over to ultimatehealthpodcast.com and go and check out the worksheet for each of these episodes. And what we’ve done is we have extracted some really actionable tips, things that you can take away and apply into your life right away. So don’t miss out on these it’s a new resource that we’ve created just for you. They’re awesome and they’re available. You can keep them digital or you can print them. So go and check out our worksheets. So let’s get into what we talk about with Mark today. We talk about how to build and maintain hope, the thinking brain versus the feeling brain. What antifragility is, meditation makes you stronger, and how to become emotionally resilient. This is a really profound conversation. It really makes you think lots of good stuff is discussed. Here we go with Mark Manson.
Jesse: Hello Mark, great to have you on the show. How are you doing today?
Mark: I’m great. It’s good to be here.
Marni: We’re excited to have you.
Mark: Thank you.
Marni: So Mark, I want to start with you know, something that you shared on your website, which is when you were younger, while the other kids were listening to Backstreet Boys, you were reading about psychology and philosophy. So can you share with us why you were interested in these sophisticated subjects at a younger age?
Mark: Yeah, I was kind of a dork I guess. I don’t know, honestly, first of all I wasn’t in the backstreet boys. I was in the like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. And it’s funny because those groups, those kind of like more goth metal type groups back then used to reference philosophers and psychologists and Freud and all this stuff. And I remember reading Marilyn Manson lyrics and like a whole song would be like based on Nietzsche’s philosophy. And so being a precocious 14 year old who didn’t have anything better to do in Texas, I begged my mom to take me to Barnes and Noble and bought up a bunch of like philosophy books and sat around my bedroom trying to understand them. So it’s just been a weird fascination of mine for as long as I can remember. It was just something I did for fun, trying to understand the mind and where we come from and everything.
Marni: What were some of your earliest takeaways?
Mark: I feel like at that age you’re just kind of dumb no matter what you read. I think the biggest takeaways for me was understanding at a very young age that the perspectives and ideas that I grew up with weren’t necessarily true. That there’s a lot of religious traditions, philosophical traditions and scientific traditions around the world that I was like very ignorant about. For me it just helped me kind of let go of a lot of the, the cultural assumptions and traditions and stuff that was kind of pushed on me when I was growing up.
Jesse: And you mentioned growing up in Texas. What was that like?
Mark: Have you seen Friday night lights?
Jesse: It’s been a long time.
Mark: Okay, so if you’ve seen Friday Night Lights, that’s basically it. Where the show takes place is like just a couple miles from where I grew up. So yup, everything’s about high school football and cheerleaders and Jesus. So I didn’t fit in very well.
Jesse: So now you’re living in New York City. What did that transition look like and when did it happen?
Mark: Well, I went to school in Boston, so I moved to the northeast when I was 19 and I loved it. I just, I love the culture here, how fast paced everything is. Everybody’s like no bullshit. I’ve always been an east coast guy and I moved to New York about three or four years ago because the whole publishing industry is here. It’s been great.
Jesse: Well, speaking of the publishing industry, I want to talk about the success of your first book, the subtle art. I read that this book has sold over 5 million copies just in the U S it’s a New York Times bestseller. How much of a surprise to you was it seeing the success of this book?
Mark: I always felt like it could be successful. I think what’s so surprising is just the degree of the success that’s been very unexpected. One reason for that is it’s definitely inadvertent. I didn’t realize I was doing it, but I think the book taps into something kind of universal in people. It was originally written for millennials, kind of people going through a lot of the same things that I went through. What has surprised me is that it’s been embraced by across the generations, people on the right and the left people of different countries all over the world. So I think there’s something in it that is kind of just like a basic human experience that it’s tapped into. And that’s super cool.
Jesse: Well, it’s interesting where you see this book, I can be in an airport, I can be in a bookstore. It seems like wherever books are gathered in a small group, I tend to see your cover in there. So it’s definitely making a huge impact. And I’m just curious, what has this impact done to you personally? So take us along the ride of seeing the success of that book and how did that change you?
Mark: It’s very weird experiencing that much success that quickly. The way our brain is typically oriented throughout our career is, you know, you want every year to be slightly better than the year before. That’s usually the expectation is that you know, each year you’re like 5% better, 10% better than the year before, and then over the course of your career, like you end up somewhere very good when you get something like this that it’s like a 10000% increase in like six months. I would keep forgetting that I could afford things that I used to not be able to afford my wife and I would like get in arguments over money and then realize that, you know, we sold that many books in like a day, you know, so it’s, it messes with you that way. And then in terms of professionally, it’s very strange because again, I think our natural assumption is we always want to be slightly better than whatever we did last. But when you have this like astronomical success, it puts you in a position where you feel like it’s impossible to improve upon it. I think it’s pretty safe to say, I’ll never write a book again that sells as many copies, or is this commercially successful? It’s a struggle to deal with that. It’s demotivating. In some ways. It really kind of calls into question a lot of your fundamental assumptions about like why you do this and what motivates you in the first place. That pressure, that external pressure to perform was like very stressful and difficult for awhile.
Jesse: Which takes us to the new book Everything Is (bleep) that’s actually coming out with the release of this interview. So take us through the writing process on the success of the previous book and how that changed things and how that’s going to change things as you launch this new material.
Mark: The basis of Everything Is (bleep), the book about hope is it basically began with kind of that weird pressure that I was going through after subtle art. You know, a lot of people start showing up, offering you things and a lot of them are great. They’re huge and in a lot of them are very enticing, but for lack of a better word, it’s kind of like they want you to sell out, they just want to keep the money train rolling and they want you to kind of turn it into just another grind. I was kind of going through this period trying to navigate my way through this and for me my writing has always been like a very public form of therapy and I realized that what was so difficult for me at the time was I didn’t really know what my dreams were for the rest of my life. One thing that’s kind of crazy that you never think about is that like one way to destroy all your dreams is by achieving them. And in my case it’s like I had spent most of my younger adult life dreaming about being a bestselling author, working towards it, having all these goals and in my head it’s like, okay, I’m going to work for like 20-30 years and slowly kind of tick each of these things off the list. And then when you hit all those goals and very quickly you don’t know what to hope for anymore and it puts you in a very weird place psychologically. And so it got me thinking about this idea of hope, how like we need some sense of hope, we need something to look forward to, to kind of keep our minds going, keep ourselves emotionally healthy. And then it got me thinking about how you know, a lot of the stress and difficulties of people are having like the last few years in terms of distraction and political polarization and how everybody’s offended about everything all the time. I started thinking about how a lot of our technology is very much revolves around, or it doesn’t revolve around, but it actually inadvertently makes it more difficult to know what to hope for. I’m sure you guys like run into this in the health space. Like where it’s any piece of advice you could ever give there’s 10 articles out there contradicting it and then there’s 10 articles contradicting those articles and it just becomes this huge mess of people just pick camps and then start arguing with each other. And I feel like that’s happened with everything. We’re in a very strange place where people are, it’s becoming more difficult to know what to look forward to or what goals to set in your life. And as a result, hope becomes this very like difficult personal question for a lot of people. And so the book basically just investigates how that happens. What is it about the technology and the current state of the world that kind of causes us to feel this way and causes these angry factions to always be attacking each other and what we can do about it essentially.
Jesse: Okay, well you talk about three different things that we need to maintain and to build hope? Starting with the sense of control. So talk about that one a little bit.
Mark: If we don’t feel like we have, uh, have control over our own actions or over our own fate, then it’s impossible. Like maintain a sense of hope. You know, I can have a vision for myself, have an awesome life, but if I don’t feel like I’m capable of achieving that life, then it doesn’t provide that psychological sustenance that I need. If you don’t have the ability to control your own actions or your own environment to some degree, then there’s no way to improve your life. And if there’s no way to improve your life, we lose motivation, we lose hope and we lose a sense of purpose.
Jesse: Can you give us an example of how someone could lose control?
Mark: Yeah. You could be thrown in prison. You could suffer a debilitating injury, you could have mental health issue, you could become an addict. You know, all of those things are very common sources of lack of hope. You inevitably see a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety, a lot of difficulty functioning in the world.
Jesse: And the second one here is a belief in the value of something.
Mark: To believe there’s something better in the future you need to believe that there’s something better at all. This is kind of what I talked about in subtle art and that we’re always choosing what is important, whether we realize it or not. Like we have to decide that something matters. If you don’t know what’s important or what matters, then you don’t know what to work towards. You don’t know what goal to set. I mean, this is one thing that a lot of people don’t understand is like they assume that depression is sadness. It’s like a sense of just feeling very, very bad. It’s actually not what depression is, is feeling that nothing matters, that there’s no point or purpose to anything. And so when you feel like there’s nothing valuable in the world, you fall into like a deep sense of depression.
Marni: So let’s get into the third one. Having a community.
Mark: If you think something’s important and nobody else does, people just think you’re (bleep) crazy. Social isolation is physically and mentally debilitating. We need a certain amount of social validation for our ideas and values and when we’re deprived of that, we suffer. We lose a sense of hope and a sense of purpose. We need to choose something that we value. We need to feel as though we’re capable of attaining that value. And then we need to find a group of people who also share that value. Once we get all three of those things going, we wake up feeling motivated, feeling like we have a purpose like our life has meaning. As soon as you take away one of those pillars, the other two fall as well.
Jesse: Now we’re going to take a quick break from our chat with Mark to give a shout out to our show partner Four Sigmatic.
Marni: Reishi is not only known as the queen of the medicinal mushrooms, but it’s also known to be the most calming. It’s got a really profound effect on your nervous system and helps you relax, making it really awesome to have before you go to bed. And it also helps to activate sleep cycles and combat stress. And Jesse and I really liked to enjoy this one plain. We actually don’t add anything to this one. It’s just great with hot water on its own. It also has Tulsi, rose hip and mint in it giving it a really earthy and grounding flavor. So if you want to upgrade your sleep, you’ve got to give reishi a try.
Jesse: As a listener of our show, you get 15% off all your Four Sigmatic purchases. To take advantage go to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/foursigmatic again, that URL is ultimatehealthpodcast.com/foursigmatic. Other great news, if you spend $100 or more, you get free shipping, go and load up on Reishi today and take your sleep to the next level.
Marni: And now a shout out from other show partner Organifi, even though it may not be cold and flu season, colds can come at any time and it’s always good to be armed and ready with something that can give your immunity a boost and Organifi has come out with a new product. It’s called immunity, which is a packet that can just be added to water. It’s fully loaded and has a whole bunch of beautiful immune boosting herbs and nutrients like acerola cherry, ginger, turmeric, baobab, olive leaf, zinc, and these are all things that can help support your body in fighting off unwanted colds. And it also tastes really good. It’s naturally sweetened with monk fruit. There’s no fillers or preservatives and it’s just super clean and organic. So if you’re not sick right now, you still might want to stock up and have this on hand just in case something comes on. But either way, it’s always good to give your immune system a little boost.
Jesse: As a listener of our show, you get 20% off the whole Organifi lineup and to take advantage, all you need to do is go to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/organifi, again, that URL is ultimatehealthpodcast.com/organifi and Organifi ends in an i. Go and get yourself some immunity today. It’s a fantastic product. And now back to our chat with Mark.
Jesse: And Mark later on in the book you say that our challenge is to act without hope. So what do you mean by this?
Mark: Our hopes are, it’s like a game that are, our psychology plays with us. The way we’re constructed mentally is that our brain is always inventing and creating these hierarchies. We need to have that sense that something’s important in the world, you know, to get us up and moving. But the problem is is to maintain that sense of value and importance. We must deny and reject other things. We must decide that, okay, if x is valuable an important then things that are not, x must therefore be less valuable and less important. And this causes conflict because people have different values. So hope inherently has this facet of conflict kind of baked into it. And conflict is what you know, gives us, makes us feel like self righteous and feel like other people deserve to suffer because they don’t value what we value and what we value is the most important thing. To get past these cycles of conflict and destruction, we ultimately have to remove our sense of morality or decision making from this psychological game of hope that our brain keeps playing with us.
Marni: And speaking of the brain, you talk about the fact that we have two brains, a thinking brain and a feeling brain. So do you want to explain these two and how they work together or don’t work together?
Mark: We have two brains thinking brain feeling. Brain thinking brain is our conscious mind. It’s the frontal cortex. It’s what processes information, it creates logical deductions, understands cause and effect. Our feeling brain is the part of our brain that is intuitive, makes instant judgements, reactions, reads facial expressions, like empathizes, understands emotions, etc. Generally speaking, our assumption is always that our thinking brain is in control and our feeling brain is like this unruly child that is distracting us all the time. The truth is is that once you kind of dig into the psychological research, it turns out that we’re actually very, we’re all very irrational feeling brains and our thinking brain kinda just sits there and justifies whatever the feeling brain feels like doing. There’s a whole section of the book that this whole idea about control, the way to create this sense of self control in your life is essentially the get your feeling brain in your thinking brain aligned. If you’re just being impulsive all the time and your thinking brain is like sitting there like I know I should get up and go to the gym but you know, I’d rather just sit on the couch for another few hours. We feel like we’re out of control of our lives and we lose a sense of hope. If our thinking brain is in total control and we’re just suppressing our feelings, then it also creates problems because we could be angry or resentful or sad and not even be aware of it because we’re essentially just shutting off that part of ourselves. So the trick to be like a healthy integrated person is to get both brains communicating and operating on the same level. If you look at most forms of therapy, that’s essentially what they’re doing is that they’re getting you to recognize your emotions and learning to communicate with them and interact with them using your, your logic and your reason.
Marni: Because I’m sure everyone who’s listening can find times in their life when they’re being compelled by their thinking brain or by their feeling brain. But some people, and I feel like a lot of the time, even for myself, there’s times where I’m not really sure as to when I’m going or operating under one brain versus the other. So let’s maybe talk about how people can start to connect to what they’re operating under.
Mark: Whether you realize it or not, you’re always operating under your feeling brain. The only reason you do anything is because you feel like doing it. Like I’ve read 20 books about nutrition and I still eat Shake Shack, ya know cheesecake. It doesn’t change anything. Ultimately it’s like the only way you change your habits is by finding a way to enjoy the benefits of those habits. It comes from a change in your, your emotional relationship with food or your emotional relationship with exercise. You’re feeling brain’s always in charge. It’s basically about a learning the talk to your feelings rather than judge them or try to suppress them. A good way to start is to just like make suggestions to yourself. Like for me, one thing that I struggle with a lot is maintaining a meditation habit and one of the ways that I, I approach it actually a friend of mine who teaches meditation kind of told me about this, but it’s a good example of thinking brain/feeling brain is if I create like a rule for myself, I’m like, okay, I’m going to meditate 30 minutes every morning when I wake up in the morning that’s going to feel very daunting and intimidating and because it feels that way, I’m probably not going to do it. I’m going to find all sorts of excuses to not do it. And so the trick is is that you just keep lowering your expectation. You say, okay, feeling brain if that’s intimidating, what about 10 minutes and you’re feeling brains like, hmm, okay that’s not bad but doesn’t feel good either. It’s like all right, well what about five minutes? Feeling brain is like yeah that would actually feel pretty nice to do it for five minutes. So you have to like kind of bargain with yourself a little bit and then you get it down the five minutes you go actually do it and then you pay attention to the benefits. It’s not about like logically understanding the benefits. It’s like feel the clarity, feel the energy that results from the habit and like pay attention to the way that your body feels, the way your emotions feel. Because ultimately like that’s what’s going to create the motivation to get up and do it again the next day. It’s like a weird sort of haggling that you have to do with yourself. And to do that you have to like reserve judgment and understand that you are an irrational creature. You basically have to invent the carrot in front of your own face.
Jesse: Okay, well sticking on the meditation here for a little bit. You talk about how at its core meditation is a practice of antifragility. So explain what antifragility is and why somebody would want to work at this.
Mark: So antifragility, it’s a concept from Nassim Taleb. He uses it primarily in like macro context. So in the context of like government policy or financial markets where economies, but in his book he also talks about it on like kind of a personal or biological level. So basically antifragility is things that gain from stress or disorder. So if you think about like something that’s fragile, it’s like a vase, the more stress you put on it, the more likely it’s going to break. We typically think of the opposite of fragile being something that’s robust, which is if you think of like a brick, if you put a lot of stress or strain on it, it does not break very easily at all. But that’s not the same thing as antifragility. Antifragility is something they get stronger from stress and disorder. So the human body is a good example of something that’s antifragile. You know, the process of working out at the gym or exercising is a process of antifragility is you are putting stress on your body and it makes your body stronger and more capable as a result. An argument I make in my book is that our mind is the same way and I think there’s a decent amount of evidence of this like in terms of people who regularly challenged themselves psychologically, emotionally end up much more well adapted throughout their lives, both intellectually and also just in terms of wellbeing and happiness. I use meditation as an example of a way to implement antifragility on into your mind. I’ve always seen meditation is kind of like going to the gym for your brain. Essentially when you sit and you remove any sort of stimulus or or distraction from yourself, what you’re left with is all of like the awkward, icky, emotional residue, stress, frustration of your daily life that you’re always distracting yourself from, you never really want to deal with. And when you’re forced to sit there and just like look at your own mind and look at all the craziness and all this silliness that it goes through. A, it’s difficult, requires certain amount of willpower and effort, but b, it forces you to come to terms with, I guess your own feeling brain to accept and understand a lot of the impulses and emotions that arise within yourself. And so even though it’s not a pleasant experience and it’s mentally taxing to a certain degree, it makes your brain stronger, it makes you mentally stronger. And there’s all sorts of research that shows the benefits of meditation, both physically and mentally, but like, you know, increase focus and creativity, more emotional resilience, all sorts of things. Yeah, meditation is kind of the way to break down and build up your mind the same way you would break down and build up your body.
Jesse: Do you currently have a meditation practice? And if so, what does it look like?
Mark: You know, my meditation practice comes and goes. I think that’s something that I’ve just kind of learned to accept about myself. My personality is such that I’m not huge on structure. I like spontaneity and changing things up. So I’ve practiced meditation on and off for 18 years now and I go through periods. I’ll go through a period for a couple of years where I’m like really diligent about it. I’ll go on retreats and go to Zen Group and I’ll go through a few years where I’m kind of hit and miss with it. And I think right now I’m in one of those periods where I’m hit and miss with it.
Marni: And I think it’s so good to know your personality because I think with meditation specifically, I think so many people put that pressure on themselves to meditate everyday because we hear it’s this miraculous life changing thing. And for a lot of people it is, but I think the point you made about your personality, I think you really have to pay attention to that. So you do you.
Mark: I think that’s true with any sort of like a mental or emotional development as well. Like the same way, like people’s bodies don’t respond to the same exercises the same way people are more like adapted genetically for certain exercises in certain sports. The same is true with our brains. You know, some people respond really, really well to meditation, some people don’t. Some people respond really well to therapy, some people don’t. Some people respond really well, like pharmaceutical drugs. Some people don’t. There’s enough variation in all this stuff that you have to just learn to listen to yourself and trust yourself.
Jesse: And Mark, going off that a little bit, if meditation isn’t right for somebody or somebody really wants to stack things up and do a couple of different things to build that antifragility of the mind, are there any other exercises people can do?
Mark: I think getting good at interpersonal conflict is one of the most useful skills and I think it makes you more emotionally resilient and more emotionally aware. As with anything you can go too far and if you’re just like constantly fighting about everything, you’re not really getting anywhere. I would say developing the ability to have difficult conversations. I think that’s a good way to practice emotional antifragility. I think self-disclosure like so vulnerability, talking about yourself, your insecurities, your fears, your past. That’s another way. My guess is the vast majority of the benefit of classic therapy comes from is just like getting in a room and talking about all the ugly, shameful stuff that you’ve carried around with you your whole life and then realizing that the world doesn’t end when somebody else finds out about it. Anything that is brings about some degree of mental or emotional pain or stress, I think ultimately assuming that it heals in the long run will make you a stronger person.
Jesse: In your new book, you talk about how positive psychology really started in the 1980’s so this is a relatively new phenomenon and you talk about a pager experiment. So love for you to get into the details to that and what the researchers found out.
Mark: It’s really funny actually. I mean the history of is pretty dreary, pretty much from Freud on, I mean they were primarily concerned with how, how to I guess prevent harm. People who are messed up had emotional problems, mental health problems. And so like they were interested in looking at the most difficult problems in trying to find ways to make them better. It wasn’t until like the seventies and eighties that some researchers finally were like, wait, why are we like focusing all of our attention on how things go wrong? Like we should also be paying attention to how things go, right? Like we should be looking at the happiest people in society and the most emotionally healthy people and understanding like what makes them so happy and what makes them so healthy. And so one of the first things they did is they wanted to understand like where does happiness come from? They ran a bunch of experiments, they gave a bunch of people pagers, you have to remember that this was the 80s they gave people a bunch of pagers and the deal was is that you just went about your life and you carry it around like a little notebook and whenever your pager went off you had to write down what you were doing and then write down on a scale from one to 10 how happy you are. And they did this for thousands of people and got tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of data points and they started crunching all the numbers. What they found was that basically everybody’s like always a seven and something good might happen. You know, maybe you get a raise at work or it’s your birthday and you go up to like a nine but then two days later you’re back at seven and then the same thing on the other end. Like, maybe you get in a car accident or girlfriend breaks up with you and you go down to a four or five, but a couple of weeks later you’re back up to a seven and this really stumped psychologists and it basically it became known as, or today it’s called the baseline theory of happiness. Which is basically that like all of us are more or less at a seven almost all the time. And what we perceive as like really good events in our life are really bad. And um, events in our life are just these temporary bounces up or down. A lot of the mechanisms in our minds like our memory and our expectations and even our emotions like with they are designed to draw us back to a seven basically to this place of mild dissatisfaction.
Jesse: Now we’re going to take another quick break from our chat with Mark to give a shout out to our show partner Beekeeper’s Naturals.
Marni: There’s so many nootropics on the market and many of them are not the best quality. And what I love about Beekeeper’s Naturals is that it’s liquid, it’s all natural, and a tiny glass vial, and when you’re taking it, you just know you’re taking something medicinal and healing. Not to mention that you feel cognitively alert, but you’re not stimulated. It’s a smooth focus, energy, it’s clean. The taste is actually really good. It’s got this smoky flavor. It’s just super grounding. We love taking this before we podcast, before we public speak. It’s just a great way to give your brain a boost, so if you want to try a clean nootropic, get your hands on the B.LXR from Beekeeper’s Naturals.
Jesse: As listener of our show, you get 15% off the whole Beekeeper’s Naturals lineup and to take advantage, it’s real easy to do. Just go to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/beekeepers again, that URL is ultimatehealthpodcast.com/beekeepers. Also, if you spend $60 more, you get free shipping. Go and get yourself some of the B.LXR, and give your brain a boost.
Marni: Now I’m going to share with you an amazing review that we got. This is from Midwest Mama from UK. It’s titled obsessed with this podcast and we got five stars. I found this podcast a few weeks ago and I’ve been listening to it during every drive and work out ever since. Every episode is so fascinating and it teaches me so much. I’ve always been interested in health and I come from a biology background. This podcast is given me the realization that health is my passion and I would love to help others become healthier. You guys are so gifted and you’re doing a wonderful thing and sharing this information, keep it up. Thank you so much for this beautiful review. We love it. This is our passion too and so happy you are inspired to go and help other people. If you haven’t left a review yet, we want to hear it so Jesse’s going to let you know how.
Jesse: Thank you so much for those kind words. It really means a lot and if you haven’t left us a review yet, we’ve made a couple of really awesome infographics that take you step by step through the process and to access those, all you need to do is go to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/review again, that URL is ultimatehealthpodcast.com/review we thank you ahead of time for leaving us some kind words and now back to our chat with Mark.
Jesse: And knowing this, what can we do to apply it to life and how can we use this to improve our lives?
Mark: The argument I make, and I made this argument in Subtle Art of Not Giving A (bleep), is that for me the big takeaway is that happiness is overrated. Ultimately, we’re not in nearly as much control over our own happiness as we thought because of that, because we’re always being pulled back to a seven. It might not be the right goal to set for ourselves. And so what I’ve kind of honed in on, again starting in subtle art and then all more, even more so in this next book is that we need to be focusing way more on a sense of meaning and purpose. I mean there’s probably 20 shows on Netflix that will keep you happy for the next six months, but you’ll get to the end of that six months and you’ll look back and you won’t feel like it meant anything. You’ll feel pointless actually you’ll be a less healthy person because of it. My argument is that what we actually need is we actually need a sense of meaning in our lives and the way we generate a sense of meaning in our lives is having something to hope for and working, and what we hope for.
Jesse: And say somebody is listening to this right now and they’re trying to figure out how they start to build that hope. What is the step from Ground Zero? What can somebody do right away?
Mark: One thing is to get rid of I guess what you’d call like the empty calories of your emotional life. So again, things like Netflix shows are, I think the first step is to remove the activities that take up a lot of time, but provide little meaning to create space for activities that will give a lot of meaning. The next step is to sit down and get very clear of like what actually feels valuable to you and what actually feels valuable in the world? Like what does the world need that it’s not getting? What do you need that you’re not getting? And then this third step is to ask yourself, okay, how do I get there? What is a step I can take in that direction? What I’ve discovered both with myself and just, you know, all the people I’ve talked to and worked with over the years, is that pretty much all of us would rather be a little bit stressed out and a little bit frustrated, but doing something really important with our time. Then to be feeling great and just screwing around. That’s what I think we should be focusing on.
Jesse: I want to talk about another experiment you talk about in the book and that is the blue dot effect. This involves some computers, some blue dots, some other colors, and people deciding whether or not the dot was actually blue. So take us from there.
Mark: The researchers who did it were like the all star team of psych nerds. The experiment was incredible. Basically what they showed is that they called it a prevalence induced expectation of fact or something like that. But basically what it means is that if you show people a ton of blue dots in a few purple dots and you tell them to pay attention to like what color the.is, and to let you know when they see a blue dot, and then you start removing the blue dots and putting more purple dots, what happens is people start mistaking the purple dots for being blue, even though they’re not. And then they ran a similar experiment with threatening and unthreatening faces. So they showed a lot of threatening faces and a lot of unthreatening faces. But then as time went on, they started to show fewer and fewer threatening faces. But as they showed fewer threatening faces, people still believed that they were seeing the same amount. So they were misinterpreting or misperceiving nonthreatening faces as being threatening. They ran this experiment through a bunch of different examples and what they found is that there’s this idea that the social scientist Emile Durkheim came up with in the 19th century and basically he, he ran a thought experiment, he said like imagine a society with zero crime, zero violence, zero dishonesty, would people be perfectly happy? And he said No. He said that if you remove the crime and violence and dishonesty people they’ll get just as upset and offended over smaller and smaller things. So it’s basically what’s constant is our perception of threat, not the actual threats in the world. And the blue dot experiment last year created evidence for this theory. If you think about it in terms of, you know, what we see on social media and the news and everything, like there are a lot of books out there right now by people like Steven Pinker that just show a mountain of evidence demonstrating that the world is better off in almost every way today than ever before. We live longer. We’re curing diseases. We are wealthier, we are more educated. There’s less violence, there’s less war, there’s less disease. Yet people are freaking out all the time and the blue dot effect, as I call it, it’s a really scary explanation for why this is happening. If you make the world better, people don’t perceive that better, like that improvement. They will always perceive the same amount of threat no matter how good the world is.
Jesse: So knowing this Mark, how do we apply this too day to day living, to be more optimistic and use this to our benefit?
Mark: What is required is a greater degree of skepticism of our own perceptions. One of the things that I talk about in the book is that our brains are very flawed. Like our brains did not evolve to optimize for truth. Our brains evolved to optimize for survival and by optimizing for survival, our brains cut a lot of corners and they’re very biased and they make a lot of incorrect assumptions. In the last hundred years, our technology has developed to take advantage of those shortcuts and biases and flaws in our psychology and what we need is technology that compensates for those flaws in our psychology. I think what’s more important today than ever before is to recognize those flaws, recognize our own irrationality and recognize. Develop a healthy sense of skepticism for our own perceptions and our own beliefs. I feel like that is becoming more and more difficult in this day and age.
Jesse: In the book Mark, you talk about self-help being a show me the rules and I’ll play the game kind of thing. So explain what you mean by this.
Mark: One of my fundamental criticisms of the self help industry for years now is that most of the people who come the self-help, they come to it because they have not learned to be fully accountable and responsible for their own life. They’ve always depended on others to tell them what to do. They’ve always looked for scripts outside of themselves. So most of these people, when they do come to self-help come with an attitude of show me the steps and I’ll go do them. And the problem is is that by showing them the steps, you are robbing them of the chance to develop a sense of accountability and responsibility for their own life. You know, the whole point is you have to create the steps yourself and that’s not a very sellable thing. It doesn’t make for sexy marketing. You know, it’s like come to my seminar where you’ll suffer through five days of existential terror. You know, it’s a very difficult, uncomfortable thing to do. It takes a lot of introspection and questioning. It often takes years. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the business models currently operating in this space at the moment. I think they probably prolong people’s issues in the long run just to make them feel good in the short run.
Marni: I would probably think that a lot of the people who have not followed the rules are the people who are writing these books who have found their own way and carve something out. But the funny thing is that is that it applies to them and not necessarily everybody.
Mark: Yeah. A it’s, they figured out their own rules, but just because it works for them doesn’t mean it works for everybody. But also there’s a survivor bias. You know, it’s like for every Steve Jobs there’s like 10,000 other people who are trying to invent the personal computer. We never really have a full dataset of what works with this stuff. One of the things that was very sobering for me when I started in this career, one of the first things I did was like, okay, I’m going to look up all the different forms of therapy and I’m going to find the one with the highest success rate. That’s going to be my starting point.
Jesse: What did you find?
Mark: Basically every single one I mean, CBT a little bit better than most, but they’re all around 30-40% success rate. Placebo is like 20% success rate. So even after a hundred years of psychological research, you know, our best guess is still only like hitting about 40% of the time. And we still don’t know why. And it’s like it will work with some people and not others. It will work with some people, you know, they’ll try it in their twenties and it doesn’t work and then they try again 10 years later and it works perfectly. Like there’s so much about the human mind that we don’t understand and so I tried to approach it from the point of view of like each person’s best expert on what’s right for them is themselves and if you can’t get them to recognize that it’s like you can’t really do anything.
Marni: And the other thing that just came to mind is that it’s probably so hard to isolate as well because most people who are going through therapy or reading a book, they’re probably doing five things or 10 things at once and very few people probably know what exactly was that changing factor or that transformational moment. So it’s really important. I think you know, just kind of wraps up our whole message of start feeling and start connecting that and putting that all together so you can really just get in touch with what is making that difference for you.
Mark: One thing I tell people sometimes is so it doesn’t matter what worked. So many things are happening in your life at all times and our memories are very unreliable with this stuff as well. Our memories tend to remember the high points. They don’t remember the three dozen little things that happened in between. Ultimately what it comes back to is just being aware of yourself in the present moment, being aware of how you feel and developing that relationship with yourself, which is just kind of another way of saying is like getting your two brains to talk to each other.
Marni: And the last question before we wrap up is what is ultimate health mean to you?
Mark: Never treating yourself as a means always as an ends. And two, always treat yourself in such a way that it, it has an exponential effect. Basically it encourages growth, some sense of growth in some shape or form to eliminate self destruction. I think that’s a very philosophical answer, but there you go.
Jesse: Love it, Mark. Great way to wrap up and the new book is Everything Is (bleep): A Book About Hope. Other than getting a copy of the new book, how can the listeners connect with you after the show?
Mark: Check out my blog, it’s at markmanson.net and I am doing a speaking tour through most of the major cities in the US, Canada and then I think some short stops in Australia and UK as well, so go to markmanson.net/book-tour come out to one of the events should be a lot of fun.
Jesse: Awesome and we’re going to link everything up over @ ultimatehealthpodcast.com for the listener. And Mark we just want to thank you for coming on the show. This has been great and we wish you all the best.
Mark: Thanks guys. Appreciate it.
Marni: Thank you. We hope you enjoyed today’s conversation with Mark. So much great information and hopefully you learn how to become more emotionally resilient and we’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s show. Let us know over on Instagram, give us a tag @ultimatehealthpodcast and also tag @markmansonnet. Let us know what you think. We love collecting all of the tags that we get during the week and on Fridays we do a share, so maybe your tagged story will get shared in our feed.
Jesse: For full show notes, be sure and head over to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/293 we have links there to everything we discussed in a nice show summary, so be sure and check that out. And now, like Marni said in the opening, we’re putting out a worksheet for each episode. So go and download that. It’s free. Before we let you go, I want to give some love to our editor and engineer Jase Sanderson over @ podcasttech.com Jase, thanks for doing such a great job putting the show together. And this week’s fun fact about Jase is that soon him and his wife will be going to Egypt for their honeymoon. I hope you guys have such a great time. Take care. We’ll talk to you soon.
Disclaimer: This is a raw transcript and it may contain some errors. To listen to the complete audio interview, go to ultimatehealthpodcast.com/293.
242: Sarah Knight – You Do You • Happiness In Imperfection • Managing Anxiety
265: Neil Pasricha – How To Be Happy • Untouchable Days • Find Your Authentic Self
239: Neil Strauss – The Long Road To Success • Compartmentalize Your Week • Your Community Shapes You
250: Greg McKeown – Essentialism • The Joy of Missing Out (JOMO) • The Cost of Saying Yes
252: Srinivas Rao – Creating For An Audience Of One • Creativity Leads To Happiness • Cognitive Bandwidth
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