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To be happy we need something to solve. See your emotions as suggestions, not as commandments. People who become great at something do so because they’re obsessed with improvement. See negative emotions as a necessary component of emotional health.

My Notes

  • To be happy we need something to solve.
  • Happiness is a form of action.
  • If you’re avoiding problems or feel as if you don’t have any, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.
  • Victim mentality is when you blame others or outside circumstances.
  • See your emotions as suggestions, not as commandments.
  • Make a habit of questioning your emotions.
  • In order to want something you have to love the process.
  • People who become great at something do so because they’re obsessed with improvement.

    • They understand that they’re not already great — and that they could be so much better.
    • These people don’t believe in entitlement, they don’t “deserve” anything.
  • Our values determines the nature of our problems.

    • And the nature of our problems determines the quality of our lives.
  • Negative emtions are a necessary component of emotional health.
  • All personal improvement emerges from the realization that we, individually are responsible for everything in our lives.
  • You always get the choose the metric by which to measure your experiences.
  • There is nothing, ever, to be afraid of.

Highlights

A confident man doesn’t feel a need to prove that he’s confident. A rich woman doesn’t feel a need to convince anybody that she’s rich. Either you are or you are not.

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The world is constantly telling you that the path to a better life is more, more, more—buy more, own more, make more, fuck more, be more.

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Our crisis is no longer material; it’s existential, it’s spiritual. We have so much fucking stuff and so many opportunities that we don’t even know what to give a fuck about anymore.

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There is a subtle art to not giving a fuck. And though the concept may sound ridiculous and I may sound like an asshole, what I’m talking about here is essentially learning how to focus and prioritize your thoughts effectively—how to pick and choose what matters to you and what does not matter to you based on finely honed personal values. This is incredibly difficult. It takes a lifetime of practice and discipline to achieve. And you will regularly fail. But it is perhaps the most worthy struggle one can undertake in one’s life. It is perhaps the only struggle in one’s life.

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There’s absolutely nothing admirable or confident about indifference. People who are indifferent are lame and scared. They’re couch potatoes and Internet trolls.

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No matter where you go, there’s a five-hundred-pound load of shit waiting for you.

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The problem with people who hand out fucks like ice cream at a goddamn summer camp is that they don’t have anything more fuck-worthy to dedicate their fucks to.

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I once heard an artist say that when a person has no problems, the mind automatically finds a way to invent some.

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I see practical enlightenment as becoming comfortable with the idea that some suffering is always inevitable—that no matter what you do, life is comprised of failures, loss, regrets, and even death.

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Happiness is not a solvable equation.

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We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change.

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We are wired to become dissatisfied with whatever we have and satisfied by only what we do not have.

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our own pain and misery aren’t a bug of human evolution; they’re a feature.

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Happiness comes from solving problems. The keyword here is “solving.” If you’re avoiding your problems or feel like you don’t have any problems, then you’re going to make yourself miserable.

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To be happy we need something to solve. Happiness is therefore a form of action; it’s an activity, not something that is passively bestowed upon you, not something that you magically discover in a top-ten article on the Huffington Post or from any specific guru or teacher.

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Happiness is a constant work-in-progress, because solving problems is a constant work-in-progress—the solutions to today’s problems will lay the foundation for tomorrow’s problems, and so on.

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Remember, nobody who is actually happy has to stand in front of a mirror and tell himself that he’s happy.

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Emotions evolved for one specific purpose: to help us live and reproduce a little bit better. That’s it.

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Emotions are simply biological signals designed to nudge you in the direction of beneficial change.

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Emotions are merely signposts, suggestions that our neurobiology gives us, not commandments. Therefore, we shouldn’t always trust our own emotions. In fact, I believe we should make a habit of questioning them.

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Sadly, to deny one’s negative emotions is to deny many of the feedback mechanisms that help a person solve problems. As a result, many of these repressed individuals struggle to deal with problems throughout their lives. And if they can’t solve problems, then they can’t be happy. Remember, pain serves a purpose.

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Decision-making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks.

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Whether you suffer from anxiety or loneliness or obsessive-compulsive disorder or a dickhead boss who ruins half of your waking hours every day, the solution lies in the acceptance and active engagement of that negative experience—not the avoidance of it, not the salvation from it.

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The problem with the self-esteem movement is that it measured self-esteem by how positively people felt about themselves.

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The true measurement of self-worth is not how a person feels about her positive experiences, but rather how she feels about her negative experiences.

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The more freedom we’re given to express ourselves, the more we want to be free of having to deal with anyone who may disagree with us or upset us.

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Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That’s the bottom line.

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Technology has solved old economic problems by giving us new psychological problems.

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The Internet has not just open-sourced information; it has also open-sourced insecurity, self-doubt, and shame.

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Being “average” has become the new standard of failure.

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Once you accept the premise that a life is worthwhile only if it is truly notable and great, then you basically accept the fact that most of the human population (including yourself) sucks and is worthless.

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People who become great at something become great because they understand that they’re not already great—they are mediocre, they are average—and that they could be so much better.

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All of this “every person can be extraordinary and achieve greatness” stuff is basically just jerking off your ego. It’s a message that tastes good going down, but in reality is nothing more than empty calories that make you emotionally fat and bloated, the proverbial Big Mac for your heart and your brain.

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Self-awareness is like an onion. There are multiple layers to it, and the more you peel them back, the more likely you’re going to start crying at inappropriate times.

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We’re apes. We think we’re all sophisticated with our toaster ovens and designer footwear, but we’re just a bunch of finely ornamented apes.

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Pleasure is a false god. Research shows that people who focus their energy on superficial pleasures end up more anxious, more emotionally unstable, and more depressed. Pleasure is the most superficial form of life satisfaction and therefore the easiest to obtain and the easiest to lose.

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As humans, we’re wrong pretty much constantly, so if your metric for life success is to be right—well, you’re going to have a difficult time rationalizing all of the bullshit to yourself.

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While there is something to be said for “staying on the sunny side of life,” the truth is, sometimes life sucks, and the healthiest thing you can do is admit it.

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Constant positivity is a form of avoidance, not a valid solution to life’s problems—problems which, by the way, if you’re choosing the right values and metrics, should be invigorating you and motivating you.

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Negative emotions are a necessary component of emotional health. To deny that negativity is to perpetuate problems rather than solve them.

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pleasure, material success, always being right, staying positive—are poor ideals for a person’s life.

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When we feel that we’re choosing our problems, we feel empowered. When we feel that our problems are being forced upon us against our will, we feel victimized and miserable.

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There is a simple realization from which all personal improvement and growth emerges. This is the realization that we, individually, are responsible for everything in our lives, no matter the external circumstances.

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Whether we consciously recognize it or not, we are always responsible for our experiences. It’s impossible not to be.

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Even if you get run over by a clown car and pissed on by a busload of schoolchildren, it’s still your responsibility to interpret the meaning of the event and choose a response.

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Fault is past tense. Responsibility is present tense. Fault results from choices that have already been made. Responsibility results from the choices you’re currently making, every second of every day.

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Nobody else is ever responsible for your situation but you. Many people may be to blame for your unhappiness, but nobody is ever responsible for your unhappiness but you. This is because you always get to choose how you see things, how you react to things, how you value things. You always get to choose the metric by which to measure your experiences.

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I could get mad at this man and argue with him, try to “outpain” him with my own pain, which would just make us both look stupid and insensitive. Or I could choose a better problem, working on practicing patience,

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Right now, anyone who is offended about anything—whether it’s the fact that a book about racism was assigned in a university class, or that Christmas trees were banned at the local mall, or the fact that taxes were raised half a percent on investment funds—feels as though they’re being oppressed in some way and therefore deserve to be outraged and to have a certain amount of attention.

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The writer and media commentator Ryan Holiday refers to this as “outrage porn”: rather than report on real stories and real issues, the media find it much easier (and more profitable) to find something mildly offensive, broadcast it to a wide audience, generate outrage, and then broadcast that outrage back across the population in a way that outrages yet another part of the population. This triggers a kind of echo of bullshit pinging back and forth between two imaginary sides, meanwhile distracting everyone from real societal problems.

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again, I thought that love sometimes just wasn’t enough. And then I realized that each individual gets to decide what is “enough,” and that love can be whatever we let it be.

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Well, I’m always wrong about everything, over and over and over again, and that’s why my life improves.

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Certainty is the enemy of growth. Nothing is for certain until it has already happened—and even then, it’s still debatable. That’s why accepting the inevitable imperfections of our values is necessary for any growth to take place.

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Don’t trust your conception of positive/negative experiences. All that we know for certain is what hurts in the moment and what doesn’t. And that’s not worth much.

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The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.

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That’s simply reality: if it feels like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really just you versus yourself.

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If your metric for the value “success by worldly standards” is “Buy a house and a nice car,” and you spend twenty years working your ass off to achieve it, once it’s achieved the metric has nothing left to give you. Then say hello to your midlife crisis, because the problem that drove you your entire adult life was just taken away from you. There are no other opportunities to keep growing and improving, and yet it’s growth that generates happiness, not a long list of arbitrary achievements.

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Our most radical changes in perspective often happen at the tail end of our worst moments.

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Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. All of life is like this.

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Even when you win the lottery and buy a small fleet of Jet Skis, you still won’t know what the hell you’re doing. Don’t ever forget that. And don’t ever be afraid of that.

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Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.

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When the standard of success becomes merely acting—when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite—we propel ourselves ahead.

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You can become your own source of inspiration. You can become your own source of motivation. Action is always within reach. And with simply doing something as your only metric for success—well, then even failure pushes you forward.

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Freedom grants the opportunity for greater meaning, but by itself there is nothing necessarily meaningful about it.

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Travel is a fantastic self-development tool, because it extricates you from the values of your culture and shows you that another society can live with entirely different values and still function and not hate themselves.

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Romeo and Juliet is synonymous with “romance” in our culture today. It is seen as the love story in English-speaking culture, an emotional ideal to live up to. Yet when you really get down to what happens in the story, these kids are absolutely out of their fucking minds.

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In general, entitled people fall into one of two traps in their relationships. Either they expect other people to take responsibility for their problems: “I wanted a nice relaxing weekend at home. You should have known that and canceled your plans.” Or they take on too much responsibility for other people’s problems: “She just lost her job again, but it’s probably my fault because I wasn’t as supportive of her as I could have been. I’m going to help her rewrite her résumé tomorrow.”

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The mark of an unhealthy relationship is two people who try to solve each other’s problems in order to feel good about themselves. Rather, a healthy relationship is when two people solve their own problems in order to feel good about each other.

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For victims, the hardest thing to do in the world is to hold themselves accountable for their problems. They’ve spent their whole life believing that others are responsible for their fate.

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Confronting the reality of our own mortality is important because it obliterates all the crappy, fragile, superficial values in life.

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Our culture today confuses great attention and great success, assuming them to be the same thing. But they are not.

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And reminding myself of my own death repeatedly over the years—whether it be through meditation, through reading philosophy, or through doing crazy shit like standing on a cliff in South Africa—is the only thing that has helped me hold this realization front and center in my mind.

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Books I’ve read.

Johannes Holmberg

Tiny summaries on books I’ve read. Sorted by latest read. But you can also sort on top recommendations. Highlights and covers are copyright to their respective authors.