Book notes: Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson

Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson book summary review and key ideas.

Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson

Synopsis:

“We live in an interesting time. Materially, everything is the best it’s ever been – we are freer, healthier, and wealthier than any people in human history. Yet, somehow everything seems to be irreparably and horribly f*cked – the planet is warming, governments are failing, economies are collapsing, and everyone is perpetually offended on Twitter. At this moment in history, when we have access to technology, education, and communication our ancestors couldn’t even dream of, so many of us come back to an overriding feeling of hopelessness. 

With his usual mix of erudition and where-the-f*ck-did-that-come-from humor, Manson takes us by the collar and challenges us to be more honest with ourselves and connected with the world in ways we probably haven’t considered before. It’s another counterintuitive romp through the pain in our hearts and the stress of our soul. One of the great modern writers has produced another book that will set the agenda for years to come.

What’s going on? If anyone can put a name to our current malaise and help fix it, it’s Mark Manson. In 2016, Manson published The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, a book that brilliantly gave shape to the ever-present, low-level hum of anxiety that permeates modern living. He showed us that technology had made it too easy to care about the wrong things, that our culture had convinced us that the world owed us something when it didn’t – and worst of all, that our modern and maddening urge to always find happiness only served to make us unhappier. Instead, the “subtle art” of that title turned out to be a bold challenge: to choose your struggle; to narrow and focus and find the pain you want to sustain. The result was a book that became an international phenomenon, selling millions of copies worldwide while becoming the number-one best seller in 13 different countries. 

Now, in Everthing Is F*cked, Manson turns his gaze from the inevitable flaws within each individual self to the endless calamities taking place in the world around us. Drawing from the pool of psychological research on these topics, as well as the timeless wisdom of philosophers such as Plato, Nietzsche, and Tom Waits, he dissects religion and politics and the uncomfortable ways they have come to resemble one another. He looks at our relationships with money, entertainment, and the internet, and how too much of a good thing can psychologically eat us alive. He openly defies our definitions of faith, happiness, freedom – and even of hope itself.” -Audible

Opening thoughts:

I’m definitely a fan of Mark Manson’s writing because I absolutely loved the last two books of his that I read, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Models. Not only were these two books phenomenal, but they’re also both in my top 10-20 books of all time. Therefore, I’m hoping this read is just as good. Plus, I think the reviews and average rating is really high.

Key notes:

  • To this day, Palevsky was the only man ever known to have voluntary entered into a Nazi concentration camp
    • Over the course of two years, he built an entire resistance unit within Auschwitz
    • There was a chain of command with ranks and officers, a supply chain, and the lines of communication to the outside world
  • Being heroic is the ability to conjure hope where there is none
    • To strike a match and light up the void
    • To show us the possibility for a better world that we didn’t know could exist 
  • We all need hope to find meaning in our lives
    • If there’s no hope in the future being better, then there’s no reason to live
    • The opposite of happiness is hopelessness, an endless gray horizon of resignation of indifference
    • It’s the belief that everything is fucked so why do anything at all
    • Hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness, and depression
      • It’s the source of all misery, and the cause of all addiction
  • It doesn’t matter the way you get to hope, they all provide the same result
    • You have some believe that:
      1. There is potential for growth or improvement or salvation in the future
      2. There are ways we can navigate ourselves to get there
  • The paradox of progress: the better things get, the more we seem to despair
    • The wealthier and safer the place you live, the more likely you are to commit suicide
  • To build and maintain hope we need three things:
    1. A sense of control
    2. A belief in the value of something
    3. A community

Chapter 2: Self-Control is an Illusion

  • The classic assumption says that if a person is undisciplined, unruly, or malicious, it’s because he lacks the ability to subjugate his feelings
    • That he is weak willed or just plain fucked up
    • It says passion and emotion are flaws, errors within the human psyche that must be overcome and fixed within the self
  • The truth is our feeling brain is driving our consciousness car, not the thinking brain
  • We are moved to action only by emotion
    • Action is emotion
    • Emotion is the biological hydraulic system that pushes our bodies into movement
  • Emotion inspires action and action inspires emotion
    • The two are inseparable
    • Why don’t we do the things we know we should do? Because we don’t feel like it
    • Every problem of self-control is not a problem of information, or discipline or reason, but rather of emotion
    • Self control is an emotional problem
  • If the feeling brain is the driver, the thinking brain is the navigator
  • The self-serving bias makes you prejudiced and a little self-centered
    • You assume that what feels right is right
    • This can lead to unfair and incorrect assumptions but also make you delusional 
  • Good writing speaks to both the thinking brain and the feeling brain
    • Acceptance of oneself allows for a cooperation of both brains
  • The only language the feeling brain really understands is empathy
  • Feelings never last so you have to start small
    • You have to bargain and negotiate with your feeling brain
  • Don’t ever fight with your feeling brain. You will never win
    • You need to consistently communicate and align the brains around the same values
  • The super power of the thinking brain is meaning control

Chapter 3: Newton’s Laws of Emotion

  • Newton’s 1st Law of Emotion:
    • For every action, there is an equal and opposite emotional reaction
  • We have a strong desire for equalization
    • Every action has an equal and opposite emotion.
    • While our thinking brain creates factual knowledge around observation and logic, the feeling brain creates our values around our experiences of pain
  • The thinking brain creates lateral connections between events:
    • Sameness
    • Contrast
    • Cause and effect
    • Etc
  • The feeling brain makes hierarchical connections:
    • Better and worse
    • More or less desirable
    • Morally superior or inferior
  • Growth is re-prioritizing one’s value hierarchy in an optimal way
  • Newton’s 2nd Law of Emotion:
    • Our self worth equals the sum of our emotions overtime
  • It is our natural assumption that we are at the center of everything because we are at the center of everything we experience
    • We all overestimate our skills and intentions, and underestimate the skills and intentions of others
    • We all have an inherent narcissism and delusion about how special we are because it gives us a bit of hope
      • The cost of this thinking is that there is an inherent acceptance that you are separate from the world, and it’s the separateness that ultimately perpetuates unnecessary suffering
  • Newtons 3rd Law of Emotion:
    • Your identity will stay your identity until a new experience acts against it
  • The only way to change our values is to have experiences contrary to our values
  • There’s no such thing as change without pain
    • No growth without discomfort
    • It is why it is impossible to become someone new without first grieving the loss of who you used to be
      • We grieve the loss of a part of ourselves
  • There are two ways to heal yourself, that is to replace old faulty values with better healthier values
    1. Re-examine the experiences of your past and re-write the narratives around them
    2. Begin writing the narratives of your future self, to envision what life would be like if you had certain values or possess a certain identity

Chapter 4: How to make all your dreams come true

  • How to start your own religion:
    • Step 1sell hope to the hopeless
      • Values cannot be changed through reason, only through experience
    • Step 2choose your faith
      • We must all have faith in something. Without faith there is no hope
      • All religions must start with a faith based God value 
        • People interpret the significance of their experiences through their values
      • Three types of religions, each based on a different god value
        1. Spiritual religions
          • Draw hope from supernatural beliefs, or belief in things that exist outside the physical or material realm
        2. Ideological religions
          • These draw hope from the natural world
          • They develop faith base beliefs from things in this world and this life
            • Ex: political believes, environmentalism, liberalism, fascism, etc.
        3. Interpersonal religions
          • Draw hope from other people in our lives
          • Ex: romantic love, children, Sports heroes, political leaders, and celebrities 
      • Faith based religion was very popular back in the day because the world was fucked and really bad back then
    • Step 3: preemptively invalidate all criticism or outside questioning
      • Us vs them dichotomies give us the enemies we desperately crave and gives us unity
        • You have to fully demonize the “them”
    • Step 4: ritual sacrifice for dummies
    • Step 5: promise heaven, deliver hell 
    • Step 6: profit for profit
  • The only thing that can ever truly destroy a dream is to have it come true

Chapter 5: Hope is Fucked

  • Since the advent of agriculture, all human societies have experienced this form of stratification
    • This is where according to individual advantages, certain people gain more resources
    • This leads to a compounding effect of gaining more resources across generations
      • This is the whole the rich get richer thing
  • All societies need to deal with the tension that emerges between the advantaged elite and the disadvantaged masses
  • Master morality is the moral belief that people get what they deserve
    • It’s the moral belief that might makes right, that if you earn something through hard work or ingenuity, you deserve it
  • Slave morality believes that people who have suffered the most, those are the most disadvantaged and exploited, deserve the best treatment because of that suffering
    • It believes that it’s the poorest and most unfortunate who deserve the most sympathy and the most respect
    • Virtue of strength and dominance versus virtue of sacrifice and submission
    • Necessity of hierarchy versus necessity of equality
      • Generally represented by right-wing political beliefs versus left-wing political beliefs
    • Master morality is the intrinsic desire to create moral separation between ourselves the world around us, to create moral gaps with us on top
    • Slave morality is the intrinsic desire to equalize, to close the moral gap and alleviate suffering
  • Nietzsche argued that the cultures of the ancient world, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Indian, were master morality cultures that were structured to celebrate strength and excellence even at the expense of millions of slaves and subjects
    • They were warrior civilizations that celebrated gods, glory, and bloodshed
  • Nietzsche also argued that the Judeo-Christian ethic of charity, pity, and compassion ushered slave morality to prominence 
  • These two value hierarchies were in constant tension and opposition
    • They were, he believed, at the root of all political and social conflict throughout history

Reader’s note: This makes so much sense, especially the part about different cultures and different countries having different value systems. I’m pretty sure the European value system differs a lot from the Asian value system. Some cultures are more centered to the self and other cultures are more centered on community. It’s also interesting how religion and their influences affect these values as well. Lastly, it makes sense that we all have both of these but lean more towards one or the other.

  • Each religion is a faith-based attempt to explain reality in such a way that it gives people a steady stream of hope
    • In a kind of Darwin in competition, those religions that mobilize, coordinate, and inspire their believers the most are those that win out and spread throughout the world
  • The new religion produced in the 17th century was called science
    • It is arguably the most effective religion because it is the first religion that is able to evolve and improve upon itself
    • It is open to anybody and everybody, and not more to a single book or creed
    • It is an ongoing, ever-changing body of evidence-based beliefs
  • The Scientific Revolution introduced the concept of growth 

Reader’s note: It’s interesting how the author says that Science has produced the greatest advancements for humanity than anything else, but it’s also clear that it’s produced a lot of the worst things. This includes technology used for bad intentions like weapons, or technology that isolates us. These forms of technology reduces connection and human intimacy by isolating us. The fact that science has produced more and faster growth also contributes to the wider gap socially and economically among groups.

  • Now the author is saying that before science, life sucked because of the hierarchies and lack of personal economic growth, which made people rely on religions institutions to give them hope
  • However, the advantage of spiritual religions is the infallibility no matter what happens
    • The robustness of spiritual religions means shit could hit the proverbial fan and your psychological stability would remain intact
      • Hope would be preserved because God is always preserved
  • The antidote to evil and fuckedness in the world is hope
    • The more evil means the more hope needs to be utilized
    • Heroes inspire us because they remind us we are all capable of resisting evil
    • Hope is contagious and saves the world
  • Experiences generate emotions, emotions generate values, values generate narratives of meaning, and people who share similar narratives of meaning come together to generate religions
    • Experiences -> emotions -> values -> narratives of meaning -> religions
  • Everything being fucked doesn’t require hope, hope requires everything being fucked
  • The sources of hope that give our lives a sense of meaning are the same sources of division and hate
    • The hope that brings the most joy to our lives is the same hope that brings the greatest danger
  • Nietzsche believed we should hope for nothing, not to strive for more desires, but to desire reality 
    • Our challenge and calling is to act without hope
    • Do not hope for better but be better
    • Everything is fucked, and hope is both the cause and the effect of that fuckedness

Part 2 – Everything is Fucked

Chapter 6: The formula of humanity

  • His friend once described parenthood as “following a kid around for a couple of decades and making sure he doesn’t accidentally kill himself
    • Young children are always looking for new ways to accidentally kill themselves because the driving force behind their psychology is exploration
      • Early in life we are driven to explore the world around us because our feeling brains are collecting information on what pleases and harms us
  • We are building up our value hierarchy, figuring out what our first and primary values are so that we can begin to know what to hope for
    • In adolescence, we learn cause and effect
    • We cannot just pursue pleasure and avoid pain as that causes problems
      • Actions have consequences
      • You must negotiate your desires with the desires of those around you
      • You must play by the rules of society and then more often than not you will be rewarded
  • Becoming an adult is therefore developing the ability to do what is right for the simple reason that it is right
    • Past a certain point, maturity has nothing to do with age
      • What matters are a person’s intentions
    • The difference between a child, and adolescent, and an adult is not how old they are or what they do, but why they do something
  • Good early parenting boils down to implementing the correct consequences for a child’s pleasure/pain-driven behavior
    • Children who are abused and children who are coddled end up with the same issues when they become adults
      • They remain stuck in their childhood value systems
  • Making the leap of faith into a virtuous adulthood requires not just an ability to endure pain, but the courage to abandon hope 
  • The formula for humanity consists of never using people as a means to the end
    • Humans or other people are always the ends
  • All that matters is that conscious will is respected and protected
  • Hope doesn’t even have to enter into the equation
    • Don’t hope for a better life, simply be a better life 
  • The fundamental political schism in the 21st century is no longer right versus left, but the impulsive childish values of the right and left versus the compromising adolescents and adult values of the right and left
    • It is a battle of maturity versus immaturity, of means versus ends

Chapter 7: Pain is the universal constant

  • The Blue Dot Effect suggests that the more we look for threats, the more we will see them regardless of how safe or comfortable our environment actually is 
  • The Blue Dot Effect: the better things get, the more we perceive threats where there are none and the more upset we become
    • It is at the heart of the paradox of progress 
  • By removing healthy adversity and challenge, people struggle even more
  • Pain is the universal constant of human condition
    • Therefore, the attempt to move away from pain, to protect oneself from all harm, can only backfire
    • Trying to eliminate pain only increases your sensitivity to suffering rather than alleviating your suffering 
  • The pursuit of happiness is a toxic value defined in our culture that keeps us on the hedonic treadmill
    • Living well does not mean avoiding suffering, it means suffering for the right reasons
      • If we’re going to be forced to suffer by simply existing, we might as well learn how to suffer well
  • While pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice
    • There’s a gap between what we experience and how we interpret that experience
  • Book reference: Antifragile
    • Truly adult values are anti-fragile, they benefit from the unexpected
    • Honesty, courage, humility
      • These are the virtues of a post-hope existence
  •  If you remove scarcity from life, you remove the ability to determine value
    • Pain is the currency of our values
      • Without the pain of loss or potential loss, it becomes impossible to determine the value of anything at all
  • The quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our character
    • The quality of our character is determined by our relationship to our pain
      • When we deny ourselves the ability to feel pain for a purpose, we deny ourselves the ability to feel any purpose at all

Chapter 8: The feelings economy

  • The world runs on one thing: feelings
    • People spend money on things that make them feel good
    • The more you’re able to influence the emotions of people in the world, the more money and power you will accumulate
  • 2 ways to create value in the marketplace:
    1. Innovationsupgrade pain
      • Replace one pain with a much more tolerable or desirable pain
    2. Divergenceavoid pain
      • Help people numb their pain
  • Variety is not freedom
    • Variety is meaningless, it’s just more choices
    • The only true and ethical form of freedom is through self-limitation
      • It is choosing what you will give up in life, not the privilege of choosing everything you want

Reader’s note: He’s talking about how the sacrifice of doing certain things like working or working hard give you the freedom of better health and more opportunities. This is exactly like Discipline = freedom

  • You can become freer simply by choosing the limitations you want to impose on yourself
  • Plato argued that democracy wasn’t the best form of government because it is an institution guided by the will of the people
    • We’ve learned so far that people when left to their own devices instinctively run away from pain and towards happiness
    • The problem occurs when people achieve happiness and then it’s never enough
    • Eventually the institutions will not be able to keep up with the desires of the people
      • When that happens, people will begin to blame the institutions themselves
  • He says democracy inevitably leads to moral decay because as they indulge more in fake freedom, peoples values deteriorate and become more childish and self-centered, resulting in the citizenry turning on the democratic system itself
  • When society races childish desires, it doesn’t want to negotiate or gear paying for the sake of greater freedom or prosperity
    • What they want instead is a strong leader to come and make everything right at a moments notice
      • They want a tyrant
  • Democracy requires a citizenry of strong maturity and character
  • Freedom itself demands discomfort
    • It demands dissatisfaction because the freer a society becomes, the more each person will be forced to reckon and compromise with views and lifestyles and ideas that conflict with their own

Chapter 9: The Final Religion

  • He says the final religion is AI
    • The technology that killed the old gods will ironically create our new gods
  • Evolution rewards the most powerful creatures
    • Power is determined by the ability to access, harness, and manipulate information effectively
  • Don’t hope for better, just be better
    • Be more compassionate, more resilient, more humble, more discipline, and a better human.

Main ideas / Themes:

Hope & Despair
  1. Being heroic is the ability to conjure hope where there is none
  2. We all need hope to find meaning in our lives
  3. The Paradox of Progress: the better things get, the more we seem to despair. Similarly, the Blue Dot Effect is the better things get, the more we perceive threats where there are none and the more upset we become
Self-Control & Emotion
  1. Self control is an emotional problem
  2. You need to consistently communicate and align the brains around the same values
  3. The super power of the thinking brain is meaning control
  4. While our thinking brain creates factual knowledge around observation and logic, the feeling brain creates our values around our experiences of pain
  5. There’s no such thing as change without pain
  6. There are two ways to heal yourself by replacing old faulty values with better healthier values
    1. Re-examine the experiences of your past and re-write the narratives around them
    2. Begin writing the narratives of your future self, to envision what life would be like if you had certain values or possess a certain identity
Religion & Science
  1. All societies need to deal with the tension that emerges between the advantaged elite and the disadvantaged masses
    • Master morality is the moral belief that people get what they deserve. Might makes right, that if you earn something through hard work or ingenuity, you deserve it
    • Slave morality believes that people who have suffered the most, those are the most disadvantaged and exploited, deserve the best treatment because of that suffering
  2. Those religions that mobilize, coordinate, and inspire their believers the most are those that win out and spread throughout the world
  3. Science is arguably the most effective religion because it is the first religion that is able to evolve and improve upon itself
  4. Heroes inspire us because they remind us we are all capable of resisting evil
  5. The sources of hope that give our lives a sense of meaning are the same sources of division and hate
  6. Nietzsche believed we should hope for nothing, not to strive for more desires, but to desire reality
  7. Everything is fucked, and hope is both the cause and the effect of that fuckedness
Humanity & Maturity
  1. Becoming an adult is developing the ability to do what is right for the simple reason that it is right. It requires an ability to endure pain and the courage to abandon hope
  2. The formula for humanity consists of never using people as a means to the end
Pain & Suffering
  1. By removing healthy adversity and challenge, people struggle even more. Trying to eliminate pain only increases your sensitivity to suffering rather than alleviating your suffering
  2. Living well does not mean avoiding suffering, it means suffering for the right reasons
  3. While pain is inevitable, suffering is a choice. There’s a gap between what we experience and how we interpret that experience
  4. The quality of our character is determined by our relationship to our pain
Feelings & Freedom
  1. The world runs on one thing: feelings. The more you’re able to influence the emotions of people in the world, the more money and power you will accumulate
  2. Variety isn’t freedom, just more choices. The only true and ethical form of freedom is through self-limitation. It is choosing what you will give up in life, not the privilege of choosing everything you want
  3. Democracy inevitably leads to moral decay because as they indulge more in fake freedom, peoples values deteriorate and become more childish and self-centered, resulting in the citizenry turning on the democratic system itself
  4. Freedom itself demands discomfort
  5. Don’t hope for better, just be better

Closing thoughts:

Mark Manson does it again. He’s 3 for 3 based on his books I’ve read so far. This book adds so much value holistically, I can’t recommend it enough.

There are points in the book where it turns really philosophical, but that’s one of the things I like about it. However, it always brings it back to the practical and ties it into real world. I really enjoy how he can pull from obscure references in the past, but then also drive the point home.

I also appreciate that there’s a good amount of referencing to actual scientific studies on things that I never knew before. Even some of the concepts I have learned about, he gives a unique perspective on them.

Overall, I do vibe well with Mark Manson’s voice and style. I know some friends who didn’t really vibe well with his style for The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, but it’s definitely my style.

My one critique is that while there are a lot of great and interesting ideas that he poses forth, there aren’t as many actionable “takeaways”. Mostly he gives you concepts and principles that are great as long as you internalize and practice them. However, there’s not really a solid game plan to practice and therefore harder to internalize. Because of that, this is the type of book one has to revisit every so often.

Overall, I highly recommend the book. If you’re used to Mark Manson, his writing adds that unique and fresh perspective to the conversation about hope in our society, human nature, and how to think about this in the context of a better future.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

As I mentioned, there’s not much in terms of putting into practice. But if I had to choose one takeaway, it would be:

  • To gain self-control, you need to consistently communicate and align the two brains around the same values

I think this is great insight for generating more self-control. Although the feeling brain is in the driver seat and the thinking brain is the navigator, you can align the two through the same values. You negotiate and compromise, but you don’t fight with your feeling brain.

I’ve found this worked when trying to change my eating habits. When I focused on the same values of how food made me feel, I was able to change the habits and eat better.

I plan to put this into practice next time I’m trying to create a new habit. Focus on the feelings it gives me and align my actions around the same values.

Nutshell:

Hope gives us meaning, but also most of our problems. The real solution lies in self-limitation, our relationship with pain and suffering, and giving up our hopes and selfish desires.

Rating:

4.5/5

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