This episode contains profanity*
In this episode we discuss improving your “mental nutrition.” Decades ago we realized that our society had started eroding our physical health, with desk jobs and fast food, and we became conscious of the need for fitness and nutrition. Now, we stand at the precipice of an even bigger struggle - we are healthier and happier than ever before and yet anxiety, suicide, and depression are on the rise. How do we improve our mental fitness and take action to challenge our irrationality, our impulsiveness, and our bad habits? Do you want to finally move past inaction, procrastination, and laziness? Do you want to feel happier about the world? Listen to this interview with our returning guest Mark Manson.
Mark Manson is the New York Times and international bestselling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and his new already bestselling book Everything Is Fucked. His blog, markmanson.net, attracts more than two million readers per month. He is also the CEO and founder of Infinity Squared Media LLC
The world today is so polarized, mental health issues are on the rise, and yet we are physically safer and healthier than ever before.
Do you need some kind of vision, some kind of hope, that the future will be better than today?
The better things get, the more anxious humans become about losing them
The “uncomfortable truth” of our own mortality and the reality of the astounding insignificance of human existence on a cosmic scale
Our world is filled with “hope narratives” that help us hide from the reality that on a cosmic scale we are truly insignificant
How do you deal with life if you achieve all your goals early on?
What happens when your hope narrative dies?
The only defense against our own cosmic insignificance is creating meaning for ourselves
In the fact of this cosmic backdrop, How do we start to building up meaning for ourselves?
We need a sense of control
We need to value something
We need to have a group or community who shares our values
Our values and emotions aren’t tethered to our rational thoughts.
The thinking brain vs the feeling brain.
All the issues around purpose, discipline, control and importance are EMOTIONAL issues, not intellectual issues.
The first step to create value and meaning in your life is to develop an action oriented bias.
Your emotions are feedback to your experience
Intellectual understanding is like drawing a map, but you have to actually DRIVE THE CAR
Weight loss is a perfect example - its not a question or more information, its a question of the EMOTIONAL BARRIERS to taking action and getting yourself to a place to where you feel like doing it.
Reading more books is not doing something, learning is not doing something.
How to solve inaction, procrastination, laziness, over intellectualization
They are all EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS not knowledge problems
Humans are largely irrational creatures. Most of our actions are impulsive, selfish, and not well thought through, and our conscious mind spends a huge chunk of it’s time and energy coming up with reasons - rationalizations - to explain and justify what the unconscious mind wants to do.
You probably think that all your actions are rational and justified - but have you ever really thought about and looked into the narratives and stories you use to explain away bad habits and behaviors in your life?
How do you merge the thinking and feeling brain - how do you get them aligned?
The first goal of the thinking brain is to recognize the emotions that arise from the feeling brain - acknowledge and accept them
Emotional intelligence is the core of understanding the dialogue between your conscious thoughts and your emotional reactions to your thoughts
You must learn to barter with your feeling brain, keep lowering the stakes until your feeling brain is willing to get on board with what your thinking brain wants to do
Why is our society, and why are people, so fragile today, and how can we toughen up?
Our society is going through a similar transition that it went through in the 1950s and 1960s when we realized we couldn’t eat fast food all the time and needed to start working out - we must also develop our mental and emotional health - we are just starting to understand that on a social level
What if we stopped giving people what they wanted? If you give people too much of what they want they become infantile and immature and society starts to break down.
Technology today is designed and geared to take advantage and exploit our psychological flaws -what if we had technology that did the opposite, that corrected our cognitive biases?
The constant “impulse fulfillment” of technology and social media makes you a worse thinker and worsens your cognitive biases
Information diet & mental nutrition - you must take responsibility for your own mental consumption habits, your own mental habits, you must read things that challenge you, consider that your ideas may be wrong
You have to get engaged on a local and individual level - solve problems within your realm and within your reach
Homework: Unfollow or unfriend at least half of the people you follow or friend, including news and media sources
Homework: In terms of personal habits think about your goals in terms of thinking brain vs feeling brain - you must find a way to work with your emotions instead of against them. Strike a bargain with your feeling brain.
Thank you so much for listening!
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This week's episode of The Science of Success is presented by Dr. Aziz Gazipura's Confidence University!
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Want To Dig In More?! - Here’s The Show Notes, Links, & Research
[Article] The “Do Something” Principle by Mark Manson
[Article] Medium - “The Biggest Threat Humans Face in 2018” by Matt Bodnar
[Wiki Page] Mark Manson
[Article] Nomadic Matt - EVERYTHING IS F*CKED: REFLECTIONS ON HOPE AND TRAVEL WITH MARK MANSON
[Article] CBC Radio - “Hope can be a double-edged sword when life feels 'meaningless,' says author Mark Manson” by Émilie Quesnel
[Article] Upworthy - “How I found my life's passion by asking myself these ridiculous questions.” by Mark Manson
[Article] Daily Stoic - “Everything Is F*cked: An Interview About Hope With Mark Manson”
[Article] New York Post - “Inside the latest book by bestselling ‘F**ked’ author Mark Manson” By Mackenzie Dawson
[Article] Philly Voice - “Will Smith announces book project with self-help author Mark Manson” By Marielle Mondon
[Article] TIME - “10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s” by Mark Manson
[Article] Art of Charm - 10 Counterintuitive Approaches to Self-Improvement with Mark Manson
[Article] The Psychology Podcast - Hope is F*cked with Mark Manson
[Podcast] Elite Man Magazine - Everything Is F*cked: How To Have More Hope And Happiness In A Chaotic World – Mark Manson (Ep. 222)
[Podcast] Art of Charm - Mark Manson | A Counterintuitive Approach (Episode 547)
[Podcast] Lewis Howes - EP. 793 - THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING UP.
[Podcast] Jordan Harbinger - 198: Mark Manson | Channeling Hope, Choosing Problems, and Changing Values
[Podcast] Ultimate Health Podcast - 293: Mark Manson – We All Need Hope • Meditation Makes You Stronger • Happiness Is Overrated
Mark’s Youtube Channel
The Rise And Fall of Ken Wilber
Book Trailer - Mark Manson on Everything is F*cked: A Book about Hope
Daily Motivation - *WARNING* This SPEECH Will Make You RETHINK YOUR ENTIRE LIFE (life changer!)
MedSchool Insiders - The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k - Summary and Application [Part 1/2]
Business Insider - How To Stop Procrastinating And Finally Get Work Done
Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson
Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson
[Book Review] Models Review by Dan Silvestre
[Book Summary] James Clear - The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
[00:00:04.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success. Introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[0:00:11.8] MB: Welcome to the Science of Success; the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the Internet with more than three million downloads and listeners in over a hundred countries.
In this episode, we discuss improving your mental nutrition. Decades ago, we realized that our society had started eroding our physical health with desk jobs and fast food and we became conscious of the need for fitness and nutrition.
Now, we stand at the precipice of an even bigger struggle. We are healthier and happier than ever before and yet, anxiety, suicide and depression are on the rise. How do we improve our mental fitness and take action to challenge our irrationality, our impulsiveness and our bad habits? Do you want to finally move past inaction, procrastination and laziness? Do you want to feel happier about the world? Then listen to this interview with our returning guest, Mark Manson
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In our previous episode, we discussed the truth about championship performance. Nobody becomes a champion by accident. We uncovered the counterintuitive reality that being a champion isn't about doing more, it's about doing less. We exposed the reality that most people spend too much time planning and not enough time acting, and share the specific habits and routines that you can use to model your behavior after champions with our previous guest, Dana Cavalea. If you want a behind-the-scenes look at world championship performance, listen to our previous episode.
Now for our interview with Mark. Please note, this episode contains profanity.
[0:03:31.9] MB: Today, we have another exciting guest back on the show, Mark Manson. Mark is the New York Times and international best-selling author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, his new already best-selling book, Everything is F*cked. His blog, markmanson.net attracts more than 2 million readers a month. He's also the CEO and founder of Infinity Squared Media. Mark, welcome back to the Science of Success.
[0:03:57.0] MM: It's good to be back, man. Thanks for having me.
[0:03:59.7] MB: Yeah. Well, we're super excited to have you back on the show and really enjoyed some of the themes and ideas from the latest book. I want to dig into those. To start out, I'm curious, what inspired or drove you to dig into this new topic, or to write Everything is F*cked?
[0:04:16.8] MM: Well, there were two inspirations; one was, I guess you call it cultural and then one was more personal. The cultural inspiration, I think regardless of what country you live in, or where you are on the political spectrum, things have gotten very ugly in the last few years in most Western countries. There's a lot of polarization, people are very upset. We're starting to see a rise in mental health issues and we're seeing a rise of them in some of the most comfortable and safest parts of the world.
That just freaked me out. I was very curious about what was going on. I started doing a lot of research around that. The personal inspiration was Subtle Art became a massive success. I think, I came on your show a week or two after it came out.
[0:05:08.4] MB: We like to take credit for that, by the way.
[0:05:12.5] MM: It was all your podcast. I pushed the first 20, 30,000 copies and you guys pushed the next 5 million, so I really appreciate that. That book just became this insane – it's like Avengers level success in the publishing world. It sold over 6 million copies at this point.
It actually messed with me. It was amazing for a couple months and it took the wife to Paris and took a nice vacation and played a bunch of video games. After about three or four months of that, this existential crisis set in of, “Oh, shit. I accomplished all my goals. All my dreams came true and I don't know what to do with myself.” Essentially, I don't know what to hope for. That left me in a very strange, very strange mild depression and that, everything in my life was amazing and everybody's high-fiving me and congratulating me. I'm just wandering around from day-to-day not knowing what the point of doing anything else is.
I found that very strange. It was a very unexpected experience for me. I've since learned that it's not uncommon for people who experience a high amount of success very quickly. I got very curious about what was going on. What was it, when I looked back in other parts of my life where I felt depressed, it made sense. I was an angry 18-year-old and felt like I had no control over my own life. Here I was, 32, and everything I ever wanted happened and I was feeling the same way.
Eventually, I zeroed in on this concept of hope of needing something to hope for, needing some vision that the future is going to be better than today, to help you continue to get up and moving in the morning and feeling your life has a sense of purpose. Then I took that and I saw how it overlapped with this more cultural stuff that I was researching of how suicide rates are the highest in the wealthiest and safest neighborhoods. It's the most developed countries that you see people struggling the most with mental health issues. Those two threads came together and that was the start of this next book.
[0:07:44.8] MB: It's so interesting, because you're experienced in many ways, mirrors that of people like astronauts, etc., that go to the stars and then they come back to earth and they're like, “What do I do now?” I think you're focused on what I consider and in many ways is a theme that we talk so much about on the show, which I think is one of the biggest problems of our time, this idea that – and it's something that perplexes me, which I'm so glad that you wrote about it and had such great insights around it, because it's something I find so fascinating that we're physically healthier, safer than we've ever been in the history of the human species. Yet, people think the world is ending and depression is on the rise and mental health issues continue to pop up. It's such a fascinating problem.
[0:08:31.5] MM: Yeah, it's a bit of a paradox. It's almost like the better things get, the more we have to lose and the more anxious we become about losing it. We're not a very grateful species. We're actually the opposite. We're like, “This is amazing. Oh, crap. What if it's taken away and then we all start freaking out?”
[0:08:54.1] MB: Yeah, exactly. There's some interesting psychology research around that as well. You open the book with this concept that I thought, which dovetails into this, but I thought was a really interesting notion and underpins a lot of the themes we've already started to talk about. Tell me about this idea of as you call it, the uncomfortable truth.
[0:09:16.0] MM: The uncomfortable truth is essentially the realization of our own mortality and our own cosmic insignificance. Once you start understanding the scale and the scope of the universe and everything, it quickly makes all of those little things that you worry about, or think are important in your day-to-day life seem pretty insignificant.
I think anybody who's gone through a very dark period and their life has struggled with this realization, that everything seems a little bit futile. I ended Subtle Art talking about – the last chapter of Subtle Art was about confronting your own mortality and why that's important, because it helps you get clearer about your own values. I picked up where the last book left off and started this book with that same look at mortality and our own insignificance and owning up to that and recognizing that hey look, if we're going to find any meaning, or importance, or sense of hope in this life, it's because we have to create it for ourselves. We have to find something that we choose to believe is worthy of dedicating our lives to. That's a huge responsibility.
[0:10:35.8] MB: That's a great point. I think many people in the book obviously discusses this theme, really gets scared in the face of that immense weight and responsibility.
[0:10:49.3] MM: Yeah, it's hard. It's stressful. I don't think most people think of it that way. I think most people, they get carried by the narratives that are pushed on them, or what they grew up believing, or what their parents taught them, or whatever. I think at some point, it's healthy to understand that these narratives – I call them hope narratives. These hope narratives are essentially, you're buying into them. You're choosing to believe that getting that job is going to be important, or that your kids going to that school is going to be important and make their lives better. These are all very much beliefs taking on faith.
That's fine. We all have to do that, but it's important to recognize that we're choosing to do that. It's in our head. There's not some universal law that's getting a raise next month is going to make everything better.
[0:11:45.3] MB: In essence, these hope narratives help us, or allow us to hide from this reality of where humans, or where any particular human stands on the cosmic scale of time and space and how insignificant we really are when you look at the expanse of the cosmos.
[0:12:04.7] MM: Yeah. I think we need these narratives to sustain ourselves. I think, part of the problem with what happened to me after Subtle Art blew up and became so successful is that my hope narrative died. I had this narrative in my head for most of my adult life of I want to become a best-selling author. I want to sell a bunch of books. I want to become very successful. If I do those things, everything is going to be great. That motivated me. That hope got me up every day for 10 years. Then suddenly, it happens and you realize like, “Oh, I'm still this fucked up dude who's living in a shitty world. Nothing's changed at all.” That hope narrative dies, and so I needed to find a new one. I needed to find something else to put my hopes in, to believe would make my life, or make the world a better place.
[0:13:07.7] MB: What happens when we don't own up to our cosmic insignificance?
[0:13:15.3] MM: I think if we don't own up to it, it's eventually going to knock us on our ass when we're not expecting it. I think it's important. It's funny, because some people, I've done some interviews where they've misinterpreted what I'm writing about is nihilism. My whole point is actually, the only defense against nihilism is recognizing that this cosmic insignificance exists. You need to keep it in the back of your mind and know the game that your psychology is playing, so that you'll be more prepared to defend against it.
I think it's the people who are constantly denying the uncomfortable truth and running away from the uncomfortable truth, that's when something happens in their life that just completely causes them to spin out.
[0:14:07.8] MB: In the face of that cosmic backdrop, how do we start to build up, or create meaning for ourselves?
[0:14:16.0] MM: Well, the first thing I talk about is there are three components that I talk about. The first one is that we need to have feels that we have a sense of control over our life, that we can control our actions and our destiny and actually get somewhere. The second one is we need to value something. We need to decide that something is worth getting to. Then the third component is we need to have a group, or a community of people who share our values and who can help us pursue whatever we find important.
All three of those things work together. If you're not really able to control your own actions, if you're not really in control of your own life, it doesn't matter what you value, because you're not going to feel you can get there. If you don't feel anything's important, or if you can't find something that feels valuable in your life, then it doesn't matter how much control you have. Then finally, if you can't find a group, or a tribe of people who share your values, you're just going to feel like a crazy loner and nobody wants that.
[0:15:22.2] MB: There's a lot of different ways I want to dig into this. Starting out, for people who struggle to find their own values, or find – can't figure out what they actually value in life, how do you approach that challenge?
[0:15:39.2] MM: Finding something to value is it's hard, because I don't think you can necessarily just intellectually find something. It's like, “Oh, well this is important. Now I care about this.” One thing I spend a lot of the early book talking about, or the first half of the book talking about is how are – I call them the thinking brain and the feeling brain, but essentially it's our values and emotions aren't necessarily tethered to our rational thoughts.
You can read a bunch of books about this cause, or why this is important, or why you should pursue that, but unless you feel as though those things are valuable and important in the world, there's a good chance you're not going to get off your ass and do anything. Essentially, all of these issues around purpose and discipline, control and importance, these are essentially – these are emotional issues. These are issues with experiencing and finding value in the world on an emotional level.
I think the first step for somebody who feels aimless and purposeless is to simply develop an action-oriented bias of just saying, “Fuck it. I'll try anything.” Start saying yes to everything. Start going out and giving anything a try, because until you actually get those experiences and then see how you emotionally react to each of those situations, you don't really know how you feel about them or how you value them.
[0:17:14.4] MB: That's a great piece of advice. It's funny, one of my all-time favorite articles that you've ever written and probably, one that I've shared with more people than any other piece of content you've created is the piece you wrote many years ago about the do something principle, and how having a bias towards action helps actually create motivation. People often think it's the reverse, that you need to be motivated to act, but really you should act to create your motivation.
[0:17:39.8] MM: Yeah, it's the action generates inspiration and motivation, not the other way around. Because really, our emotions are simply feedback to experience. If you're not experiencing anything, then you're not going to feel anything.
[0:17:52.9] MB: I think you make another great point, which is this idea that all of the issues around purpose, discipline, control, etc. are emotional challenges, not intellectual ones. Just by reading about it, or studying it, or conceptually grasping it, you're not necessarily going to solve the challenges without investigating it at a deeper level.
[0:18:19.7] MM: Yeah. I've got a fun metaphor that I used throughout the first half of the book, which is that your consciousness is a car. Let's say you want to lose weight, you can read as many books as you want about nutrition and working out and workout programs or whatever, but that intellectual understanding, you're essentially just driving, or you're drawing a map of how to get where you want. At the end of the day, it's your feeling brain that drives the car.
I know this, because I've gone through this myself many, many times. It's like, I know exactly what I should be doing at the gym, I know what I should be eating, I know what habits I should develop, and I sit on the couch and eat Doritos and watch Netflix. It's fundamentally, because I don't feel doing the things that I know I should be doing. Ultimately, to develop those habits and to develop that sense of self-discipline, or self-control, it's an emotional process. It's not just about learning what to do, it's learning how to get yourself to a place where you feel like doing it, where it becomes an exciting, or pleasurable, or rewarding thing for you, because until you do that, it's never going to develop into a habit. You can't brute force your way into new lifelong habits. It just doesn't work that way.
[0:19:53.4] MB: It's funny, because I think in the world of business and these deeper personal development topics, it's easy to lose sight of this topic. For me, weight loss has always been such a great, or healthy lifestyle, or whatever you want to call it, has always been such a great example of the crystal clear disconnect between knowledge and action or results, right? Because it's so easy to know intellectually what you need to do to be healthy, or to lose weight, or whatever and yet, actually achieving those results is almost never a question of lack of information. It's always a question of what are the emotional barriers and how do you overcome them?
[0:20:33.4] MM: Yeah. If you're particularly nerdy and intellectual, like I think we are and probably a lot of your listeners, you can even fall into the trap of thinking that reading more books is doing something. You actually trick yourself into feeling satisfied, because you've read seven books about nutrition. You're like, “Now I know everything and I'm nailing this. I'm totally kicking ass right now.” Meanwhile, you're not actually physically doing anything.
[0:21:07.6] MB: Yeah. I think there's totally a danger of that. I'd like to expand it out from weight loss, because it's such a simple crystal clear example, but it applies to anything; it applies to business, it applies to life, it applies to any theme or topic that's holding anybody back who's listening to this. It's probably not a question of lack of information or lack of knowledge that's really holding you back from the results, it's a question of emotion and motivation and digging into some of these deeper challenges.
[0:21:37.2] MM: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, you could – relationships, avoiding difficult topics and relationships with your boss. I even say this in the book, when I make this point in the book that essentially all of these problems; inaction, procrastination, over-intellectualization, laziness, these are all emotional problems. I say that sucks, because emotional problems are much more difficult to deal with. They're not easy to understand, or wrestle with. It takes a lot of self-awareness and practice to overcome them.
[0:22:15.6] MB: Coming back to and we've been talking about some of these themes already, but coming back to this idea of the thinking brain, versus the feeling brain. One of the other themes that resonated with me around the topic where the chapter of the book, where you really begin to human irrationality, was this notion of the illusion of self-control. Tell me a little bit more about that.
[0:22:36.8] MM: Most of us, what's fascinating when you dig into the search is that you find that we’re very irrational creatures. Most of our actions are impulsive, selfish, not nearly as thought through as we would like to believe they are. What's funny is that our thinking brain, or our conscious mind is basically spends most of its time coming up with reasons that justify what we just did.
I call the chapter Self Control is and Illusion, just to point out that at the end of the day, it's the feeling brain that's driving the car and we're never going to change that. The best we can do is simply work our thinking brain, be honest with our thinking brain and get it on the same page to help it influence the feeling brain to do the right things. Once we do that, that creates the illusion of self-control. When both of your brains, your thinking and your feeling brain agree on what should be done, that's when you feel you have control over your life.
It's hard to get there and it's not something people like hearing. We all are biased towards believing that all of our actions are rational and completely justified and true. Accepting that they're not, and then doing the hard work of questioning how you're justifying yourself and what those narratives and stories you're using to explain away bad habits or bad behaviors. It's an uncomfortable and painful thing, but it's only through that process that we create that sense that we're in control of our lives.
[0:24:25.9] MB: Tell me more about that process. How do we work through and merge, or align are thinking and feeling brains?
[0:24:35.5] MM: The way I talk about it is it's like, imagine two people stuck in a car together and they speak different languages. You have to find ways to translate for one another. A simple example that I use and we can, again the weight loss examples is so universal and simple. Let's say you want to – you know you should go to the gym and you're just not going. One of the tricks that you can do as a thinking brain is you can say like, “Well hey, feeling brain, we should we should go to the gym today.” When you say something like that to yourself, your feeling brain doesn't respond with an argument. Your feeling brain responds with a feeling. You feel lazy, you feel tired, you feel intimidated.
The thinking brain, the first goal for the thinking brain is to be able to recognize the emotions that arise and then respond to them with new narratives. You could say, “Okay, we're intimidated.” How about this? How about we just go and walk on the treadmill? Your feeling brain responds with like, “Hmm.” Okay, a little bit of relief, a little bit of a satisfaction, a little bit of anticipation. You say like, “Okay, cool. We made a deal. Let's just go walk on the treadmill.”
Then you get to the gym and you're walking on the treadmill and you're like, well hey, we're right here. We might as well – we could do some rows, or pick up a weight or whatever and your feeling brain, now that you're there and it's so much simpler and you're you've overcome that first barrier, your feeling brain is like, “Yeah, why not pick up a weight and do a little bit of workout.”
In this way, there's this dialogue that goes back and forth between your conscious thoughts and then your emotional reactions to those thoughts. I think, one way you could describe a lot of forms of therapy, whether it's CBT, or ACT, or one way you could describe emotional intelligence is getting very good at that dialogue, between your conscious thoughts and then your emotional reactions to those thoughts.
I say in the book that you essentially, as a thinking brain, you have to learn to barter with your feeling brain, some like haggler in a Moroccan bazaar. You just have to keep lowering the stakes, until your feeling brain is willing to get onboard. Then you go do the action and you experience the benefits. When I say benefits, that you experience the emotional benefits. You walk out of the gym you’re like, “Wow, I feel so good for doing that. I'm really glad I went.” That's your feeling brain getting onboard with the idea of going to the gym more often. It's this weird interplay that happens inside of all of us, but we're just not aware of it most of the time.
[0:27:25.7] MB: That's a great analogy and a really good way of looking at it, understanding the dialogue between those two. I love the idea of lowering the stakes, keep lowering the stakes until the feeling brain starts to get onboard with what the thinking brain wants to do.
[0:27:42.2] MM: Yeah, and it works for a lot of stuff. It's pretty amazing.
[0:27:46.8] MB: Yeah, I'm already – I'm thinking about that dialogue and it's even helping me re-contextualize a little bit the way that I think about when I don't feel like doing something, giving that mental model of the feeling brain and the thinking brain and how they interact can be a really powerful tool to help unpack that.
I want to transition and talk about another theme from the book that I think is really important, which is this notion of fragility and anti-fragility, and which harkens back to the topic we were talking about at the beginning of the conversation around why is our society today so fragile and what do we need to do to toughen up?
[0:28:31.9] MM: Yeah. One thing and it's funny, because we keep just going to the health and nutrition metaphors. One way I've been describing it, I mean, there's two chapters in the book that are dedicated to anti-fragility and how I think the ways in which I think our culture is becoming more fragile and less resilient. The simplest and quickest way to describe it is the same way, I think probably in the 1950s or 60s, life became sedentary. Everybody started working in offices and people left the farms. We quickly realized that if you sit around all day and just eat cupcakes, or whatever, your body starts falling apart.
We have this revolution that happened in the 1970s and 80s around health, nutrition, fitness. That's when people started going to gyms and bodybuilding became a thing and people started running. There was this awakening of okay, modern life does not provide our physical body the regular amount of stress and challenge that it needs to stay healthy, so we need to design things that we can do ourselves to do that for us.
I think what we're going through right now is a similar thing with our mental and emotional health. Our mind operates in a similar way as a muscle. If it is not regularly stressed and worked and challenged in a certain capacity, it becomes more fragile and weak and eventually, will just completely break down.
I think right now, we're living in the informational equivalent of a McDonald's culture of news and information. It's just tons of junk with very little nutritious value. I think the same way, you have to consciously break down your muscle to build it back up and make it stronger, we need to do the same things with our psychological health. We need to look for certain degrees of conflict, confrontation, opposing viewpoints, challenge our own beliefs, challenge our own impulses and desires, because I think what's happening today is just so much of this new technology is geared towards indulging every whim and desire that we have all the time, it's making us less and less, not even willing, it's making us less and less capable of coping with opposing viewpoints, or ideas, or messages that might challenge us.
[0:31:07.0] MB: That's another great analogy. I completely agree with that idea that the vast majority of the content and things like Twitter and Facebook and social media, the news, etc., it's all mental junk food basically. It's a perfect description to call it McDonald's. You're right, I think we're at the beginning of this early awakening that we really need to focus on our mental nutrition, for lack of a better term. We need to focus on our mental health and we need to be really consciously thinking about how can we develop the tools and the strategies. I think that's one of the reasons, obviously you're writing your books and one of the reasons we're doing the podcast is to start to help people understand these things a little bit better. It's such a such an important topic and something that so few people are really thinking about right now.
[0:31:59.2] MM: Yeah. It's hard, because I think there's this natural assumption, or impulse on our culture that it's, give people what they want. People want something faster and more convenient, give it to them. If people want to read articles that they agree with, give it to them. That's been the basis of our economy, I guess for the last 100 years. I think we're reaching a tipping point where it's like, if you give people too much of what they want, they just become infantile and immature and uncompromising towards others. You can't really have a functioning society when that's the case.
[0:32:40.7] MB: There's a couple different things I want to unpack from that. I want to get into, because you have a great discussion in the book around the differences between maturity and immaturity. Before we do, one of my and probably my favorite point from the entire book was the notion that you had, that instead of technology and things like social media capitalizing on our psychological flaws, what if there was an alternate reality, or we built a new world where technology and AI actually helped us recognize the flaws in our thinking, recognize our cognitive biases and steered us in the right direction, instead of becoming a positive feedback loop that just continues to make it worse and worse and worse and reinforce all of our biases and psychological flaws.
[0:33:28.2] MM: Yeah. That's one of the last points I make in the book is that I think, our technology has developed in a direction where it's taking advantage of our psychological weaknesses, which makes sense. I mean, in terms of making a profit, that's where the easy money is. It's easy to get people to click on stuff that pisses them off. It's easy to show salacious headlines, or pictures, or get people addicted to certain apps or games. That doesn't mean it's good though.
I think one of the things that I think is important going into the next couple decades is that we start developing technology that helps us compensate for our psychological weaknesses, because we're definitely going to have the technology. There could easily be plug-ins that are able to check and verify how reliable a certain website is, or how fact-check articles in real-time, or fact check Facebook posts in real-time. We're not far away from that. The problem right now is just that that's probably not a profitable thing to develop, but our society and our culture needs that.
[0:34:44.6] MB: It's funny. Literally yesterday, I popped onto Facebook, which I hate doing, but someone was trying to communicate with me via Facebook message. I saw a post from a friend of mine and he posted this chart and it was something basically out of Factfulness by Hans Rosling, that was all these – the child poverty going down and early childhood education and all this stuff going up. Basically, all the stats about how the world is so much safer and better than people could possibly imagine.
There was there was a comment on there that was like, “I don't believe any of these stats. What are your sources?” I literally screenshot at it and just sent him the screenshot and I was like, “Definition of a cognitive bias.”
[0:35:24.1] MM: Dude, it's crazy. There's something about and I talked about this towards the end of my book, there's something about the convenience and the constant, I guess wish fulfillment, or impulse fulfillment of the technology that it's making people – it's removing the stakes of having crazy beliefs. One of the things I mentioned in my references is that the Flat Earth Society has grown. Their membership has grown over a 1000% the last couple of years. These are people who believe the earth is flat. They have access to all of the wisdom and knowledge of the entire human civilization on the internet, yet they choose to get on and talk about how the earth is flat.
It’s way beyond any point of factual argument. We're in the realm of psychology. We're in the realm of feeling brains running amuck, of believing whatever they want because there are no consequences to believing crazy things. I think the side effect of all the great things that the internet has done and social media has done that one of the pernicious side effects is that it is enabled that. It is enabled the ability for people to believe whatever the hell they want without any consequences. As soon as you do that, the maturity of people dropped and the ability to function as a democracy, or a modern society drops as well.
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[0:38:21.8] MB: I want to dig into the solution to that, or how do we pull Mac from this precipice. Before we do, you touched again on this notion of maturity. In the book, you have a great discussion of what you call immaturity versus maturity. How do you think about those concepts and how do they apply to this dynamic?
[0:38:40.5] MM: It's interesting, because I've always had a very casual interest in developmental psychology. As I was writing this book, I was writing about all these things that we've been talking about, how people are becoming more impulsive and just more willing to disregard any facts, or statistics, or data that they're confronted with and how there's less and less repercussions for people just indulging whatever they feel and whatever they want to be true.
I realize, I'm like, this is like, if you look at developmental psychology, the definition of growing up is a child slowly learning to subvert their own impulses, or recognize their own – have a willingness that they're wrong, have a willingness to compromise their own views, have a willingness to recognize that their perspective is limited and is personal. It's not objective.
I realize, I'm like, “Holy shit. This is what's happening is we're all becoming children again.” We're all going back to I want the cookie and I want it now. There's nothing that you can say that will change that person's mind. That actually bummed me out more than probably anything else, because I mean, we know everything else about children that we know – we're basically becoming very highly educated in individualistic children, because – and the problem is that children, they don't compromise, they become very violent very easily and they don't – they’re not able to form meaningful relationships, or meaningful connections to others, or to society well at all. They’re little narcissists, essentially. Yeah, I think something's got to change in the culture.
[0:40:34.1] MB: To me, that's one of the biggest challenges of our society and I think one of the core missions of the Science of Success is to help open people's eyes and realize that you have to question your own assumptions, you have to understand your own cognitive biases, you have to pursue rational scientific thinking through the vein of somebody like a Charlie Munger, or a Carl Sagan. Yet, the world that today is slipping more and more away from that. Now that we're standing on the precipice of this, how do we pull back?
[0:41:06.0] MM: I don't know, man. There's only one part of the book that is actually prescriptive, because ultimately, I think these problems are systemic. I mean, there are things that we can do individually, I think the information diet, or as you called it mental nutrition, I think that's a huge part of it. I've got a chapter where I talk about the value of making commitments and limiting yourself. I think on a wide scale, our approach to this technology is going to have to change.
I think we're starting to see that. I mean, both people at Facebook and Twitter are starting to talk about how they're concerned. They finally acknowledge that these problems exist and that they're thinking about them. I think it's also incumbent on us as individuals, to take responsibility for our mental consumption habits and our own impulses and challenging our assumptions. I think it's the same way you seek out a physical health regimen, we need to seek out of a mental health regimen. Read things that challenge you, read opposing viewpoints, talk to people face-to-face who you don't necessarily agree with and empathize with them. As individuals, that's what we need most right now, I think.
[0:42:25.2] MB: What are some specific strategies that an individual that's listening to this conversation right now could implement to begin improving their mental nutrition?
[0:42:38.6] MM: One thing I've been talking, I've been doing a series of talks around the country. One of the things I've been talking about is I actually think – I think the internet has caused us to think too globally in a lot of senses. I mean, it's good to be aware of global issues, but at the end of the day, unless you dedicate your life to a global cause, you're probably not going to make much of a dent in it.
I think there needs to be a little bit of a return to local concerns and local community. I think people should get involved in local groups, they should volunteer at the local school or the local homeless shelter, get involved with local causes. Because not only is that probably more effective in the long run if everybody did more of that, but it's also – and coming back to that, bringing a full circle back to hope. If you're constantly focused on global problems, it's going to take you to a hopeless place, because you're just going to feel disempowered and feel as though you have no control over the outcome.
When you engage your community, when you go actually see people face-to-face and help them, or interact with them, you develop not only that sense of community and that sense of purpose, but it also makes you – it gives you a sense of hope and meaning that is more resilient and can be sustained more.
The other amazing thing that happens, when you start spending most of your time with people face-to-face, anybody who's never deleted all their social media apps experience this. It's like, you delete all the apps, you spend about two or three days in a fetal position rocking back and forth. Then you realize that you're actually forced to go outside and see people. Within a week of doing that, the whole social media world just seems so disconnected from reality. It's not real. It’s this imagined place where everything is exaggerated and extreme and everybody's upset all the time. If you actually go down the street and talk with a neighbor or help out at the school or something, things are pretty good. Life's okay and it's going to be okay. I've been encouraging, I've been championing more of that.
[0:44:47.0] MB: That's a great strategy and reminds me of that quote. I'm probably going to butcher it by paraphrasing, it's never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has, or whatever that quote is. It's a great reminder that just because you see on the news some massive, insurmountable structural challenge, the way to actually create change, create a positive impact is to start with yourself.
I wrote a post which I'll throw into the show notes a year or two ago about putting on your rationality oxygen mask and starting with investigating your own limiting beliefs and cognitive biases and the things that were wrong with yourself. Once you do that, then you can start to help other people on the journey as well.
[0:45:31.6] MM: Yeah, absolutely.
[0:45:33.0] MB: You touched on this already, but for listeners who want to take an action step after listening to this episode, what would be one action item or piece of homework that you would give them to really begin taking the first step? Because we talked about the importance of taking action to concretely implement some of these ideas in their lives.
[0:45:55.4] MM: Well, I think it depends what they feel their biggest problem is. One thing I've been recommending is you don't have to delete social media, but one thing I found very useful is unfollowing, or unfriending at least half of the people that you follow and friend, that includes news sources, media sources. I try to get my news from the front page of Wikipedia these days, because I think it's literally the only unbiased source of information at this point.
Then I think it's in terms of just personal habits and – we all have those things that we know we should do, but we don't do them. I think start thinking about those things in terms of thinking brain versus feeling brain. You need to find a way to work with your emotions, rather than against them. Because if you just try to overwhelm your emotions, it never lasts. You can do that once or twice, but at some point you have to strike a bargain with your feeling brain and find a way to enjoy whatever the new activity that you want to take on gives you.
[0:47:02.1] MB: For listeners who want to find you, your work, both of your books, etc., online, what is the best place for them to do that?
[0:47:10.0] MM: Website is markmanson.net. There's tons and tons of articles there about all these topics. Then the books, Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, and then the new book is Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope. Both of those are probably in every bookstore you could find. Go check those out.
[0:47:28.4] MB: Awesome. Well Mark, thank you so much for coming back on the show for sharing again some tremendous wisdom and insights. It's great to see your success and how well you've done, because I think you're sharing, you're talking about some really important ideas. I hope the listeners take some action and really implement some of the things we talked about today.
[0:47:48.9] MM: Thanks, man. I appreciate it.
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