The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
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A few years went by. Then a few more. And then . . . nothing happened. The prince began to notice that this life of suffering wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. It wasn’t bringing him the insight he had desired. It wasn’t revealing any deeper mystery of the world or its ultimate purpose.
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Entitled people exude a delusional degree of self-confidence. This confidence can be alluring to others, at least for a little while.
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The deeper the pain, the more helpless we feel against our problems, and the more entitlement we adopt to compensate for those problems. This entitlement plays out in one of two ways: 1.   I’m awesome and the rest of you all suck, so I deserve special treatment. 2.   I suck and the rest of you are all awesome, so I deserve special treatment.
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This flood of extreme information has conditioned us to believe that exceptionalism is the new normal.
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This sort of thinking is dangerous. 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. And this mindset can quickly turn dangerous, to both yourself and others.
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“Victimhood chic” is in style on both the right and the left today, among both the rich and the poor. In fact, this may be the first time in human history that every single demographic group has felt unfairly victimized simultaneously. And they’re all riding the highs of the moral indignation that comes along with it.
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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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Uncertainty removes our judgments of others; it preempts the unnecessary stereotyping and biases that we otherwise feel when we see somebody on TV, in the office, or on the street. Uncertainty also relieves us of our judgment of ourselves. We don’t know if we’re lovable or not; we don’t know how attractive we are; we don’t know how successful we could potentially become. The only way to achieve these things is to remain uncertain of them and be open to finding them out through experience.
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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.
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VCR questions are funny because the answer appears difficult to anyone who has them and appears easy to anyone who does not.
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But, in the “free” West, my Russian teacher continued, there existed an abundance of economic opportunity—so much economic opportunity that it became far more valuable to present yourself in a certain way, even if it was false, than to actually be that way.
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The problem is that we’re finding out that romantic love is kind of like cocaine.
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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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An overbearing mother may take responsibility for every problem in her children’s lives. Her own entitlement then encourages an entitlement in her children, as they grow up to believe other people should always be responsible for their problems.
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These are the yin and yang of any toxic relationship: the victim and the saver, the person who starts fires because it makes her feel important and the person who puts out fires because it makes him feel important.
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But while investing deeply in one person, one place, one job, one activity might deny us the breadth of experience we’d like, pursuing a breadth of experience denies us the opportunity to experience the rewards of depth of experience. There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime.
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In one of my last dreams of Josh, I was sitting in a Jacuzzi with him (yeah, I know, weird), and I said something like, “I’m really sorry you died.” He laughed. I don’t remember exactly what his words were, but he said something like, “Why do you care that I’m dead when you’re still so afraid to live?” I woke up crying.
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What Becker is saying, in essence, is that we’re all driven by fear to give way too many fucks about something, because giving a fuck about something is the only thing that distracts us from the reality and inevitability of our own death.
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While most people whittle their days chasing another buck, or a little bit more fame and attention, or a little bit more assurance that they’re right or loved, death confronts all of us with a far more painful and important question: What is your legacy?
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Whether you’re listening to Aristotle or the psychologists at Harvard or Jesus Christ or the goddamn Beatles, they all say that happiness comes from the same thing: caring about something greater than yourself, believing that you are a contributing component in some much larger entity, that your life is but a mere side process of some great unintelligible production.
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And entitlement strips this away from us. The gravity of entitlement sucks all attention inward, toward ourselves, causing us to feel as though we are at the center of all of the problems in the universe, that we are the one suffering all of the injustices, that we are the one who deserves greatness over all others.