The worst thing that happened to me in five years happened three months ago. But, wait, I don't want to be complaining. More on that in a second.
"Are you going to kill yourself?" I bumped into one of my neighbors a few years ago. He had just started reading my posts.
"Because your writing sounds like you are about to kill yourself."
A few weeks after that I ran into Henry Blodget. "Did you hit your head? What changed?"
A year after that, the CEO of a company that fired me took me out to lunch, "I heard you had a stroke or a heart attack."
"Well, at least a nervous breakdown. Every one said you had a nervous breakdown."
Then she offered me a huge job that I had to turn down. I didn't want to stop doing what I loved.
I didn't care about the job.
I always have to ask: am I clone of the version society wants me to be? Can I say "No" to the things I don't want to do?
Can I be happy even if I'm not jumping through all the hoops to make others happy at my expense?
I'm sorry I write so much about my failures. So, for once I will tell you: when I stopped caring, I had more success than ever.
Every time I cared about something, something would happen that would prevent me from getting what I cared about.
I kept trying to force the universe to bend 13 billion years of effort into my meager effort.
For a long time I cared too much. What he thought. What she thought. Why didn't they like me? Who would I have to beg next in order to "advance". Both you and me, we'll be dead before the universe blinks.
So I totally gave up.
I surrendered. Every day, I wake up and surrender first thing.
Here's what happens:
A) PEOPLE LISTEN TO YOU
You have no agenda. You're not trying to force your own vomit down someone else's mouth.
Example: if I write about how people shouldn't buy a house, I have no stake in the game. I've owned houses and I don't own a house. I've earned them and I've lost them.
I'm not trying to buy someone's house cheap ("hey buddy, you shouldn't own that. Why don't sell it to me cheap. Like on the down low.")
Nor am I trying to sell some product that says "get all your cash out of your house and give it to me."
I just give the basic basic math.
Then people get VERY angry. It's the biggest decision they've ever made in their lives (my life also). So how can I question it?
OK, disagree with me. It doesn't matter to me.
Who argues the most? I always look at their backgrounds. Usually, high ranking officials in some nationwide real estate association.
The worst was when I argued against war. I said "no war is justified." I put it on the most peaceful site I could find: a yoga-oriented website.
All of the other articles were about loving, being kind, compassion, mediation, etc. I figured a pro-peace article would fit in.
2000 hate comments later ("I would cut off both your hands and feet if you were standing in front of me") I finally said, "Listen, you can all volunteer right now if you feel so strongly about it." Nobody volunteered. The comments ended.
My only basic argument: nobody could ever convince me there was a cause important enough for me to send my daughter to kill other little girls with a gun.
Once people realize you have no agenda, I can tell you for a fact they start to trust you. I feel more trust from people than I have ever felt in my life.
B) PEOPLE WILL HATE YOU
About once a year an article comes out that totally trashes me. Maybe this year so far it's been two or three articles.
I don't really know why they do it. I don't respond.
I never give advice. I only focus on what has happened to me and how I came back from it. If someone wants to attack that, then go ahead. I have never understood why.
C) PEOPLE WILL THROW MONEY AND OPPORTUNITIES AT YOU
This is true. You don't have to take the money and opportunities. I like to sit at home and read and hide and write and podcast.
I say "No" to any opportunities that will take me from what I love doing.
But, that said, sometimes I take. If you surrender to the possibilities, then you'll see what amazing possibilities happen to appear.
When I spent 20 years chasing money here's what would happen:
I would have a vision for what the universe should look like and then I would try to create that vision.
But here's the reality: the universe has managed fine without me for 13.8 billion years.
Just because I INSIST I get X, Y, and Z, the universe is going to simply ignore me. It would rather rain on some plants and make them grow.
Or maybe blow up a star and destroy a galaxy. It doesn't give a shit about what I am chasing.
My needs are less than the top of a pin to the overall universe.
Someone wrote to me the other day, "do you like humans?" Odd question.
I wrote back, "of course. But I also think we're not so special compared to everything else in the universe."
He wrote back, "That is the most stupid, ignorant thing I have ever heard."
OK. Goodbye and good luck. Because you are human, I like you also.
I stopped caring around 2010. I was 42. Before that I cared a lot. And I was constantly crying when I didn't get what I want.
Every day there was a new thing: "why don't they like me anymore" or "why didn't this opportunity work out for me but it worked out for them." Or the best. "WHY ME?"
Not caring doesn't mean you stop pursuing things. You pursue the things that whisper to you. Things whisper all the time.
Seeds aren't covered in shit forever: they get rain and sunlight and nutrients and they grow.
People can say, "some people can't get those opportunities". But to be honest, I have NEVER seen who didn't get opportunities when they consistently tried their best and didn't care about the results.
I started from scratch with no money, no contacts, and no friends many times. I was covered in shit.
But I would search around for something to love. I would do it without expecting a specific goal. And sooner or later, opportunities would happen. Always.
Everything I do now, I do because I loved but I didn't care.
People want to know what the specific tricks are. What the "life hacks" are.
The only hack is to not care.
I have to give a talk later today. The way I prepare is to make sure I do the best I can, and not care about the results.
Oh! I will tell you one thing that I am most proud of in the past five years.
I was visiting the set of a TV show a few months ago. Fascinating! I was learning so much and loving every minute of it.
In the middle of the day I got an unexpected call. A very bad call. A shocking call.
The details would require a book. The details could make a crime movie.
Suffice to say I lost more money in that one day, in that one hour, than I had ever lost in a single day in my life. Just three months ago.
Then I went back to watching the TV show being shot. One of the best days of my life. I stayed to the end learning everything I could.
A few months later I told my friend who was with me what had actually happened that day.
He said, "What!? You were fine the whole day. You were asking questions, you were having fun. How could something that bad have happened?"
It's easy. I didn't care. Opportunities come and go. I can always find them.
But maybe I'll never have as much fun as I had that day. I can always make money back but I will never in my life make back one minute of time.
Maybe this sounds like bragging. But I was happy because I had the opportunity to really see how this would apply in my life when something bad happened again.
The daily practice I recommend is not about having tons of billion dollar ideas all the time. It's about turning something as invisible as time into the most precious thing we have.
Slicing a moment into it's separate delicacies.
But this point is not about losing money. It's when you don't care, then more people than ever want to work with you.
That more people trust your opinion. You become Google instead of the World Wide Web Worm (remember that one?)
Many people think they are smart by "underpromising and overdelivering."
But under-promising is lying. Under-promising is when you are scared to fail.
"Scaring" is "caring" but with an extra "s."
Nobody wants a liar. Under-promising is the secret doorway to where all the other losers live.
When I don't care, it's much easier to over-promise and over-deliver. That's what makes you a magnet of opportunity.
D) YOU LOSE FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Your friends and family want you to care about what they care about. And that's about it. They want you to be a copy of their dreams about you.
And if you don't, they often try to force you, or they distance themselves from you. Or, worse, they hate you.
But another good thing happens. You are the average of the five people you spend time with.
So it ends up: good people will find a way to spend time with me. Because they follow that advice also.
So it's not that hard to find the "right five." Or ten.
When we were born we didn't choose our family and often we don't even choose our initial friends.
But eventually, you do.
E) YOU LISTEN MORE
People have BS opinions about politics, economics, science, philosophy, and it's really all for their own entertainment.
The average person speaks about 10,000 words a day.
I like to try and speak less than that. It builds up mental energy to speak less. And forces me to listen more when everyone else has their opinions.
Yes, I have opinions (college, for instance. War, for instance). But I won't fight people about it. They can have their opinions also.
As Louis CK says, "When you have bacon in your mouth, it doesn't matter who the President is."
I like Scott Adams (Dilbert)'s approach. He mentioned to me he likes to take a controversial issue and argue for BOTH sides. Like pro-life and pro-choice.
This way, both sides will hate him. Because much worse than defending your side is defending the OTHER's side.
What you learn when you don't care is that ultimately there is no OTHER.
There's you and me. And the electricity as we get closer and closer.
F) YOU THROW STUFF OUT
- You throw out books you'll never read again
- Clothes you'll never wear again
- Dishes, food, sheets, towels, furniture you don't really need.
- Opinions that eventually won't matter to anyone.
And it even gets better. You throw out junk words ("how's the weather today").
The average person thinks 60,000 thoughts a day. But 90% of them are the same thoughts as yesterday. You start to throw out junk thoughts. Junk worries. Junk regrets.
When I was a little kid I woke up really early and took a magic marker and drew art on all my friends houses. House by house.
When I finally got home my dad beat me to death. But I had fun drawing. I still draw in the waiter's pads I carry around.
When I grow up I want to be a little boy again.