350 – Mark Manson: The Origin of Hope (vs. Hopelessness)

“Why do you think we’re so hopeless?” I asked. It was the middle of a podcast. And I think I forgot it was “an interview.”

“A lot of the readers who email me are struggling with depression or feel a lack of hope,” Mark said. “They don’t have any clear vision of a future for themselves.”

So he started asking them, “What do you do? How do you spend your time?’”

Mark Manson wrote the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

His next book is going to be about these themes circling around his blog and community. And around the questions he’s being asked (and asking himself).

Which ties back to the answers his readers are sharing with him. They’re exploring these topics together. I like this idea for discovering your creative outlet. Mark has a unique voice. That’s his talent. And his quest is to discover where he’ll apply it.

Most of his readers write back saying they go to work, go home and then just watch TV. I can understand this. It’s sad. It’s escapism. But it’s also not. It’s also the root of information overload and attention obesity.

We’re choking on the stories we hear from the news and our circles. It’s hard to turn it off.

But there’s a way to combat this. (Not just the information overload, but the general feeling of hopelessness and meaningless that comes with, too.)

I kept asking Mark, “What’s a good way to increase hope?”

He’s still thinking about it. And that’s why this interview is so good. It’s not full of answers, pre-planned and ready. It’s full of questions and confusion. We’re discovering.

Here’s what I learned from Mark Manson about hope vs. hopelessness and the root causes of loneliness, suffering, meaninglessness, etc.:

PROBLEM: Life gets mundane
SOLUTION: Get a skill

This goes back to Mark’s readers. When they tell him their loop (work, home, TV), he asks them if there’s a skill they want to develop.

This ties into positive psychology. The feeling of progress and improvement play a role in our daily sense of joy.

I always tell people to do two things to find “purpose” or love or a place to start over:

  1. Go to a bookstore and find a section where you’d want to read every book in the genre.
  2. Look at what you loved at 10 years old and see how it’s grown for you. Are there ways you can pick this love back up in your adult life?

PROBLEM: Awareness
SOLUTION: Experiment with an “attention diet”

“The world has always been incredibly complex—way more complex than any single person can understand. But I think our awareness of the complexity is harming us psychologically,” Mark said.

He wrote an article, “Six Things People Should Give Fewer Fucks About.” And you can read it yourself, but some of the things listed were terrorism, artificial intelligence killing everyone, saving the children. It’s a great article. Because it gets you into the mindset of wondering ‘What should I care about less?’

That’s why I started my attention diet years ago.

Here’s an exercise. Practice not paying attention to certain things and replacing it with something you value more.

For example: Trump or push-ups? Trump or a new book?

Another solution Mark gives is to just look locally. “People consistently underestimate the importance of their local politics and how much influence they have,” he said.

I practice hyper-localism. I want to know who can I help right now who’s right in front of me. Maybe it’s you.

PROBLEM: We’re afraid of missing out, or we’re afraid we’re not doing enough
SOLUTION: Find out what you want to say “yes” to and what you want to say “no” to

You don’t have to start changing your behavior yet. You just have to start by knowing what you like and don’t like. you have to come up with a formula for how much time something will take and what it’s worth.

“It’s hard because part of that skill is having an accurate perception of the value of your own time,” Mark said. “Some people have trouble saying ‘yes,’ some people have trouble saying ‘no.’”

So I came up with a chart.

It looks like an upside down smile.

On the left hand side is “yes.” On the right hand side is “no.”

In this chart, “yes” is equal to zero. Because nobody’s asking you do things. But then you start getting offers. And opportunities.

Let’s say you started a blog or a YouTube channel and now people want to talk to you. At first, you start to say “yes.”

When I first started writing, I’d write for any site that asked. I went on every podcast. I would speak at any conference. But then I got to a point where the “yes”s start to turn into “no”s.

And that might sound crazy. But it’s the principle of scarcity.

When time is scarce, you have to say “no” more times than “yes.” But if you’re depressed and you want to live and you want to feel connection, then “yes” has to win. Until you can start to say “no” again.


Hope and hopelessness fluctuate. Your mind is a machine. What you feed it, it becomes.

These steps are all important. But I think the most important one I learned is to have a vision of the future. That’s what hope is. And progress is perfect.

 

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  • Great discussion! I think Mark makes a good point that people need meaning, and that spending time doing something meaningful to them make them happier.

    I have been surprised when advertising for my latest book, which is a self-help/creativity book, that people who are searching for topics like depression and anxiety seem attracted to my book. I hope they make something and feel better for it.

    A contrary perspective to the idea of the world getting better is that it’s possible that 1) the world is getting objectively better in terms of reduced violence and poverty, yet at the same time 2) the world is more susceptible to unexpected events of huge significance (what Nassim Taleb calls “Black Swans”).

    This would be due to there being increasingly more interconnected systems which give us our comfort and stability, yet the interconnection of those complex systems can cause shit to hit the fan more spectacularly.

  • Ken Powers

    “Key-toe”, Pepe, “Key-Toe”

  • SomeDame

    I went to Mark’s website and read some of his articles. He really had my attention until he got political. I don’t mind at all opinions that differ from mine, but Mark clearly made it plain that anyone not agreeing with his view was a moron. Why would you want to turn off what might be half your audience and go political when your subject matter has nothing to do with politics? I exited. I’ll stick with James.