This is a surprisingly concise and freely-flowing book that explains Buddhist philosophy to a modern reader. The arguments in this book are derived from exactly the same realization that propelled Siddharth Gautam on his path to become the Buddha - the inevitability of death. The realization that you are going to die no matter what puts a question mark on the utility of everything in your life. If you fool yourself into ignoring this painful and harsh reality, you start caring too much about too many things - giving too many fucks. On the other hand, if you are going to die anyway, why should you care about anything? Mark Manson proposes that we should care about what we are leaving behind - our legacy. Will the world be a better place because of us? This gives us a higher purpose in life, which Mark believes is the way to live a happy and fulfilling life.

However, he also quotes Ernest Becker who believed that people’s immortality projects - attempts to leave a legacy, were part of the problem. I am not sure how to reconcile these conflicting ideas. While attempting to make the world a better place, could you not end up starting another immortality project?

Important Points

  1. You can’t care about anything and everything in life. Because if you do, you will never be happy. Your life will never be perfect. The key is to have a small list of high-value things that you really care about and work towards making them right. Everything else doesn’t matter. The key to finding a better pareto optimal solution is by dropping objectives.

  2. The human brain, by design, needs to keep itself engaged. If you do not have real problems in life, your brain will simply create problems out of thin air. The one secret to living a fulfilling life is to find a real problem that you truly care about and work on it your whole life.

  3. Pain is an indispensable part of the process of getting better. It is powerful. Intense pain makes you rethink even your most deeply held beliefs.

  4. Life is about not knowing and then doing something anyway. There will never be a time when you are 100 percent sure of the right way forward. Even if you think you are, you may prove to be wrong later. You need to accept the uncertainty and keep moving forward.

  5. Action -> Inspiration -> Motivation