For decades we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life.
But those days are over. “F*ck positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest; sometimes things are f*cked up and we have to live with it.”
Don’t let the profanity get in the way of the gravity and practicality of his thinking. Mark is fundamentally a philosopher with valuable thoughts about how to manage your life.
Some of the topics we cover include:
Why you should look for sh!t sandwiches
How people can give a f*ck about only two to four things
How actions create passion, not vice versa
Listen to Mark Manson on Remarkable People:
I will be live streaming on April 28th at 10 am PT, watch then or catch the replay.
Text me at 1-831-609-0628 or click here to join my extended “ohana” (Hawaiian for family). The goal is to foster interaction about the things that are important to me and are hopefully important to you too! I’ll be sending you texts for new podcasts, live streams, and other exclusive ohana content.
Thank you for listening and sharing this episode with your community.
Transcript of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast with Mark Manson
Guy Kawasaki: Hello. I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is RemarkablePeople. This episode’s remarkable guest is Mark Manson. Be forewarned: there’s some profanity in this episode because, sometimes, only profanity can fully communicate what a person is saying. Mark is the author of two New York Times bestsellers. TheSubtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck and Everything is Fucked: a Book About Hope.
In total, more than thirteen million copies of these books have sold. Don’t let the profanity get in the way of the gravity and practicality of his thinking. Mark is fundamentally a philosopher with valuable thoughts about how to manage your life.
Some of the topics we cover include: why you should look for shit sandwiches, how people can truly care about only two to four things, and how actions create passion. Not vice versa.
I’m Guy Kawasaki. This is the Remarkable People Podcast, and now here’s the remarkable Mark Manson.
I ran across a quote. That is my favorite quote of everything I read of what you did. And it is “Passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.”
Mark Manson: Yeah.
Guy Kawasaki: So that is so counterintuitive. I’m in Silicon Valley and everybody’s pursuing their passion and all that. And you’re basically saying it’s the opposite. You can take action and you’ll get passionate. So how can you say that? That’s just ruining all our lives here.
Mark Manson: There’s kind of this popular conception that if you sit on the couch long enough and stare at your navel, then your life’s calling will suddenly sprout and appear to you. But the truth is like the way human psychology works is that there is, there’s kind of an emotional momentum to our lives.
You find this where in periods where you get extremely busy. You actually find it’s easier to fit inside projects or visiting friends or… doing your kid’s event or whatever. It’s when you have nothing to do, that’s everything. It feels like you have no time whatsoever.
There’s this weird thing where it’s, the more you do, the more motivated and amped up, you get to do more.
Guy Kawasaki: And so when you’re doing stuff and some stuff you’ll just fall in love with, is that the basis of it?
Mark Manson: One of the things I talk about in my books is that people are very bad at properly gauging how an experience will actually make us feel. So it’s very easy for me to sit around and be if I could just, have a yacht in the Caribbean, everywhere, it would be great.
But until you’ve actually gone and lived that experience, you don’t know what sort of costs are involved. Trade-off sacrifices, social judgments or dynamics that change. and so it’s… I think when we get wrapped up in our fantasies, it’s very easy to ignore kind of the downsides of things.
And so the only way you really know is if you actually go and kind of test it out yourself,
Guy Kawasaki: I what first, do you have a fan or something running behind you?
There’s white noise.
Mark Manson: I have a washing machine that’s on. Do you want me to pause it?
Guy Kawasaki: Could you turn it off?
Mark Manson: My God. Oh we’re we’re winging this Guy. I’m in New Zealand right now.
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, well.
Mark Manson: Keyboard. No, I think you’re good. My wife’s room. We’re I managed to con my way in the New Zealand, the only place on earth with no COVID.
Guy Kawasaki: How long ago?
Mark Manson: About a month. About a month.
Guy Kawasaki: Did you have to quarantine for fourteen days?
Mark Manson: Yeah. Yeah.
Guy Kawasaki: I thought you got the friend of just in the past or something and…
Mark Manson: I wish
Guy Kawasaki: You just walked in.
Mark Manson: I wish, I’m, I’m down here to work on a film project. And so we’re, we’ve, we’re in like an Airbnb apartment here and,
Guy Kawasaki: Did you go to Hobbiton?
Mark Manson: Oh,
Guy Kawasaki: Hobbit… Hobbitron… Hobbiton…whatever we call it.
Mark Manson: Yeah, we have not, we have not gone yet. I have heard… the Kiwis have told me it’s overrated, but I don’t… it’s worth it?
Guy Kawasaki: No. no. It’s worth it. Absolutely. It’s worth it. It’s yeah…now that we got all these deep subjects covered, we’ve got your wash. We got Hobbiton okay.
I have come to consider you to be a philosopher. I hope you take that as a positive, first of all. And a lot of the people I interview for my podcast. They’re professors at Stanford or Wharton, or, someplace, right.
And then there’s Mark. And so you’re not a professor. You didn’t study with Hume or Kant or Hegel, or Nietzsche, and yet you have this great philosophical discussions and great sort of mind-bending reality altering insights, so how did you come to be so philosophical?
Mark Manson: I think as the answer to these questions off the cusp, part of it is I was always this way. I was a bookworm when I was young. When all the other kids were playing football and watching MTV, I was reading books on psychology and religion. And I discovered Nietzsche when I was fourteen and got very excited about it.
So, so some of it has just always been there. I did okay in school, but I never totally kind of fit the system.
Guy Kawasaki: Now was this was this before or after you got jammed into the Christian school, because you got thrown out for marijuana in your backpack.
Mark Manson: Even, even when I, my narcotic entrepreneurial spirit, had faded, you know, even when I was in college, I would write these big papers and my professors would be like, well, this is great, but this has nothing to do with what I assigned to you. And so I was just kind of always like this odd ball.
And so I didn’t pursue academia, even though I was very interested in things like psychology and philosophy. And I really enjoyed those classes in school. Honestly, I think if it wasn’t for the internet, I was just born at the right time because it was, I was able to start putting my, like just my musings online in blog posts.
And that just became the, the snowball that carried me.
Guy Kawasaki: In America and in Silicon Valley, there’s so many things are about proxies, right? So if you went to Stanford, that’s a proxy for your intelligence and et cetera, et cetera. But I guess you’re the real deal. As one author to another, you have to tell me how. You came to have a book named The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, because I just want to know how the hell did the publisher come up with that? Did you come up with that? Did the publisher say, “Oh, great name. Our VP of sales loves it. Our entire salesforce loves it.” How did that go down? I want to hear this.
Mark Manson: So I came up with the title. It was originally the title of a very popular blog post I wrote in 2015. And and I had already been working on the book. And so we pitched it as the title of the book, to publishers. We also gave an alternative name without the F word in it.
And you know, ‘cause we knew that they were going to be very hesitant about it. So we didn’t want to lose it book deal because the publisher didn’t want to have the F word, but we wanted to kind of signal to them that we’re not married to this. And it was interesting.
So I had meetings with I think five or six different publishers and about half of them were just straight up. Like we’re not going to do it. We’re not going to touch it. It’s too controversial. You’re not going to get media. You’re not going to get, you’re not going to get into Walmart. Target’s going to hate you, you know, so which is actually very funny in hindsight because, It just kind of shows you where the publisher’s headspace was.
You know, the publishers were still kind of stuck in the nineties where it’s like, oh man, if we don’t get the Walmart, we’re screwed.
To my, my editor’s credit and to the people at Harper, my editor saw it and he’s like, no, I definitely want to do this title and I’m going to fight and I’m going to fight for it.
And that was kind of one of the reasons I liked him. And yeah, it ended up like Harper actually kind of pushed for it. They understood that there would be a trade-off like you lose a lot of the physical bookstores, but it’s very Instagrammable. It’s very… there’s virality.
Right. And I would be willing to bet. I would bet a lot of money that I’ve gotten more book sales from Instagram than Walmart over the past five years
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Point taken. We’re going to assume that people have not yet become indoctrinated into the gospel according to Mark. About how many things can a person truly give a fuck about?
Mark Manson: I think generally there’s only maybe two to four things that you can really make top priorities in your life at any given time. And generally it’s going to be some sort of pursuit or ambition, family, or a few people in your life. And maybe like a hobby or something, but it’s it’s, once you get past that, you just kind of run out of emotional bandwidth.
Guy Kawasaki: And how does one pick what to give attention to?
Mark Manson: This is the hard question, because it’s ultimately what you prioritize in your life. Nobody can decide that except for you. In my books, I offer a lot of strategies to test and figure out those things. Questions you can ask yourself, encouraging people to actually like go try that, that thing that they’ve been dreaming about, like find sort of, sort of like minimum viable action that you can take to see if you actually do enjoy it or not.
But ultimately, it’s… life is all trial and error. You don’t really know until you’ve already fucked it all up.
Guy Kawasaki: And is trial and error picking the right things or eliminating the right things? Is it reductive or is it…?
Mark Manson: I think it’s more reductive, and I think that’s a more efficient way to look at it. It’s what are the things you can cut from your life rather than what’s the magical thing I need to add to my life.
Guy Kawasaki: And do, do you think that through various stages you can sort of pinpoint what to give a fuck about like in high school? It’s this in college? It’s this twenty-five to forty, it’s this forty to sixty, it’s this sixty plus it’s this? Or is it just change for everybody?
Mark Manson: I think it does change for everybody, but I do think there is… age and experience has a lot to do with it. I’ve got this article on my website that was pretty popular a long… a ways back called The Four Stages of Life. It’s generally I think young people, you have tons and tons of time, but very little experience.
So you have very little references to actually know what you’re passionate about or what you care about or what type of people you get along best with, but you have time to experiment. So generally young people there’s this heavy emphasis on exploration and experimentation which I think is totally normal and healthy.
I think once you get in the middle age, you start to become a little jaded. Like you’ve tried a bunch of stuff. You’ve met a bunch of different types of people, and now you kinda know like, all right. These are the people, I like. These are the people, I don’t like. These are the, these are the experiences I enjoy.
These are the experiences I don’t enjoy. And so you get pretty honed in on kind of maximizing your time. You’re also older. So you actually appreciate your time a little bit more. And, and then I think once you get on, on, into old age, I think that the question becomes a lot more about legacy… like giving back of… what what’s… what are the things that are going to have the greatest impact for the subsequent generations, for your kids and your grandkids and, and things like that.
Guy Kawasaki: Don’t you think that many people, when they hear the word legacy, they think about buildings on campuses or foundations or something, or is that just the rarefied air?
Mark Manson: Yeah. that’s part of it. Right. But I think, we all have, even if you’re not a Carnegie, like you can have… everybody has a little bit of a legacy just within their own family, for instance. We all remember our grandparents and maybe things they said or did… or… lessons that they left behind.
Within local communities, a lot of people leave legacies. Somebody who is very, an influential leader at your church or your local school, something like that. So I, I do think, we live in an age where like the biggest and best get the most broadcast, the most airtime, but I think those local… the local influence and leadership still exists.
Guy Kawasaki: What does it mean to be an adult? When have you arrived as an adult?
Mark Manson: You have arrived as an adult when you learn to give a shit about something more than yourself.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay.
Mark Manson: That eliminates a large percentage of the population. I’ve got this whole thing about maturity in my second book, Everything is Fucked: the Book About Hope. Which I kind of make an argument that, you know, a lot of what we’re experiencing a lot of… kind of the discord and stress that we’re experiencing as a society is I see it as kind of a… it’s an immaturity. It’s not the millennials. It’s not Gen Z.
It’s everybody like everybody. We’re just kind of becoming a populace of a bunch of babies. You know, it’s like, if we don’t get our way, we get on Twitter and scream about it and make everybody else’s life hell. And and I, I just think that’s a very, very poor way. I mean, it’s poor from an individual perspective in terms of like mental health, but I also think it’s very … you know, civilization needs people willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
And if you don’t have enough people doing that, or, or being very delusional about how they do that, then yeah, that things happen. Yeah, exactly.
Guy Kawasaki: And, and and how do you turn this around?
Mark Manson: I don’t know, man, if I knew the answer to that
Guy Kawasaki: You’d be, you’d be president of the United States.
Mark Manson: or something, I don’t know. I try to, to isolate, what are, what can I affect? And I think what I can affect is I can influence and educate people, to think about these things, to, to develop a little bit more self-awareness and question their, their proclivities, to not start raging on Facebook every time they see something that pisses them off, to actually stay, take a step back and have some perspective.
So, that’s my little role in the world. And in terms of like where this goes or… how bad it gets, I have no idea.
Guy Kawasaki: But if everybody did that, everything would calm down. Right? that’s, that’s the point.
Mark Manson: Yeah.
Guy Kawasaki: Especially if everybody only gave a fuck about three or four things, this world would be a better world.
Mark Manson: I agree with that.
Guy Kawasaki: there’s doubt.
Mark Manson: I definitely agree with that.
Guy Kawasaki: Okay. Why am I supposed to find my favorite shit sandwich?
I mean, that’s. That’s contrary to most people’s upbringing. I’m supposed to go look for a shit sandwich. Why’s that?
Mark Manson: So everything’s a little bit of a shit sandwich Guy. Nothing is, is all mayo and mustard and, and all of, like it’s, it’s everything that it’s a little bit of. There’s a little bit of Spam in any big…
Guy Kawasaki: Oh, you’re killing me. I’m from Hawaii. Spam is a delicacy,
not a good metaphor.
Mark Manson: I actually, I didn’t know that. But the point I make is that it’s, even if you’re doing your dream job, you’re probably still hating your life like 20, 25% of the time. And and there’s just no getting away from that. And so I think there’s just a lot of like… kind of false or unrealistic expectations out there that there, there’s kind of this perfect situation where, you wake up every day… thrilled to get out of bed… can’t wait to start working just..
Guy Kawasaki: Life of a writer. Yeah writer. Yeah. Yeah. Life of a writer is you pop out of bed and then just sit at a blank screen for about six hours. Hating yourself.
But you’re not saying does there’s shit in everybody’s life. You have to learn to deal with the shit you’re saying, find shit.
Mark Manson: Yes.
Guy Kawasaki: Why are you finding it? That’s beyond tolerating it.
Mark Manson: So you want to find… you want to find the shit that you enjoy having. All, we all enjoy a little bit of we all, we all have a favorite flavor of shit sandwich, which is… we all… there’s certain suffering that each one of us is individually, more adept at managing or enjoys managing to some extent.
You know, we joked about the writer thing. I kind of get a sick pleasure out of rewriting the same paragraph seven times. And… it… most people don’t though, but that’s why I’m a writer and they’re not, there’s other people who really, really, really enjoy spreadsheets. And that’s why they’re an accountant or a data analyst or whatever.
And, most people are not. So instead of thinking about the benefits you want, think about the sacrifices that you enjoy… that most people don’t cause that’s, that’s where your competitive advantage is.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, I would point out in my life that, and I know a lot of podcasters when I tell podcasters that I take the first pass at editing the recording… I don’t just turn it over to a sound engineer. I spend hours, I’m going to spend hours editing this audio recording. They think I’m nuts, but that’s the shit sandwich that I enjoy.
Mark Manson: There you go.
Guy Kawasaki: I can relate. I absolutely can relate but you also state that grit and perseverance is not a factor. And why is that true?
Mark Manson: Because if you enjoy the shit, then there’s nothing to persevere. It’s kind of like the perseverance, it happens on its own. I think people have this idea that when things get tough, you have to summon this mental energy of I’m going to stick it out. I’m going to fight. And it’s like, no, if you’re fighting, then you’re, then you’ve already lost.
What you want to find is is that, that strange form of suffering that you don’t even realize, like it doesn’t even occur to you. That this is something that other people hate doing. It’s just so natural to you that it wouldn’t even occur to you that this is just awful to most people.
Guy Kawasaki: Oh man, I just progress up the self-discovery ladder a bit, a couple of rungs right there. So, so the general question in all of this is, you know, how does one become great at something which is, what you address? How? Because it’s not what most people, most people would say, grit, perseverance, natural talent, something like that, but not Mark Manson.
Mark Manson: Talent’s a thing. There are moments of grit or perseverance. You’re going to have sprints in your life for a week or a month or a year at a time that you’re going to need to be able to get through. But overall in the long run, I actually think that, what people on the outside perceive as quote, unquote greatness, the person who has achieved that thing sees it as something mediocre that needs to continue to be improved.
The experience of greatness on the outside and on the inside is completely different. On the outside, it’s a very exciting wondrous thing. We get to see Michael Jordan hit the game winning shots, but if you actually like read about Michael Jordan or watch Michael Jordan… like he was constantly pissed off at like everything. Nothing was good enough for him and it, and that as.
So there’s this weird paradox where it’s like a greatness is actually achieved through a constant feeling that what you’re doing is actually not great at all. That it could be so much better.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you have kids yet?
Mark Manson: I have kids I do not. Working on it.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, I can hardly wait. I’m going, gonna see, okay. So how’s your theories now? It’s one thing to write the book, but when your kid comes home with a C in algebra, and you said that it’s okay because you got to find your favorite shit sandwich… okay. I’m waiting for that day. Be careful what you ask for Mark.
Why is it that you say that people can’t see the passion right in front of their eyes?
Mark Manson: Because I think what people are passionate about it’s, they’ve done it naturally for so long. They don’t even realize. If you kind of come back to what we were talking about, where you want to find the shit sandwich that you don’t… necessarily even notice is, is a struggle or difficult, but other people do.
Because it doesn’t strike you as particularly a lot of suffering, a lot of people don’t even realize that they’re into it. They just think it’s a normal part of life. It never occurred to me. To be a writer until I was, or an author until I was like twenty-seven or twenty-eight. I had been blogging for about four years.
And one of the things that kind of tipped me off to it was I started getting invited to blogging conferences or internet marketing conferences, things like that. I’d go give like a little talk, right. People would come up to me afterwards and they would ask me these questions like, and Mark, “How do you, how do you write three thousand word posts every single week, sometimes multiple times a week?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. Like what kind of question is that? I don’t know. You just sit down and do it, you know? And, and, and then I would ask these, I’d ask them back. I’d say, well, I don’t know, like how long are your posts? Oh, like four hundred words, five hundred words. It usually takes me an entire day and I’m like, wow.
I never even considered that. To me sitting down and writing three thousand words was just… it was just what I did. I didn’t… I never thought about it. I never had to push myself or convince myself to do it. And so then that’s when I started to realize wait, I have a knack for this. Like, I can just, for whatever reason, I can turn on the writing switch and things just come out in a way that most other people don’t. And sure enough, it’s just it’s because I really enjoy doing it.
It’s just fun. It’s like playing.
Guy Kawasaki: But you realize it it’s in front of your eyes. How come people don’t realize it?
Mark Manson: I think a lot of people convince themselves that what they love is inappropriate. That it won’t be accepted by other people that it… you can’t make any money doing it. That’s what I hear all the time. And I just think that that’s not really, you’re not being creative about it. You’re spending all this time doing it anyway… but you’re not letting yourself love it because you’re afraid you’re going to be judged or that it’s, you’re going to be wasting time or something.
Guy Kawasaki: I’m going to read you a quote. “Each person must never be treated only as a means to some other end, but must also be treated as an end in themselves.” Why?
Mark Manson: Because treating people as a means… that is the definition of manipulation, of using people. So that, that quote, it comes from Kant’s. It’s called, he called it the formula of humanity, which was kind of his basis for all morality, his reasoning was this. It was the most special thing from what he could tell the most special thing in the universe was consciousness, is human consciousness, human rationality.
As far as we know, it only exists in us. And so from his understanding that that should be the fundamental basis of all our ethical decisions. All of our decisions should be, in the aims of supporting and promoting consciousness and protecting people’s consciousness. And so any time you kind of lie to somebody or trick somebody or steal from somebody, what you’re doing is you are using their conscious awareness as a means to get something else.
It’s like, I lie to you to get, to get a bunch of money. I use your consciousness as a means to some other end. And… the reason Kant’s argument is the reason that that feels unethical is that you are not making the consciousness, the end of your decision-making. It’s not the purpose of your decision-making.
All of our decision-making should be based on, on valuing and what’s the word I’m looking for? Celebrating consciousness.
Guy Kawasaki: What are good values and what are bad values?
You know, values are hard to define because they’re so individual, but I think there are, are some general principles that you can follow to determine whether your values are good or bad. One principle that, I teach people is this idea of internal values versus external values.
So in terms of experience… you can experience things in the external world, but you also experience things in your internal world. Generally speaking, things in the external world, you’re not going to have much as much control or influence over, so if my biggest value in life is… having a boat, I don’t totally get to determine if that happens.
There’s a lot of factors that go into that. The boat could get washed away in a storm. Somebody could steal my boat, And so it’s like, if that’s my highest value in life, then, I’m basing my, my emotional wellbeing is contingent on this object that, I essentially have very little control over.
Whereas if you, if your values are internal experiences, so things such as compassion, honesty, integrity, effort… these are things that you can always control within yourself. And they can never be taken from you. People can, they can throw you in prison. They could lock you in a dark room, but nobody can take your integrity from you.
Nobody can take your honesty from you or your courage. These are things that you are always available to you because they are internal tier. So for that reason, they tend to make much better values or things too, prioritize in your life than the external things.
Guy Kawasaki: We’re getting a little Viktor Frankl there.
Mark Manson: Totally, totally.
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah. Well then how does one change one’s values now? You know, now that I’ve heard what good and bad ones are, how do I change mine? And even maybe more important, how do I change others… if it’s okay to change other people’s values?
Mark Manson: I think it’s…so the hard part about this is that it’s not enough to kind of just sit in bed and pontificate about what’s worth valuing and what’s not. For values to kind of stick, you have to go live them; your actions have to line up with them. And so early on, if you’re trying to change a value, you can simply ask yourself,
if I valued X more than Y, how would my decisions change today or this week, or this month? How would I reorganize my lifestyle if this was true? And then go out and start trying to do that. Because it’s, it’s ultimately, values are a reflection of our actions. I can say that I value honesty or charity till I’m blue in the face. But if I’m going around lying to people and not helping anybody, then they’re not really my values. Until you’ve actually lived them out and experienced them on an emotional level, you don’t actually have them.
Guy Kawasaki: Right there, you said it the opposite of how most people would say it, right? Which came first, the value or the action? And you’re saying the action.
Mark Manson: You can premeditate the action by thinking about what values you’d like to have. But if it was as easy as just figuring out what’s important, logically, we’d all be perfect human beings. It’s kind of like if losing weight was just about understanding calories in calories out or whatever, like we all be thin and look amazing, it’s like you have to get up and actually go do it.
It’s the same with, it’s the same with values. You have to actually go live them for them to stick.
Guy Kawasaki: So can people take good actions but have bad underlying values?
Mark Manson: Totally. Totally. You could produce bad results from having good values. And you see that in the world all the time, people intend to do something very, very good, but it backfires, or it goes wrong in some way.
Guy Kawasaki: Do you think people generally judge their intentions, but other people’s actions?
Mark Manson: Yes, absolutely. In fact, I think there’s a name for this in psychology. I think it’s called the Actor Observer bias, which is basically like, if you run a red light, it’s like, Oh, well I’m so busy today… and I have to get home. This is really important. I deserve to run that red light. But if you see somebody else run a red light, you’re like, wow, that irresponsible piece of shit, what a horrible human being.
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah. Okay. What should one’s goals in life be?
Mark Manson: Well, ultimately your goals should reflect your values. They should synergize at least, or at least, embody your values to some extent. Generally I think goals, goals are more of the real world… expressions of your values.
So, you know, if you want to, be very industrious or be very healthy, the value is health. The goal is exercise. Everyday, don’t drink alcohol or whatever.
Guy Kawasaki: There is a part where you talk about how transactions are bad in politics. People are people are means to an end in politics of all things. Right. And yet, you say that transactions are the means to changing bad behavior. So can you explain that contradiction?
Mark Manson: I, I think it’s, you know, the, the transactional realm is sometimes a necessary evil of life. It’s a little bit idealistic to believe that every single person in every single moment should be, unconditional always, never treating anybody as a means.
You can quickly run into a lot of paradoxes and contradictions if that’s what you believe. Now, we’re just kind of getting into… conjecture on my part. I don’t know how much I personally believe this, but… my feeling is that on an individual level, I should always act unconditionally.
I should always be honest to people. I should always treat them with fairness, integrity, and respect. But I think once you get to like large organizations, such as governments, companies, whatever. Yeah. It’s I think that the transactional treatment of people is, is inevitable. And if you look at democracy, democracy is the best form of government because it’s the first form of government that admits that. Previously in history, we’re always if we could just get an enlightened leader who will treat us all as ends in ourselves and be, be perfectly good, then society will be great.
Well, the problem is, no leader is like that. So democracy comes along and says, look like everybody’s kind of an asshole sometimes. But if we set the system up so that there’s, there’s a balance of power between different factions and different interests, then we can cancel each other out and everybody will be better off for it.
And… that’s fundamentally why it works. It’s personally why I would never want to get into politics because you have to behave in a transactional way. You have to say things that… you know… are not true because that gets you elected or it gets you the votes to pass.
The, the legislation that you think is so important, you know, and that’s just the, that just sounds like a horrible way to live your life. And I don’t know how any of those people sleep at night.
On either side. I mean, obviously some are better than others, right. But it’s ultimately, it’s, you have to play that game… if you’re, if you’re in Washington. If you’re in politics, you have to play the game. There’s just no way around it.
Guy Kawasaki: So if Joe Biden called you up and said, Mark, and I read your two books, I love what you say about prioritization and all that. How can I bring America back from the edge, the edge that you, you walked up to, right? That cliff.
Mark Manson: God, I don’t know, man. This is the hard part Is, so for instance, like if you go back and read about, Obamacare, it’s like the thing got mangled in the process of getting passed and, and… what ends up happening? I, I forget where I saw it, but I remember I read somewhere that it said that, compromise is only good if everybody’s unhappy because it…
Otherwise somebody’s screwing the other person over. Right. you look at something like Obamacare or some of the stimulus stuff that’s happened or tax cuts, they always come out in a way that everybody’s unhappy. The side that proposed the policies unhappy because they didn’t get everything they want.
And the side that didn’t propose the policy is unhappy because it’s not their policy and they don’t like it. But that’s just how compromise works is like you have to do that barter game. And I actually wrote a, an article about this a number of years ago. Right? Actually, it was inspired by the 2016 election, which, we all thought was bad, but God, if only we knew, but I remember writing,
I, you know, I wrote an article saying that that democracy by design makes you unhappy, like for democracy to work, everybody has to be a little bit unsatisfied because if, if you’re not a little bit unsatisfied, somebody is getting screwed over somewhere. Somebody’s voice is being silenced somewhere.
Everybody’s got to be a little bit upset for things to work correctly and… it’s a very unfortunate thing. That’s the case. I think people on both sides. Like the believable it’s like, well, if we just passed X, Y, and Z, and if this guy just got elected, everything would be amazing. And it’s no, the day that happens, half the country’s about to get fucked.
So as long as everybody’s upset, I think that means things are okay.
Guy Kawasaki: Well, then things are okay. I guess.
Mark Manson: I should rephrase it. As long as everybody’s everybody’s upset, democracy is, is holding. The day that democracy falls apart, you’ll know it because there’ll be a large group of people in the country who are thrilled with everything.
Guy Kawasaki: I, I think that’s an excellent point and kind of a brilliant insight that if all the Republicans are happy or if all the Democrats are happy, the something is pretty much fundamentally wrong is what you’re saying. The system is not
Mark Manson: Yeah.
Guy Kawasaki: working. The iron has a brilliant insight. I’m not sure any politician would go for that, but yeah. Young people are listening to this podcast and they’re thinking: Oh my God, I really understand this. I get this. Now, what’s your advice. You know, young person, you want to grow up into a functioning, happy adult, productive adult and all the good stuff.
This is my advice. What’s your advice?
Mark Manson: I actually heard this from… so I’m friends with Ryan Holiday… who has written a bunch of great books about stoicism and business. And he, he once told me, he said, he said, I try to optimize my life for interesting for, for interestingness. I think was the word he used. And I think for young people, that would be my advice to young people. Optimize for interesting, because a young person’s biggest asset is time.
You don’t have much experience. You don’t have much skill or expertise, despite what you think, you don’t know very much. But what you have is time and because you don’t have those things, you have nothing to lose, so you can take risks. If you want to like pick up and go to Asia and try to start a company, you have far, far less to lose, than somebody in middle age or older age. So take advantage of that time and just optimize for interesting experiences, things that are enriching experience, experientially, powerful.
Guy Kawasaki: Now, just for clarification, but you are not quite saying pursue your passions, right? Because one of your theses is that actions create passions, passions, don’t…
Mark Manson: yeah. The passion happens as a side effect. When you find the right thing that you’re good at and that people reward you for, you’ll be, you’ll become passionate about it. It’s, this is something Cal Newport writes about is that, that, people who love their jobs, they didn’t start out loving their jobs.
They, they loved it because of two reasons, essentially one, they got really, really good at it. And two, they were socially rewarded for it. So people are like, wow, you’re really good at this. I love what you do. And that actually is what makes you start to love what you do. And so it’…you actually have far less say in it than you think.
If you’re young, if you’re hungry, find interesting experiences, interesting projects, interesting people like optimize your life around that. And keep, stay active, keep doing things. And eventually you’re going to stumble across something that you’re really good at, people are very supportive, and the market rewards you for it.
That’s the sweet spot that you want to be in.
The next question is brought to you by our sponsor. The Remarkable Tablet Company. I’m going to ask Mark how he does his best and deepest thinking. The Remarkable Tablet Company is all about doing… your best and deepest thinking. It’s product is a single purpose tablet taking notes. No distractions like social media, email and surfing the web. And now Mark is going to explain how he does his best and deepest thinking.
Guy Kawasaki: And my last question is because clearly you are a deep thinker. I want to know how, when, circumstances, settings, whatever, how do you do your best and deepest thinking?
Mark Manson: That’s a good question. I have a tendency to be a little bit of a workaholic, and I also tend to, obsess over this question a little bit. I’ve got all sorts of software on my computer that blocks social media, and I try, I’m like, well, what if I, move my gym session to 7:00 AM and then start writing at eight and always try and use different configurations, trying to get the most out of my brain.
And, what inevitably happens is after about a year or two, usually my wife forces me on a vacation, and I go on a vacation. And I sit on a beach somewhere and I read a really good book. And by the second or third day, all of these profound insights start flooding into my mind out of it.
It’s almost like they were just like dammed up behind a wall this whole time. And I was too busy, like tried to like get the perfect office chair to let them through, but it’s sitting in a jacuzzi in Puerto Rico or something.
It’s like, Whoa, that’s my next book.
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah, The Puerto Rico Tourist Association is doing backflips right now. When you say you’re sitting on this beach, reading a good book, what is a good book for Mark Manson?
The collected, the collected letters of Nietzsche?
Mark Manson: So I do have a very warped perception of beach reading.
Guy Kawasaki: I can just imagine.
Mark Manson: No, I actually, sometimes I save the most difficult or challenging books that I want to read for vacation because I find that in my day-to-day life if I’m taking meetings all day and I’m working on my web business and all this stuff, I don’t have the mental stamina to kind of like read Kant, think about existentialism or something like that.
But if I’m just sitting in a, in a jacuzzi in Puerto Rico or whatever.I’ve got plenty of bandwidth for it, so I actually do try to take challenging books to the beach.
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah, I’ll give you a challenging book. This is a book. Can you see that?
Mark Manson: The Fundamental Theory of Physics a Project to Find.
Guy Kawasaki: Stephen Wolfram is… you know… the Michael Jordan of physicists… physics… and he’s a MacArthur, he’s the youngest MacArthur Award winner. So… if you ever want heavy reading.
Mark Manson: Dude that, that book looks scary. I mean, like there’s, anytime there’s fractals on the cover of something…
Guy Kawasaki: Yeah.
That’s not a good sign. Isn’t it? That’s not a good sign. I love that so much of your advice is just so counter to the old yarns and the old. Typical way of looking at things. I truly enjoyed reading your book. I’m going to go share a few thoughts with people in my family right now.
Well, there you have it. Mark Manson. Why you should look for shit sandwiches. Why you should pursue things that interest you. Why you could only focus on three to four things. And why action leads to passion. Not passion leads to action.
Speaking of action. I have a favor that I want to ask of you. If you liked this podcast and find it inspiring, enlightening, or educational, please send a text or email to at least one person who might also gain great value by listening to it. Just point them to remarkablepeople.com. I would really appreciate that.
I’m Guy Kawasaki, and this is Remarkable People. My thanks to Jeff Sieh and Peg Fitzpatrick. For creating another remarkable episode. Mahalo and aloha to you all.
Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.