The Wisdom of Silence

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    114 people had breakthroughs this week. Will the next one be you?

    Two things for you to think about

    Wisdom isn’t knowing exactly what to say. Wisdom is knowing when to shut up.

    “Don’t talk, unless you can improve upon the silence.”

    – Jorge Luis Borges

    Reflect: Then consider sharing this thought with others.

    Three things for you to ask yourself

    When did you pretend to know something you didn’t know? When have you spoken about something that you shouldn’t have? When did you try to impress someone who didn’t need to be impressed?

    Recommended: Use these as journaling prompts for the week.

    One thing for you to try this week

    Try fighting the impulse to speak up and express something that doesn’t necessarily need to be expressed. Observe. See how it feels.

    Remember: Small changes lead to lasting breakthroughs. Reply to this email and let me know how it went for you.

    New This Week

    The Self-Awareness Paradox: Are We Too Self-Aware? – Is there such a thing as too much self-awareness? For decades, psychologists, therapists, philosophers, and self-help gurus urged us to “know thyself.” But is there a tipping point where self-awareness turns into self-obsession, and then into unhelpful self-consciousness? That’s the theme I explore in this week’s YouTube video. Check it out.

    7 Underrated Habits for a Better Life (and 7 Overrated Ones Too) – In this podcast episode, I’m scoring a whole list of self-improvement practices as either overrated or underrated, or in some cases, “it depends.” Everything from friendship and romance, to music and psychedelics. I get into the details of why some of these things are great and why some of them are secretly terrible. It’s a fun one! Check it out.

    Last week’s breakthroughs

    In last week’s newsletter, I asked you to combat the Spotlight Effect, to see whether others cared if you did something you’re nervous about doing. One reader said my challenge was “exactly what they needed:”

    I write for a living, and have been feeling like everything I publish is shit. Much of it is opinion pieces, and I still feel woefully inadequate despite doing this job for 25 years!

    A few years back I went on anti-anxiety medication, but now I’m happily weaned off it, and yet the old fears are creeping back. I feel the old ‘everyone thinks I’m an idiot’ and the ‘I’m not good enough’ feelings afresh, and I was stressing hugely about it this morning. I wanted to crawl under a rock in shame. I was wondering if I needed to go back on the drugs, or quit my writing…

    Thanks for the nudge. I hope to go forward remembering that what I write might be read, it might not; it might be disagreed with, it might not; it might just wash over people, or it might make someone go yes!

    Either way, does it matter in the long term? Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish-n-chips wrapper.

    A long-time follower shared an “experiment” they conducted last year:

    I used to worry about the way I dress, and I was obsessed with what other people think about my style and clothes, and if I make the perfect impression (even to strangers on the street). I was anxious all the time, always focused on my looks, unable to enjoy the experience of meeting with friends, constantly doubting if I looked good.

    So I decided to ask my friends and family to describe what the last person they met that week was wearing. And guess what—not a single one of them could remember neither the clothes, nor the style, not even the hairstyle of the last person they had an interaction with! They were only able to remember the conversation they had, and how that made them feel.

    To say I was shocked would be an understatement. This is how I found out that no one gives a single fuck about how we look and dress.

    To end, an insight from a reader who has been combatting the Spotlight Effect for a decade:

    Ten years ago I had brain surgery that left me paralyzed down the right side of my face. It hasn’t improved, I don’t look any better and I still have chronic pain. However, after not wanting to go out at all, my husband pushed me to. People stared, they watched me try to drink through a straw and heaven forbid attempt to eat in public.

    But over the years I realized that I too stared at people when they were ‘different.’ I wasn’t judging them or even pitying them, I was curious. What was their story? What had happened, how did they cope and what gave them the strength to soldier on, regardless of what other people might be thinking?

    I have realized that other people might just be thinking the best for me, wanting to help or even admiring me for being brave and facing the world. And maybe 99 times out of a hundred they don’t even notice me, they are far too occupied with their own problems.

    As always, send your breakthroughs by simply replying to this email. Let me know if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.

    Until next week,

    Mark Manson

    #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
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