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#34: The Best Thing that Ever Happened to You

#34: The Best Thing that Ever Happened to You

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Welcome to another Mindf*ck Monday newsletter, the only weekly email that refuses to lie and say it likes your shitty haircut. Every week, I send out three ideas to hopefully make you a less terrible person. Sometimes it works. Other times we just laugh and continue being awful humans. This week, we’re talking about: 1) how to make your struggle the best thing that ever happened to you, 2) how to spot leverage points in life, and 3) surprise, bitches! I actually do have an app!

Let’s get into it.

1. The best thing that ever happened to me – In 2018, I spent three and a half months on business-related trips. In 2019, I spent nearly five months on business-related trips. During these years, I regularly bemoaned the fact that I was never home, that I was always distracted, that I couldn’t seem to find an extended period of time to just think and read and write. Both years, I kept promising my wife, “Next year will be different.”

As they say, be careful what you wish for…

When the pandemic hit, guess what I did the first couple weeks? If you selected, A) freaked the fuck out and squandered my days reading the news and playing video games, then you were right. Yes, I too, am human.

But as I settled into a groove over the past couple of months, my attitude has shifted quite a bit. When it comes to decision-making, I’ve often written that one of the best things to optimize for is living regret-free—i.e., asking yourself, “What choice will I regret making the least?”

After my initial freakout, I asked myself the same thing, “What could I do during this period that would make Future Mark proud of my actions? What would leave no regrets?” And quickly, I realized that that same thing I had spent the last two years bitching about was now being handed to me on a silver platter: three (and counting) uninterrupted months to read, think, and write.

Years and years ago, I wrote a section in my old dating book called “What if it was a gift?” The idea was to challenge yourself to see everything that ever happens to you as a gift. The idea was that all experiences can have value, it’s just that that value is contingent on how we choose to see and act in the moment.

Last week, I was talking to a friend who more or less had his entire business wiped out. There’s a strong chance it will never come back. Months ago, he was a total mess. But when I zoomed with him last week, he was in great spirits. I asked him what changed and he said it was simple, he asked himself:

“What do I have to do to make this one the best things that has ever happened to me?” 

His answer: he signed up for some online courses that he’s wanted to take for years but could never justify the time commitment. They are in a different field and he believes that if his business doesn’t survive, he’ll be positioned to transition into an exciting new career.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we are seeing such an outpouring of political protest right now. Stuck at home and many without jobs, people are looking to find something to make this time meaningful and important. Pushing for political change is one way to do that.

The difficulty with living through crises is that the costs are immediate and obvious and the benefits are subtle and accumulate over a long period of time. The other difficulty is that the ability to accrue those benefits requires us to make changes to our perspectives and behaviors.

And that’s what’s so beautiful about my friend’s question. It’s not, “What if this was the best thing that happened to me?” or even, “What if this ends up being a good thing that happened to me?” It’s, “What do I have to do… to make this the best thing that happened to me?”

Without the doing, there is no transformation.

As for me? I’m working in longer stretches and more creatively than I have in years. And while I wouldn’t consider a pandemic that’s leveled my entire city the best thing that’s ever happened to me, I certainly have no regrets about how I’ve been spending it.

2. Where are the leverage points? – A nice follow-up question to the above is, “How do I use my time well? Doing what?” The idea of using time well is something I’ve written about in various places and for many years, but I’ve never approached the question: what is a good use of time? How do we know?

Here’s an interesting starting point to answer that question:

Improvement and growth don’t have a linear, one-to-one effect on our lives. For example, getting 10% better at golf isn’t likely to make you 10% happier. Whereas getting 10% better at your marriage could potentially make you 50% happier. Improving 10% at a skill or vocation is unlikely to result in a significant increase in pay, but improving 10% at managing complex projects or managing people could potentially multiply your income many times over throughout your career.

Basically, there are leverage points in life. And it’s not always clear where those leverage points exist. Spending the time to make two new friends could be life-changing… if you have no friends. But it could also be a complete waste of time and energy if you rely on your social life as a way to avoid responsibility and doing something meaningful.

Spending more time with your kids could drastically improve their emotional health over the coming years. But spending more time with your kids could also drastically decrease their emotional health depending on how much time you already spend with them.

There are subtle and invisible leverage points all around us—situations where 1% of increased effort can produce 10%, 20%, or even 100% extra reward. There are negative leverage points, as well, where 100% more effort will produce a 1% extra reward. These leverage points are fleeting and hidden in plain sight. Perhaps an underrated and under-discussed skill-set is that some people intuitively know how to sense and act on these inflection points and most others do not. Especially because outsized benefits in one area of life tend to spill over and compound into benefits in other areas.

I think this is a useful topic to investigate. I am curious to hear about more examples from readers. If you can think of some, hit reply to this email and let me know. Perhaps I’ll compile the best ones into an article later this month.

3. You can now get all of my content on an iOS app! – A couple of weeks ago, I joked that if I ever had a mental health app, I would send anti-motivational notifications to people reminding them that they and their loved ones were going to die one day and ask what the fuck they were doing with their lives.

Well, the idea was so popular that I went ahead and built an iPhone app in a week…

…just kidding, iPhone apps are ridiculously difficult to make. My team and I have actually been beta-testing an app for months now, and we’re ready to release it to the world today!

It’s a reader app, so you can now get all of my content (articles, audios, videos, etc.) on your phone while you’re offline. The app also has some pretty badass features, like highlights, bookmarks, a personalized article recommendation tool, and more. It’s free to download on the App Store, right now!

Get the Mark Manson iOS app

Before you ask, no, there is no Android version at the moment. If people like this and use it, then I’ll get someone to make an Android version. In the meantime, please download it and let me know if you see any bugs or glitches. If you like it, please also write a review for it in the store, since that, like, does good things, or something.

And yes, I am talking to my tech guy about implementing the anti-motivational you’re-a-fuckface-so-get-off-your-ass-and-do-something notifications at some point. So stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, enjoy your week and I’ll see you next Monday.

Mark