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#6: How to Deal with the Worst Parts of Yourself

#6: How to Deal with the Worst Parts of Yourself

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Hey there, welcome to another Muthafuggin’ Monday email—the only weekly email that promises to whiten teeth… and then consistently fails on that promise.

Seriously though, I send this weekly email to give you three cool ideas to think about for the coming week. This week, we’re talking about 1) personal demons and how to manage them, 2) when nonfiction writing is bullshit and when it’s not, and 3) my desperate plea for some form of external validation.

Let’s get started!

1. How to Overcome Your Demons – We all have something in our lives that we’re a little bit obsessive about–obsessive to the point that it causes a lot of issues. For me, at various points in my life, I’ve been obsessive about work, about travel, about partying and about dating. I’ve had friends who were obsessive about cleanliness and fitness. I’ve had other friends who became obsessive to the point that they succumbed to addictions.

Our obsessions are usually driven by some dark part of ourselves that we don’t want to admit is there. One word you often hear for this dark part of your identity is the word “demon.” Our demons are the uglier part of ourselves that we don’t want to admit. As a result, we obsessively try to avoid or disprove them, and that obsession becomes compulsion and addiction.

We’ve all got our demons. And we all struggle with them. So I wrote up an article about it:

Read: How to Overcome Your Demons

2. Et Tu, Sleep Expert Dude? – Last month, I recommended Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD, on this email list. I had read it on vacation, and like most people, was shocked at how a) important sleep was, and b) how bad I seemed to be at it.

Well, a significant critique of the book has emerged on the interwebz. And it turns out that Sleep Dude, PhD, grossly exaggerated some of his claims and used a bunch of bad data.

Well, fuck.

Here’s the thing about non-fiction books. We authors do our best with what we’ve got. But the truth is that there is very little that is settled in science and medicine. That’s true for just about any field other than maybe physics. Non-fiction books present themselves as a definitive statement on X topic, but if you dig into anything long enough, what you find is a multi-pronged debate and a bunch of guys in lab coats saying, “Well, I don’t know–maybe.”

And that’s fine. I think part of being a non-fiction author is putting your own little stake in the ground and saying, “There’s debate, but I’m taking up this side of the argument.”

The problem arises when one intentionally ignores or misrepresents data… especially to scare people about their health. Why? Because scaring people about their health is an almost guaranteed way to make a quick buck. The health and nutrition spaces have been doing this for decades. It’s just sad to see sleep research get sucked under by the same forces.

Does this critique negate everything in that book? No. There’s actually still a ton of great info in it. And here’s the funny thing: I’m sleeping better and feeling better than at any other time in my life. And much of that is due to reading that book… that is full of bad research. So the question is: is a bullshit book that helps you still bullshit?

I don’t know. All I know is: Get your sleep. Make it a priority. But also, don’t obsess over it. Because obsession is bad.

3. The Subtle Art of Groveling for Approval – I often make the analogy that writing a book is like having a child. At home, in private, you love your child regardless of their flaws. Even if they poop on the rug or draw all over the walls, they’re your baby and nothing will ever change how you feel about it.

But take that same child into public and suddenly you’re both mortified and/or desperately wanting everyone else to also acknowledge how absolutely perfect and darling this little poop-making thing of yours is.

It’s a strange paradox–unconditional at home; very conditional on the road.

What makes it weirder is that as an author, you’re expected to take your child to people and be like, “Look at this thing I made; is it not the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Here, now give me money,” And then people awkwardly pay $18 to take your child home with them for a week.

I find myself in another of these odd situations. My book, Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope, is a finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards. And I find myself, like a parent introducing their child to a group of people, desperately seeking the people’s approval. Especially since I believe this child’s gifts have been overlooked or undervalued (like all parents, probably).

Anyway, if you want to vote for my stupid book so I can win a meaningless thing, please go here.

Until next week,

Mark